Professor Stephan Lewandowsky

Wednesday, March 7 2018 at 7:30PM

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60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky

What's the talk about?

Imagine a world that considers knowledge to be “elitist”. Imagine a world in which it is not medical knowledge but a free-for-all opinion market on Twitter that determines whether a newly emergent strain of avian flu is really contagious to humans. This dystopian future is still just that – a possible future. However, there are signs that public discourse is evolving in this direction: Terms such as “post-truth” and “fake news”, largely unknown until 2016, have exploded into media and public discourse. I explore the implications of the growing abundance of misinformation in the public sphere, how it influences people and how to counter it. I argue that for counter-measures to be effective, they must be informed by the larger political, technological, and societal context. The post-truth world arguably emerged as a result of societal mega-trends, such as a decline in social capital, growing economic inequality, increased polarization, declining trust in science, and an increasingly fractionated media landscape. Considered against the background of those over-arching trends, misinformation in the post-truth era can no longer be considered solely an isolated failure of individual cognition that can be corrected with appropriate communication tools. Rather, it should also consider the influence of alternative epistemologies that defy conventional standards of evidence. I suggest that responses to the post-truth era must therefore include technological solutions that incorporate psychological principles, an interdisciplinary approach that we describe as “technocognition.” Technocognition uses findings from cognitive science to inform the design of information architectures that encourage the dissemination of high-quality information and that discourage the spread of misinformation.