It’s hard to imagine we could get through these pandemic times without the Internet to support our remote working, provide our entertainment, connect us to loved ones and casual acquaintances, and provide us information about … everything. Yet, this is no calm, silent library filled with tomes of knowledge — the fight over which “truth” is “right” and whether or not science is optional is loud, raucous, and driving much of our real world political and physical reality.
In this arc, we talk with Michael Goldhaber, who observed that “attention” was the basis of the new economy as far back as 1997. His predictions of its potential consequences — division, disparity of power, deepening inequality, disproportionate advantages for the most attention hungry and shameless, and the erosion of privacy — have been vibrantly accurate.
But, how can bizarre conspiracy theories like QAnon gain traction and explode in popularity online, to the point where many people forsake the family and friends they know to join a band of strangers united in fervent yet false beliefs? We talk with David Troy, a network analyst and disinformation specialist who has studying how communities form online and collaborating with researchers and analysts from around the world to not only understand disinformation, misinformation, radicalization, and extremism, but to actually expose and fight it.
Of course, knowing why and how these things happen is only half the battle. What can we do about disinformation and its spread? We talked with Debra Levoy to learn what she and the Reality Team are doing and discuss the important questions: Can you provide an alternative view – this time, a fact-based one in such a way so as to not only to educate people but also dissuade them from going down the rabbit hole of falsehoods and conspiracy theories? And if so, how effective can you be?
- Michael Goldhaber: Paying for It in the Attention Economy (March 17, 2021)
- David Troy: Gaming the Players – QAnon (March 24, 2021)
- Deb Lavoy: Cleaning Up after Dirty Disinformation Tricks (March 31, 2021)