Intercultural Extraneity
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Jennie Willoughby Blocked

This post applies Mike Caulfield’s strategies of web literacy to examine the reliability of web content and is followed by reflections on web sources.

For this week, we chose the assignment “Jennie Willoughby Blocked”, under the “Verifying Identity Category”.

Before engaging the article, we skimmed quickly through his book. However, we reached an impasse when we were presented with the rules within the article, which relied on us not doing any research on Jennie Willoughby’s account, which made 90 percent of his techniques useless to us. The rules were: “Using only these images, and without searching for information on the account, make a case for or against this account actually being Willoughby’s.” Because of this, we carefully examined the screenshots for discrepancies. After careful examination, we came to the conclusion that something was not quite right with her account.

1) Her account is only one month old.

From looking at the images we saw that her latest post was made on February 12th, whereas the account was made in January. This didn’t make sense, especially since she was not even verified, which made it highly unlikely that Trump’s account even saw the tweet, since only verified mentions have specialized notifications which single them out from the rest.

2) The description of her account states a very apparent anti-trump sentiment.

To be more precise, her description is primarily that what her tweets were about, which leads to the conclusion that her account was primarily made for the purpose of smearing.

3) She made only 5 tweets.

This means that the only tweets this account had made were the ones associated with this particular incident. This removes credibility from the account.

Due to these 3 points we came to the conclusion that this was probably a fake account made for the purpose of spreading false information.

Question #1

One answer that immediately comes to mind is that we as humans are naturally prone to some form of conformation bias in our examination of evidence. However, this answer is not entirely satisfactory, it leaves out an important aspect of shared human experience which is determinative of our understanding evidence. Namely, we as humans always operate within a certain social and cultural setting which comes with its own set of beliefs about the world we inhabit. Our embeddedness in a particular horizon of understanding is in fact anterior ontologically to the actual empirical evidence itself. Thus, prejudice in regard to various sources of information that conflict with our pre-established understanding of a given topic should be viewed on a paradigmatic level. We should not see our interaction with evidence as one of purely neutral data observation, but rather as a culturally and socially engaging process which thematically always unfolds within a given web of constructed beliefs. It should therefore not be that difficult to account for our preferences as they relate to our interpretation of information sources.

Question #2

Newspapers are an excellent example of a culturally mediated standard of truth. What we mean by this is that over the course of history, we have developed a unique appreciation of newspapers as a kind of gold standard of truth. Of course this is not an accurate portrayal of newspapers from a purely empirical point of view, nevertheless it as a medium has found its way into the hearts of many generations as a shining beacon of rationality and neutrality in a sea of corrupt and biased narratives. This is primarily the result of it becoming perceived in terms of its mythological role in bringing about the coming informed citizen , which has a far greater effect on the minds of people than just raw data and facts. Culturally this narrative came to occupy a venerated place as a perfect instantiation of the liberal ideal of a concerned inquiry into the ever encroaching threat of tyranny arising from the veil of ignorance.

Average online sites on the other hand never really became a part of such a narrative, their emergence is still relatively young. They were never really integrated fully in such cultural story, which was itself a part of a larger historical zeitgeist that exerted an enormous amount of influences on how we view newspapers today. Online sites simply haven’t reached that level of cultural importance, and probably won’t do so for some time in the future. They lack that unique mark of historical approval that extends past the merely factual, the one that will bestow upon them the title of truth tellers.

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