Critical and Reflective Inquiry. Information Dystopia



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Theme: Information Dystopia

Not long ago, "fake news" was a sarcastic self-reference used by purveyors of biting political satire and media criticism on a comedy channel. In 2016, "fake news" took on a new connotation: false stories disseminated to purposefully disinform the public for fun and profit, with social networks the medium, and the levers of national power the stakes. Politicians in power began to deride legitimate reporting and verifiable fact as "fake news" in order to delegitimize bad news about themselves. Political commentators have claimed that we live in a "post-fact" reality - that verifiable facts are no longer relevant to those who seek power or to the public, and that journalists, long the safeguards of the free and accurate flow of information that is the life's blood of democracy, are powerless to demand them. What happened? In this course, we'll develop tools for discerning fact from opinion. We'll look at the differences between legitimate persuasion, where facts and evidence are presented logically, and propaganda, in which communicators use sophisticated psychological techniques to manipulate viewers, readers, listeners, and scrollers into doing their bidding. We'll learn to recognize, resist, defang, and debunk this type of message when we see it in any medium - and to communicate effectively, ourselves, with writing practice that uses logic and evidence to get our own ideas across honestly, and with power. Consider it Defense Against the Dark Arts.


Fall 2021
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