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Dr Simon Knight on “fake news”, epistemic cognition & the double-edged sword of data

CIC Lecturer Dr Simon Knight has produced an article for The British Psychological Society addressing the rise of so-called “fake news”, and the way we process information online. The piece, entitled “A lens on fake news” begins as follows:

Every day we face complex situations in which the information we need, and who we trust to provide that information, has a very real impact on our lives. How do we evaluate the competing claims of politicians on climate change policy, or Brexit; navigate medical information regarding vaccinating our children; or assess the relative merits of diet versus regular foods in adopting a healthy lifestyle?

In all of these everyday cases, we need to be able to make decisions about where to look for information, which information to select, and whether or not we should check the claims we found in one place against other sources. If we are trying to find out whether or not to take a medical supplement (such as a statin, or vitamin), we might come across a range of public-health, medical-research, and alternative-health sources, all varying in quality and claims. Whether we are experts or not, these sources must be navigated, making decisions about which sites to trust. Worse yet, the sources may well not agree with one another, even where we think they’re equally relatively trustworthy; so, to make a decision, these competing claims have to be integrated or synthesised to try and evaluate why they seem to disagree. Experts call the thinking that goes into these processes ‘epistemic cognition’.

Read Simon’s full article on The British Psychological Society’s website.

Simon’s insightful Psychologist piece attracted the attention of Sydney radio station 2SER’s award-winning Think:Digital Futures production team.  Simon featured in an ensuing podcast entitled “The double-edged sword of data”, which addressed how misinformation or “fake news” thrives online; and discussed strategies for processing and corroborating the wealth of information that we encounter everyday.

Simon on the podcast: “If we find opposing views on a subject, we should try and understand why. What evidence are people using? What credentials or expertise do they have to put forward that evidence? How are the arguments structured? Does it actually make sense? …And we should pay attention to those source features, including when it was published, because things do go out of date! We need to test the certainty of  knowledge claims over time.”

Listen to the full Think:Digital Futures podcast.


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