The truth has never been more important, or more besieged. How does a political and media landscape—now dominated by bias, half-truths, hyperbole, rancor, and occasionally weaponized misinformation—affect us psychologically, morally, and even spiritually? How do we maintain a healthy information diet, even in the midst of this crisis? When should we tune in, and when should we tune out? And how do we hold on to truth amid the roiling seas of nonsense?
We discussed these questions and others at a recent Garrison Institute salon at Judson Memorial Church in New York City entitled “(Mis)information Overload: Living in Truth in the Post-Truth Age.” The short video about the event is above. Some key issues and the main discussants (and links to their specific presentations) are listed below.
Key Issues and Questions
Truth is produced and truth is consumed. On the production side, media bias (story selection, completeness of story, distribution) can impact truth. On the consumption side, a person’s cognitive biases (interpreting the information in light of existing assumptions) can impact truth.
There are new obstacles to finding the truth in our current political and media landscape. These obstacles include foreign involvement in our political processes, increased connectivity through digital platforms, the President of the United States calling out news outlets as “fake news,” and a vastly new distribution system.
What can we do to change the system to encourage more truth-telling? How do we socialize people as individuals to honor the truth? And, finally, how do we live in the world as it is now?
Molly de Aguiar is the Managing Director for the News Integrity Initiative at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Previously, she directed the Informed Communities program for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. She sits on the board of Media Impact Funders and is a fellow at the Democracy Fund.
Danah Boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder of Data & Society. She is also a Visiting Professor at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and an academic and a scholar whose research examines the intersection between technology and society.
Gilad Lotan is the Head of Data Science at BuzzFeed and the Chief Data Scientist at betaworks, a technology company that operates as a studio, building new products, growing companies, and seed investing. Previously, he ran the data team at SocialFlow, built data products at Microsoft and audience analytics tools at Endemol.
Roshi Enkyo O’Hara is Abbott of the Village Zendo in New York City. A Soto Zen priest and contemporary American Zen Teacher, she integrates traditional meditation and koan practice with social engagement and peacemaking. A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, she taught for many years at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, centering on new media technologies and social justice.
Andrew Revkin has written on sustainability and environmental risk for three decades, currently as the senior reporter for climate and related issues at ProPublica. He joined the prize-winning public-interest newsroom after 21 years of writing for The New York Times, most recently through his Dot Earth blog for the Opinion section. As the Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University from 2010 until 2016, he taught courses in blogging, environmental communication, and documentary film.
Clay Shirkyis a writer, consultant, and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies and journalism. He has a joint appointment at New York University as a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and Assistant Arts Professor in the New Media focused graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program.
Carla Zanoni is the Executive Emerging Media Editor of Audience Development at the Wall Street Journal. She leads the Wall Street Journal’s global audience development and engagement, social media, SEO, and newsroom analytics teams, while identifying and developing state-of-the-art news delivery and storytelling methods via social, video, messaging, and emerging platforms.
Andrew Zolli [Moderator] is the President of the Garrison Institute. He is an acclaimed thought-leader, advisor, author, and social innovator working at the intersection of foresight, global innovation, social change, and resilience. He works as a strategic advisor to a wide variety of leading corporate, governmental, social-sector organizations, and venture-backed start-ups, in fields ranging from technology, aerospace, entrepreneurship, and the arts.