Are you the kind of person that starts checking and using your phone the minute you wake up? Is it truly us that are staring at our phones, or is it in fact our devices that are staring at us? Are we mere passive receivers of information, or do we have the power to choose the information we want to see? In the face of omnipresent yet ever-changing information, and news that is loud, noisy, and whose authenticity is hard to verify, do our brains have enough ‘storage room’ to absorb them and make the right judgment call?
True or False? -A question difficult to answer in the post-truth era
In the era of digital globalization, receiving fragmented information and overwhelming news has already become part of our everyday life. In the chaotic sea of information, where online news is constantly being generated, we can always find “evidence” to support both sides of any argument. However, too often we choose to fall in line with our established beliefs. We spend long hours on our phones, yet we can’t find the time to do fact-checks. This phenomenon signifies the fact that we are now facing the challenges of the “post-truth” era, where compared to verified facts, information that evokes subjective emotions and links with personal beliefs has a stronger impact on public opinion. In fact, fake news that stimulates emotions and serves specific ideologies sometimes spreads even faster than news that has undergone verification.
Viral Disinformation Online Infiltrates into the Actual World
Although fake news and disinformation is not a social phenomenon attributable only to contemporary times, the rise of online platforms and social media has no doubt accelerated and expanded the transmission and reach of fake news, making information itself a kind of political weapon. In 2016, prior to the US presidential election, Edgar Maddison Welch fired a gun in a pizzeria after falling for the “Pizzagate” conspiracy, believing the pizzeria to be a front for a child sexual abuse ring. In 2018, the director-general of the Osaka branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office committed suicide, which was believed to be linked to the public pressure in the wake of fake news attributable to political tensions between China and Taiwan. However, if we only ever read the news, we might never know the real cause. These incidents clearly made us realize how fake news on the internet can infiltrate into our day-to-day lives.
Information Control and Filter Bubble/Echo Chamber under Internet Society and Global Capitalism
However, who exactly is producing and disseminating information? And who controls the communication channels on which information flows? When we browse social media, all the posts we see are the result of filtering algorithms, making it so that we are easily subject to information we have seen before and fall into our own comfort zone or filter bubble/echo chamber. Without us noticing, our likes and the content of our posts are recorded by computers, becoming useful consumer preference data for targeted advertisement push notifications. Furthermore, people with bad intentions could also make use of this data to send customized fake news to target audiences.
Fragmented Truth: when fake information has long thought to be true, the line between the two begins to blur
In the online world, every person can extract pieces of information from different sources, rearrange them, add exaggeration and embellishment, repackage them into a seemingly compete truth and send it back out. The truths we hold are possibly the deliberate product of platform algorithms, big data and AI computing, or have been shaped by political parties or corporates through platforms. The mechanisms of producing these “truths” include a variety of digital technology structures and information modules of computers and machines, behind which lie capitalist competitions of power between different interest groups, often embedded in political wrestling of global capitalism. Beneath all these layers of wrap, is it possible for us to really know the absolute, objective truth? Or perhaps, there is no such thing as “the Truth”?
The Power of Revolt: Fake it Real
In 2022, Digital Art Festival Taipei—Fake it Real is exhibiting works that explore the processes of “information dissemination” and “production of truth” on the internet in a globalized, capitalist society. The works demonstrate acute understanding of and deep reflection about this society, tackling the following topics: the uncovering of the production of fake news, the creation of self-made fake news, the criticism of the relationship between digital tools and their effects on information reception and storage, and the creation of alternative algorithms different from that of existing social media. The exhibition attempts to resist against the current information structure and discover a new way to face the torrent of information.