Digital Common Place Book

The Rise of Junk Science during the Digital Age

The first source I found was an article from the magazine Popular Mechanics discussing the rising trend of scientific misinformation better known as ‘junk science’. The article cites several issues and reports that have and continuously mislead the general public for several years. More than often, scientists and individuals will disregard scientific theory to favor their own agendas and personal beliefs. This inaccurate process is extremely damaging to the scientific community and further reinforces incorrect ideas such as ‘correlation equates causation’. The articles gives a few examples such as: a paper that correlates deaths with the nuclear accident of Fukushima, anti-vaxxers and paranoid parents, to even scientific fraudulent reports (and confirmations) from peer reviewed sources. The article sites these issues all arise from the increasing role of news and media outlets and the increase of social media access to the general public. The issue becomes even worse when news sources start using social media as ‘proof’ to get the fastest coverage and story, encouraged by competition and ratings.

The linked video is an analysis and an agreeing commentary on renown physicist Neil Degrasse Tyson’s statements refuting the idea that GMOs are harmful in any way. Cutting between the video creator and the source, both eloquently state how the scientific community as a whole agrees that GMOs pose no harm to people, short or long term. I chose this video on GMOs because it has been a rising issue and have latched on to fear and health trends, especially those who promote a ‘natural diet’. Many have capitalized on various health fads by encouraging certain dietary lifestyles simply based on fear and paranoia. An additional motivation against GMOs is the anti-corporate movement, especially against a company known as Monsanto. The video creator cites numerous and well regarded scientific organizations including WHO that have repeatedly conducted thousands of tests that all prove that there are no negative side effects of GMOs.

After reading these sources, it has become clear why there is a perpetual spreading of misinformation. Have you heard of the term ‘mob mentality’? This is a manner of thinking among a group of individuals, usually causing decentralized decision-making. As the number of social media users increases daily, the spread of information is passed on faster, increasing the chances of error or worse, malicious intent. Millions of people now hide behind their screen, and can say whatever they want, usually without consequences (other than a few heated exchanges). Now, it can be difficult to determine the difference between sarcasm and parody from serious intent. This phenomenon is known as Poe’s Law. This law has become even more relevant the more and longer I use the Internet, as my exposure to unsubstantiated opinions increases.


Topic Proposal

Topic Proposal: The Negative effects of mass media on public influence

I have chosen this topic because I am interested in current events and pop culture, all of which media has a central role. I use media during most of my day, and I have become quite familiar with the nature of media’s influence. I am the sort of person who is slow to make judgments, for both fairness and accuracy. I like to scale back from issues to understand the context, the timing, and both sides of whatever case or argument is presented. Over the last few years, the sheer amount of information has grown, and now the lines between fact, fiction and opinion have begun to blur. Unfortunately, the average person is easily convinced, and the spread of misinformation and fear mongering is getting to ridiculous proportions.

Some of the issues I plan to cover that the media creates are: it’s interference with the justice system; by creating false panic of non existent issues, or making situations worse by fueling the flame; having consistently poor representation of gender roles and body image; becoming less about informing the viewer and more about generating views and making money; and pandering to certain demographics creating a cyclical confirmation bias complex. Within each of these is a plethora of examples and situations that I will analyze and break down using human psychology, historical patterns etc.

Since media is such a broad term, the medium of this project can be many things. I will most likely use a combination of video clips, news articles, and images to reach my audience to show as many different examples as I can to help the audience grasp how big media’s influence is.

This topic is invested in virtually everyone in the US. Most people use some form of staying in touch with others and the news, and it is now an integral part of American culture. This issue is even more prevalent today, especially with so many accesing information daily. As MLK once said “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” I fully agree with this statement and I want to make sure that people understand how to obtain information with accuracy and efficiency.

Response #1

Both of the readings argue that the use of rhetoric is highly important to accurately and effectively convey a message. Each reading was approached in different way. Covino & Joliffe’s reading was an extremely word heavy paper that uses language and philosophy to explain it’s content. They argue that in order to communicate the message, one must use qualities (pathos, logos etc) and the repetition of a statement to give it weight in discussion. Losh, on the other hand, uses a comic and explains his points through simple words and illustration. He makes it clear that the writer/speaker must know his/her audience to efficiently communicate. Covino & Joliffe were most likely written for philosophy academia and possibly communication classes. Losh’s comic was written for the college aged group, since the wording is easier and the characters are my age, thus making them more appealing. Personally I thought Losh’s was easier to understand, since it is more foreword with it’s message. I am a visual learner, and the pictures with the text allowed me to understand all aspects of ethos, pathos, and logos. and  Since he was appealing directly to my age group, he made his writing much more understandable for me.

About Me

Hi! My name is Ian Xavier Kennedy, but you can call me Ian. I’m from Norwood Ohio which is entirely surrounded by the city of Cincinnati (For mail, I can use either city on the address, which is nice).

I have a wide range of interests but I like studying marketing, web interaction, social media, art, music, and pop culture’s effect on society. I’m always reading about the latest tech news, and discovering music all the time. I like to pinpoint trends and patterns to try to predict where or what ‘the newest thing’ is, and where it will go. Every few months or so, I’ll bet my friends on these predictions, and much to their annoyance, I’ve been correct nearly every time (Marvel’s box office success, Amazon becoming the face of online retail, Trap Music gaining traction in 2012, Disco revival during 2013, I could go on…) In my free time I DJ music for WMSR and the occasional rare party (it’s mostly a hobby). I absolutely love movies, and I’m a sucker for any gorgeous cinematography and sci-fi. I am also the social media coordinator of a student record label called AMP. Other than that, I am an Eagle Scout and avid camper, hiker, and outdoorsman.

In terms of general issues, I am supportive of gender equality and the equal treatment of all peoples. Personally, I am a huge proponent of accuracy and science, both online and off. The internet is a double edged sword for the general public. One can learn so much, but can also be easily misled. Misinformation is rampant online, with clickbait titles, misleading articles, and inaccurate studies, that more often than not, have some form of an agenda. I get irrationalIy angry anytime someone posts something along the lines of: Vaccines cause autism, GMO’s are bad, astrology etc. It’s insane what people believe because it’s on the internet.

I have always been an avid reader my entire life, even to the point where it has gotten me in trouble. I remember getting scolded in 2nd grade for reading Harry Potter. The reason? Apparently there was ‘no way you could read those books at your age’. But that didn’t stop me at all, and I kept reading. A few years later I was running late for baseball practice and stopped the car because I had forgotten my book for the car ride. When I got to practice, I realized I had left my baseball mitt at home… (For context, I’m a textbook example of a person with a bad case of ADD, even more so when I was younger.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been as avid as the reader I was years ago, but I still love to read when I get the chance. Most recently I’ve read American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and I can’t wait to read Good Omens.