The Age of “Fake News” and Data Consumption
In the TED Talk “Information is Food” by JP Rangaswami, the author compares the way we grow, cultivate, and prepare food to how it correlates with data consumption in America. He looks at the stages of how we grow information, prepare that information, and which sources we consume information from.
However, Rangaswami brought up that maybe in the future we will label sources for how much factual information are in their stories or articles, I find this to be a very important idea, but one that Rangaswami never gets into. I believe this is a such an important point that needs to be discussed because we live in a day and age where facts are thrown to the wind in the name of “Fake News.” But what is “Fake News” and why is it becoming a necessity to make sure you check your new sources for how factual they are?
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With “Fake News” the idea is that a source you don’t go to, or trust, is only stating information that benefits their position and/or creating fake facts to lie about what is really happening. In this talk Rangaswami points out “… people who were hunter-gatherers in origin wanted to be free and roam and pick up information as they wanted, and those that were in the business of farming information wanted to build fences around it, create ownership and wealth and structure and settlement.”
This idea made me wonder about how “Fake News” helps create these fences. There is a very divisive battle between Liberal and Republican news sources and this means that people who subscribe to Fox News won’t believe a news story if it comes from MSNBC, and vice versa. Because these sources do cultivate their own information and stories you do get a biased view, but if you know this you can make sure to look at the same story from different sources to make sure that you have a better view.
With preparation there are two main ways Rangaswami looks at, stating “When I moved to preparation, this same thing was true, expect that there were two schools. One group of people said you can distill your information, you can extract value, separate it and serve it up, while another group turned around and said no, no you can ferment it. You bring it all together and mash it up and the value emerges that way.” Most biased new stations only look at the former preparation mentioned, where you take one thing on its own and derive value from it.
Unless you are looking at a research paper where the author is looking at a theory and the parts that make it up or analyzing a large amount of papers on a topic you are going to get a lot of distilled information. My one issue with distilled information is that you can’t distil a large and complex topic. It would be as if I was looking at global warming and said that we can only blame people with diesel trucks for rising global temperatures. This is one way, in my opinion, that makes “Fake News” a force that people believe in. They look at stories and see that a source is using one main point to illustrate a very complex topic. This is misleading if you don’t look at the larger picture and explore many different views.
The final part that Rangaswami brings up is how we consume our data. JP Rangaswami says, “And we have to start thinking about how we create diets within ourselves, exercise within ourselves, to have the faculties to be able to deal with information,” So when we ingest information are we looking only at one site? Do we have a well balance diet of information that includes other opinions and motives?
Do we look at the people who are creating the information we consume and why they are saying or supporting different ideas? All of these affects how we our data is brought to the table for us to eat. If you are consuming a source that prescribes to “Fake News” and says that they are the ones bringing you the “truth”, and believe it, you will have a very unbalanced diet of information. “Fake News” leads people to believe that any source they don’t consume regularly must be “unhealthy”, for example you may end up thinking that Eggland’s Best Eggs are the only egg you can eat and the healthiest option for you when there are so many types of eggs and they all have their own benefits.
In conclusion Rangaswami makes excellent points in his TED Talk but fails to get into how labeling and looking closely at the sources of data you consume fits in this day. He doesn’t mention that when you investigate different news or scholarly sources you can find out how factual it is and therefor create a better diet of data for yourself. This is one of the only ways that we can help ourselves from getting lost in the world of “Fake News” and see where our data is coming from, whether it is one side of a larger argument, or if there are untrue facts in our data and decide on whether to eliminate it from our diet or not. The pork rinds may be tasty but is it the best for your data consumption life.