Negotiating Agency Through Uncertainty: Reframing the Infodemic Discourse Through Critical Design
Misinformation. Disinformation. Fake news. In a world of information overflow, we experience constant anxiety around facts and opinion. Granted, misinformation and disinformation has long been a serious problem that threatens democracy and, in recent years, public health. However, scholars have yet to come up with a consensus on the definition of misinformation and disinformation. Citizens’ trust in media and public institutions is further lost as disputes over what constitutes facts and opinion go on. Fake news and misinformation has become buzzwords and political talking points that the discussion around these topics produce more confusion than confidence. The current discourse and academic research on online and media misinformation, disinformation and propaganda frame these problems as technological problems – citing social media platforms as well as technological advancement as main causes of the current information crisis. Many scholars and organizations seek to solve the information crisis through technological solutions (e.g. fact-checking), policymaking or education.
While these discussions and research are necessary and very important, the information crisis is far deeper than an “internet problem”, “social media problem”, “mainstream media problem” or “partisan problem”. While technological solutions might temporarily boost our confidence with information online, it will scratch the surface if there is no critical reflection of the neoliberal media. Furthermore, to think about system failures that enable the current information crisis, we must also reflect on individuals’ experience and agency when there is no certainty. Our self-identity, sense of place, sense of wellbeing as well as ability to make decisions are heavily influenced by the information we consume and are exposed to. It is imperative to study people experiencing misinformation in order for us to speculate how to organize and challenge the status quo.
This research calls on the Marxist theory of base and the superstructure and examines how the US economic-political system, current mode of capitalistic production in the US, as well as the neoliberal media market enable and encourage the widespread of misinformation and propaganda. Finally, this research takes a phenomenological and art-based research approach and looks at how individuals define and negotiate agency during times of information crisis.
Trust, Misinformation, Dissent, Information Crisis, Neoliberal Media, Agency, Phenomenology, Critical Design