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fake news




Today, the BBC launches a big initiative to help children navigate the world of fake news and this is a nice segway into an event I took part in a couple of weeks ago at the National Science and Media Museum, which opened a new exhibition on Fake News. Curated by John O'Shea and Sarah Browncross, I was really pleased to advise it in the lead up.

The Museum has done a great job of turning around an exhibition in a short space of time, which deals with one of the biggest stories of the year and certainly the biggest digital discourse of 2017. With the Collins Dictionary including 'fake news' into its historic pages, we need greater work on promoting digital literacy, but also thoughtful responses to how we engender trust within our institutions.

One of the problems here is that all information sources become compromised and this may even include museums as we begin to rethink who we trust and what counts as authority in a digital age.  The trend over the last decade has been to elevate the crowd to the position of authority. The more likes on Facebook or views on YouTube, or recommendations on Amazon, the more credit we give to something. Yet, this reputation economy becomes subject to manipulation as the platform within which it takes place is monetised. So, we see celebrities being told off for promoting a product on Twitter, as this is strictly speaking advertising, which is carefully regulated.

The Museum's exhibition draws attention to the longer history of Fake News, which began well before Donald Trump came on the scene.


Fake News, Science, and Journalism

Fake News, Science, and Journalism

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at an event hosted by the British Association of Science Writers focused on Fake News and Scientific Journalism. I was anxious first to draw our attention to the absurdity of this discussion, as it has been inflicted on us by Trump and his ridiculous accusations of fake news towards established, credible media organizations.

Anyway, moving on, we are here, the discourse has taken off and shone a light on how news information becomes indistinguishable from blatantly fake news, but also how it becomes blurred with entertainment.

My main concern in this is are the squeeze that printed press face, as a result of the social media era. We need to find better ways to support investigative journalism, but we also need to understand how people encounter news information across their day and across different devices. Otherwise, we are failing to take into account how this affects their receptiveness to certain media formats, or just the cognitive process that operates around such journeys. 

A few weeks ago, we created the Library of Fake News as an installation for the Manchester Science Festival and I believe we need libraries to help us navigate this complex world of web news, where bottom line interests dominate all stakeholders. Libraries may be our only independent public institution that can help us wade through the noise and figure out what's really going on in the world.