HEWN, No. 331

"I want nothing, I want nothing..."

This week’s Columbidae is the red-knobbed imperial pigeon, which lives in the Solomon Islands Archipelago and the Bismarck Archipelago. It is listed as “near-threatened” according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its population is decreasing, but there are no plans in place to help protect the bird. (Image credits)

That’s sort of the sense I get at the end of another week of public impeachment hearings: there is no plan in place to help protect our democracy either. Things look incredibly grim. It isn’t simply that Americans disagree politically; it’s that a good portion of the country lives in an entirely different information reality — a misshapen reality of FOX News analysts and Facebook videos. We are facing an “epistemic crisis.”

I’m giving a talk next week that explores some of this epistemic crisis — I’m particularly interested in the misinformation that circulates as marketing in the ed-tech world — something I think is bound up in our rejection of expertise. (I mean, if your response to Dr. Fiona Hill is to sneer something about “the swamp” and to not marvel at her knowledge and composure, then I don’t know what to make of your mind.)

The problem of misinformation is a technological problem and it’s a self-serving billionaire problem. “Surprised about Mark Zuckerberg’s secret meeting with Trump? Don’t be,” says Siva Vaidhyanathan. Facebook would have run 30-second ads for Hitler’s Final Solution had it been around at the time, Sacha Baron Cohen charges. (No, I’m not much of a fan of his either. But watch the video.)

Meanwhile, in education: “Platform teachers” by Ben Williamson. “The Quiet Rooms” by Jennifer Smith Richards, Jodi S. Cohen, and Lakeidra Chavis.

Meanwhile, in datafication: Chris Gilliard’s prepared testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. “The Trouble with Numerical Culture” by Chris Newfield.

Meanwhile, some compassion: “What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say” by John Hendrickson. “Mister Rogers And The Dark Abyss Of The Adult Soul” by Anne Helen Petersen. Don’t just look for the helpers. Be the helpers.

Yours in struggle,