The CRAP Test Doesn’t Work?

Mike Caulfield (@holden on Twitter) delivered a keynote a long while back which I only caught on twitter by way of others posts. It’s interesting that one of his comments was that the CRAP Test Doesn’t work in a world filled with misinformation. Now, the fact that the CRAP Test isn’t a widely taught technique, nor that the real components that one needs to do (including such archaic things as WHOIS searching, and name searches geolocation of posts by IP and cross referencing with known authorities) something that the general public doesn’t​ do. It’s too much work. So sure, that aspect of it “doesn’t work”, but the underlying skills founded in skepticism work. If you use them. I think that’s an important distinction. To say the tool doesn’t work because the person doesn’t use it is a bit disingenuous.

Most people don’t, because they take a short cut, because it was a parent, in-law or someone they know and trust who forwarded it. Or it already fits their point of view. Or it passed a superficial sniff test. And that’s where the conspiracy theory peddlers make money. And much like advertising where it’s not effective the first time you see the ad and think you need a new sofa, it’s the thirtieth time when you actually need a sofa, that your brain brings up the ad you saw repeatedly.

The public has been primed for this for years. It’s essentially advertising that has replaced truth. It’s bullshit that’s replaced truth. It’s repetition that’s replaced truth.

And with that, the Internet has ended. Well, the Internet that held hope for a lot of educators, for a lot of activists, for a lot of free thinkers and artists. For marginalized folks. If we take this as a parrallel to punk rock – which exploded in 1976 with diversity of sound and voice, and quickly marginalized people by 1979 by getting harder, faster and more straightforward, we can see what the future of a “free” Internet will look like. Lots of the same, but with pockets of interesting, but marginal works. Except this time, we got close to 10 years of the web before it became an advertising platform for bullshit, junk and waste, with some good information out there.

This is the end of truth:

What conspiracy theorists, bullshit peddlers, technology hacks, blackmailers, and those who value lies over truth want has won. Technology has helped them get there faster than we can manage. And no one is working on a way to fight this bullshit, because there’s no money in a truth serum.

Looking Forward to CCK09

With the holiday here in Canada I’ve spent some time doing exciting things like laundry, mowing lawns and other domestic duties that I’ve been lax in doing lately. While I was matching up socks, I was thinking about my participation in CCK09, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2009, which is essentially a course but has a real expansive social element to it. I participated last year as a registered student, so my writing and bits were rewarded with marks.

This year will be different for me, so it’ll be interesting to take a second kick at the can without the “pressure” of marked submissions. Participation for me will be a little less, I’m up to teaching three different courses in the Fall Continuing Education semester (XML, Fireworks, Searching The Internet Effectively), and two for Distance Education (XML and Searching The Internet Effectively). Plus the e-Learning work and completing a degree. Busy? Yeah.

I’m very interested in seeing how my ideas about well designed educational spaces match up with Connectivism. We know that good design lends credibility to sources. We also know that good design can manipulate people’s opinions about things. Considering that Connectivism accepts “knowledge” from multiple sources – can you game a network into altering the “truth”? Truth,  in my opinion is mostly subjectively agreed upon by groups of people based on their experiences – and that I need to define what I mean by truth backs up my belief. There is a sense that somehow the Internet is killing knowledge, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s a case of setting priorities straight – I don’t need to know how to get somewhere – Google Maps will do it for me. Of course, this only works if it’s right.

This is an important piece to education: educators used to rely on books as a symbol of truth. “Hey, someone published thousands of books, and we’re using it in school, so it must be true!” Schools used to be the gateway of that knowledge. The yang to that yin, is that you have to have enough of a crap detector to understand when it goes wrong. Now that knowledge has moved out of books and into online spaces, or into devices like your cellphone, it’s easier to fake people out. Never mind that it’s easier to publish a book now than it ever has been in the history of the human race…

When the Simon Wiesenthal Centre came and spoke to the College last year, they illustrated that point where a hate group had bought – and essentially put together a fairly slick website to defame Martin Luther King.  It only came to their attention after a student had used some of the “material” for a class project. If the design of the site had been cruder, maybe some alarm bells would’ve sounded sooner.

Good design, good looking designs, add credibility. And it’s not hard to get good looking stuff, especially when we’re all playing a credibility game to get our voices above the noise.