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To navigate dangers of the web, you need critical thinking – and also critical ignoring

5 Comments
By Sam Wineburg

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Whenever something new, particularly a new form of information medium appears, it takes folk a little bit of time to get used to it, and to adjust to the slightly altered variables involved.

Inevitably, there are victims. People who do unfortunate or just daft things that lead to grief. Taking photos of yourself wearing only a smile and sending them to your 'forever partner'. Clicking 'Buy' on things that are too good to be true. Deleting Win32. [Bad ideas.]

Those who want to shut the new medium down and return to what went before, which they felt safer with, will magnify selected individual disasters as evidence that the new medium is the work of the devil and should be controlled, regulated or abolished. They stir up a moral panic suggesting that civilisation is teetering on the brink. [It's not.]

But we get over that, even the most accident prone find ways to avoid misadventures, and we eventually accept the new medium and enjoy the benefits it brings.

Some considered theatre to be the quickest way to strip society of morality, religion and good order through the lie of acting - (mis)representing something you are not. [Some of that is returning, with demands that actors cannot do their job and pretend to be of a different race, nationality, sexuality or disability.]

There were those that thought [steam] trains travelled so fast that they would reduce people to mush and should be banned. [Version 2.0 - the Hyperloop.]

And then there were the gyrations of Elvis Presley. And - baby, one more time - Britney Spears.

Humanity is really bad at learning from its own mistakes. That we do not inherit experience, nor pay enough attention in history lessons, is no excuse. We need to lose the moral panic. It's dangerous and toxic. It leads to censorship and to other fascistic and dictatorial behaviours.

The new media are not unlike the old ones, and any bad stuff is not inherent in them. The responsibility for any bad things, if you look hard enough, and be honest, is the matching of malicious individuals with unwise victims. We can't stop some people being bad. We shouldn't stop the development of new technologies. We can often do more to curb are own idiocy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

You can also judge a source by the impact factor of the journals of the articles it is quoting, whether they are peer-reviewed and respected. You can also look at alternative viewpoints, who espouses them, and what ties they have to the industry.

You also have to check professional credentials - are they professors in name only? Or a "doctor" who is giving medical advice, but whose doctorate is not in medicine? Or, doctors whose work was discredited by a governing body of the industry? Or perhaps they are professionals in the feild, but belong to an organization that has a particular, dubious agenda, that is known for telling pork pies.

There are plenty of ways to find out if what you are reading is truth or fiction. Unfortunately, a lot of people are too lazy to do this, or their own personal confirmation bias prevents them from seeking out the truth.

They don't WANT to know if they are wrong.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Internet is a big dump. And it is true. It is also true that there are grains of gold in this garbage, you just need to be able to look for them. If I need information, I look at three different sites. This helped me create an online technology for accurate prediction of the strength, place and time of earthquakes. If you look directly - scientists said that this is not possible. But as soon as I looked a little, it turned out that this is possible. Although this is unnecessary for seismologists - why should they lose their jobs, symposia and conferences?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Very positive effort, it is important to teach people about how to distinguish bad sources of information, and specially to do it before they invest part of their self value in these pseudo facts and become terminally resistant to change their points of view based on them. If people understand that whatever they read may be false it is much more difficult that they become hooked in the lies.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are no ‘dangers of the web’ at all, not even a single one. It’s all only virtual, no knife out of the monitor or gun shot will kill you, no viruses spread out of the enter key, no one reaches the arm out of the LAN cable and grabs money out of your purse or account. Nothing. The only real danger is you , yourself. If you send too much of your data , sit unhealthily too long in front of your devices or accidentally take the power connected device with you into the bathtub. You and only you are the potential danger , when you read there something or listen to any of all those virtual pseudo expert’s voices and build your decisions or actions on all that crazy stupid bs. So just take maximum care from and of you.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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