I heard Dr Luke Goode from Auckland uni on the radio this morning, discussing his recent contribution to the university's Winter Lecture series. His comments on the pros and cons of 'outsourcing' news to anyone who can connect to social media are really interesting. What caught my attention was his comments on social media heavyweights such as Twitter and Facebook, (and Google) and how our assumption that these apps democratise information is naiive to say the least. He bases this on the fact (one that I have never thought about before) that any online app is governed by the algorithms they run on, and these algorithms are created by people, all of whom have individual biases. Thus, all of these algorithms are designed to sift information in particular ways.
It seems that the sooner we acknowledge that the online environment is not a 'neutral gateway to information', the better we will become at managing it.
Of course, this raises another, (but not new) issue, of where the power will lie in the future: it seems more and more likely that it will be in the hands of the intellectual technocrati who know how to use social media most effectively. Should we be embedding social media skills into school curricula as urgently as the current push to embed literacy and numeracy? What do you think?
The transcript of Dr Goode's lecture is available here.