News, Fake News and Not News

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Recently we were thinking about the news. What makes news? Then there is the discussion about fake news. At Wikipedia we found a page that is about Fake news websites: “Fake news websites (also referred to as hoax news, deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news — often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect.Unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political, or other gain”.

But what about news that is “left out“, as we formulated in one of our blog posts?

“One can safely assume that any information you are presented with has some relevant information “Left Out”. The originator’s perspective, the logic bubble in which he perceives the world and how the information is applied are some possible reasons for the missing information”.

We can also safely assume that editors of media do “leave-out” news, in good faith. However, there could be some doubt about, as Naomi Chomsky pointed out in “Manufacturing Consent“:

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“The mass communication media of the U.S. are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalised assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”

That raises the question if there exists a keyword “Not News” in Google. Could we find “left-out”news in Google? We got only one hit:

Project Censored – The News That Didn’t Make The News and Why is a well researched website featuring the Top Censored Stories of 2015–2016: Covering up police violence by manipulation Wikipedia pages, violations of the Freedom of Information Act, compensations for vaccine injured families, big pharma lobbying, internet surveillance, FBI spying on rebellion at high schools, and lots of other disturbing news not mentioned in the mainstream media.

Admittedly, it’s all in America, but would it be different elsewhere? We earlier described the mechanisms that explain why disturbing news is not published by the mean stream media (See Press Patterns).

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By the way, in addition to “Manufacturing Consent”, we came across an interesting essay about “Manufacturing Normality”. Nowadays political dissent is stigmatised as aberrant or “abnormal” behaviour, as opposed to a position meriting discussion. Political distinctions like “left” and “right” are disappearing, and are being replaced by imponderable distinctions like “normal” and “abnormal,” “true” and “false,” and “real” and “fake.”.

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Controlled Behavior by Design

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Design has been used throughout history to control our behavior. Hausmann designed  the broad avenues in Paris with the aim to better control riots and revolutionary uproars. There are designs  that prevent you from lying on a bench, so called anti homeless benches. Citizens have built low viaducts to prevent buses going into the town to prevent low-income inhabitants to enter the town. These kinds of designs aims towards controlling behavior in  a man-made environment.

Sometimes designs are used to  encourage safe or healthy behavior.

  • Speed bumps slow down cars without any need to have a police man present. In some countries speed bumps are called sleeping policeman.
  • Red strips along a road mark the way for cyclists and increase their safety.
  • Sidelines on roads produce sounds when you drive over it, to warn you to stay on course.

Other examples are less innocent, schools, prisons and military barracks are examples of disciplinary architecture.

The arrangement of chairs affects our behavior. Each arrangement produces different interaction patterns.

  • Chairs in a meeting rooms could be arranged along a large table, at the end of the table is  the chairman.
  • The chairs could also be arranged in a full circle, or U-form.

In many merchants ships the quarters of the crews are deliberately designed to enhance possibilities of encounters with other crew members.

In government buildings, the automatic doors are  adjusted in a way that forces the entrants to slow down their speed, which in theory should have consequences for their behavior inside the building (they should act in a calm manner).  Some interpret this as a kind of systemic violence.

Artifacts  have politics. Langdon Winner says: ” The machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions to efficiency and productivity and their positive and negative environmental side effects, but also for the ways in which they can embody specific forms of power and authority”

We will take this idea somewhat further into the digital age. Are there architectures of control in the digital environment? Could it be that the lay-out of software programs and apps forces specific behavior and exclude other behavior?

Recently we experienced  the downfall of the de Bono Society, an information based and social networking site for people interested in de Bono’s approach to thinking. We assume that the members were familiar with the principles of Parallel Thinking – a fundamental concept in this thinking framework. Parallel Thinking is an alternative for “adversarial” thinking. The aim is to open up possibilities, to explore situations and to escape linear thinking.

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However, the approach to thinking in the de Bono Society was all but Parallel. Often contributors fell into  the trap of proving that statements were wrong, classifying arguments as false or true and blocking discussions that seem to be going in unexpected yet interesting ways. We described this mechanism already in our blog post Dialectical Thinking or Kick-Box Thinking  as basically linear thinking.

Why then was the de Bono Society a failure and a disaster for proving the value of Parallel Thinking? Were the members not skilled enough?

We don’t think so. The contributors were lured into dialectical thinking because of the linear design of site. The lay-out of the site did not encourage parallel thinking. It might even have discouraged it.  The site used the standard dialectical lay-out as used in sites as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  It was not designed for Parallel Thinking. As such it had unintended consequences for the thinking performed by its members.

We desperately need software and apps that are deliberately designed for Thinkibility. Software and apps that control our thinking behavior in a more constructive way.

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Dialectical Thinking or Kick Box Thinking

Dialectical Thinking is a common way of resolving arguments in company meetings, families, scientific discussions and political debates. It is suggested that dialectical thought enable individuals  to tackle complicated issues once they acquire the capacity, to coordinate the characteristic contrasting and contradictory thoughts.

Often the process unfolds in a fixed pattern.

A person or a party (A) puts forward a statement or conclusion.

Then he gives two or three as convincing reasons or arguments that supports his position:

+ Pro is….

+Also pro is…

+And pro is…

Then, a second party or person tries to undermine or find a way to destroy the arguments of A.

If the person or party have undergone a training in negotiation, they will aim at the weakest  reason A has given. If they succeed to prove the given argument is false, then there is no need to destroy the stronger arguments because the proponent’s suggestion has already become implausible.

Then party B will present their arguments to prove that A’s conclusion is wrong.

– Against it is…

– Also against it is…

– And against it is…

Upon that, it is A’s turn to shoot down the arguments of the  opponent.

These types of discussion are in many ways fruitless. It is difficult to reach a conclusion and there is a lack of new ways to approach a problem. It is a constant kicking and boxing of ideas back and forth without
any true dialogue with others.

Above described pattern of Dialectic Thinking is deeply rooted in Western society.  Hegel suggested that this approach  were responsible for many of the achievement and discoveries made in particularly technology and medicine.

Basically, a sequential process is followed which assumes that once a thesis is formed, an antithesis must arise, and then, miraculously, a synthesis will be reached. Provided that the personal relations between the proponent and the opponent will be unaffected by this process of fighting each others arguments. Mostly, it is not.

Moreover, an A against B debate delivers seldom new insights outside the statement put forward. A proposal to increase the age for a state pension with two years will end up with an agreement or with a veto. By relying on dialectical thinking it is difficult to up with ideas of other possibilities to provide social security for the elderly, other than by a state pension.

Ideas such as the ones below would not be explored. One of them could, if improved upon, lead to a way of providing social security for the elderly.

– Increase the pension age with 5 years

–  End the pension age at 90

– Everyone is obliged to make savings for a pension

– Organise pension as a health insurance

– Only people with a university degree will have to work longer

– Everybody has to work 50 weeks before entitled to a pension

– The amount of pension depends on your earned income during your life – the higher income the less pension

Basically, Dialectic Thinking, also called :adversarial thinking”  is sequential in nature, and focused on the interchange of arguments.Or a Kick Boxing Thinking!

One answers to overcoming the limitations of traditional dialectic thinking is Parallel Thinking. This idea was designed by Edward de Bono. In Parallel Thinking both thinking parties look at the same direction (parallel), and the aim is to explore the unknown as the nineteenth century explorers travelled through continents. An advantage with this approach is that the more brain power is directed at the same point. All the involved parties try to find points for the argument and then they can switch at look for ideas against the suggestion. The result is a more rounded view of the suggestion that may lead to a better decision.

Photo:  Protection by graur razvan ionut