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A call for more research and questioning by journalists

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

Jeff Jarvis with some good comments (based primarily on a paper by Axel Bruns) arguing that the media in general needs to start with deeper questions, more research, referencing actual research, and demonstrable facts instead of presumptions. Excellent ideas.

He begins with this quote from the Bruns paper:

[T]hat echo chambers and filter bubbles principally constitute an unfounded moral panic that presents a convenient technological scapegoat (search and social platforms and their affordances and algorithms) for a much more critical problem: growing social and political polarisation. But this is a problem that has fundamentally social and societal causes, and therefore cannot be solved by technological means alone. [Emphasis mine.]

Agreed. Jarvis via Bruns then argues that these metaphors are too loosely defined, leaving room for broad usage, unclear meaning, resulting in moral panic more than actual research and fact based analysis.

He follows up with a number of articles and further research from the paper, backing up his point. Then numerous examples of media using the filter bubble shortcut. I encourage you to click through to the article and dive a bit deeper.

But that leads to another journalistic weakness in reporting academic studies: stories that takes the latest word as the last word.

Absolutely. And pretty much everyone does that at some point so it’s a good reminder to us all to consider new research and explanations of the day within broader historical context and preexisting knowledge.

The whole article (and the research paper, although I myself haven’t gotten to that yet) is worth a read, the main point of Jarvis is a good one; more questions, more research, deeper thinking. Looking at people and how they use the technology, not just the tech itself.

I do have to caveat this though by mentioning the Jarvis dismisses Shoshana Zuboff’s work on Surveillance Capitalism by portraying it as “an extreme name for advertising cookies and the use of the word devalues the seriousness of actual surveillance by governments.” One could debate whether Zuboff should have used another word, separating the practice from that of governments, but by saying “advertising cookies” Jarvis makes one of those surface remarks he raves against in his piece, somewhat discrediting it.