Is the Internet lying to us?

Is the Internet lying to us?
Geoffrey Rockwell

( -- University of Alberta scholars talk about the relativity of truth on the World Wide Web.

Truth and lies on the are all a matter of context according to some of the University of Alberta’s foremost scholars in humanities computing and information science.

Geoffrey Rockwell, a professor of philosophy and humanities computing and the director of the Canadian Institute for Research in Computing and the Arts, was the keynote speaker and mediator of a panel discussion hosted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Panelists Ofer Arazy from the Department of Accounting and Management Information Systems in the Alberta School of Business; Susan Brown, a professor in the Department of English & Film Studies and lead researcher on the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory project; Peter Baskerville, from the departments of history and classics, humanities computing, and co-leader of West and North, Canadian Century Research Infrastructure; and Lisa Given, a professor in the School of Library and Information Studies and the Department of Humanities Computing, each brought a different focus to the discussion of ‘truth’ in this digital age.

“It seems that what is true and false is often negotiated in a community or a microcommunity. Has the Internet changed how we negotiate truths?” Rockwell asked. “I’m interested in a slightly different phenomenon where you have communities forming that basically reinforce each other’s truths and are not listening—and this is probably something that’s always happened—to other voices, and are not actually asking the questions that we ask of information.”

Ofer said that two things are happening simultaneously and exist on a large scale.

“Some people argue that over the Internet you see a variety and diversity of ideas, and that’s what drives innovation, that’s what drives the wisdom of the crowd—the quality of Wikipedia for example,” he said. “But, on the other hand, if you look at some of the smaller communities where people of the same opinions come together to reinforce one another, they’re not open to other opinions.”

Given, who has been asked to assess the quality of evidence, including documents submitted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in Canada’s courts, said that people need to be trained to sort the garbage from the useful information.

“People will often get into circular arguments where they can start to use self citation, or selective citation, in particular ways in order to sell their particular argument, often without a lot of critical thought. Along comes an outsider to look at these trappings of credibility as it were, and sometimes it’ll be a mix of information overload, sometimes just a lack of knowledge about how to now assess credibility,” she said. “There are certain ways that information can be manipulated and used to play on that normal notion of, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a lot out there and how will I weed my way through it?’”

When Rockwell asked whether the Internet can be made to tell more compelling, more comprehensive and useable truths, the panellists all agreed that context was key.

“Context is all, in many ways,” said Brown. “The same text can, out of context, be a piece of hate speech, and, within context, be a historicized document that works against hate speech. I think we do need to move, as a scholarly community, away from the notion that truth as it operates in something like Wikipedia is not sufficient. I think in the humanities, in particular, we’ve moved beyond the idea of singular truth or objective truth, to an understanding of truth as situated and negotiated by communities.”

“The big thing is, the Internet can provide more useable, richer and more nuanced context,” agreed Baskerville. “The key word is context and the real danger on the Internet is lack thereof. So, anything that builds that and maintains that is good.

“Number two, we have to keep it open. There’s this tension with commercialization and I think that has to be really looked at closely because it’s a creeping, eroding and sinister kind of thing from the point of view of open scholarship.”

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Nov 25, 2010
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Nov 25, 2010
Otto is smiling because he doesn't believe in objective truth.

Only idiots do not believe in objective truth. 2+2=4 no matter what the majortiy communutiy, or the community in power says it is.

Humanity professors believe in and propergate stupidity.

Nov 25, 2010
Mankind's dealings with the universe are objective.

Mankind's dealings with each other are subjective.

Key to bringing objectivity into discussion is to entirely ignore the interpersonal implications. For those whose entire existence is couched in interpersonal analysis: you're screwed.

Nov 25, 2010
Relativity conflicts with the idea of objective truth.

Nov 25, 2010
Not a single scientist on the panel :(

Nov 25, 2010
i would say that "truth" can be propegated and voted/rated up and down by a larger audience than in the old days, one sideeffect is that there has been an upsurge in crackpottheorism and pseudoscience, but on the other hand the internet has provided a great breedingground for hybridisation of ideas from disciplines wich used to be more seperate at the past.

Nov 25, 2010
Otto is smiling because he doesn't believe in objective truth.

Only idiots do not believe in objective truth. 2+2=4 no matter what the majortiy communutiy, or the community in power says it is.

Humanity professors believe in and propergate stupidity.
Now otto is smiling because he sees you're an idiot.

And the objective truth is, there is no god.

Nov 26, 2010
All I can say is outcome based progressive education has reared its ugly head. 2+2=0? Ok show me the mathamatical proof proves this? Just becase a group of idiots say 2+2=0 doesnt make this true.

Objective truth exists, only idiots, fools and humanities professors dont realize this.

Nov 26, 2010
Unless you are talking about 90 degree rotations right or left, in which case 2 + 2 = 0

Well... kind of... If your equation is describing 90 degree turns then they would need to be included in the equation since 2 is just a multiplier for the 90degrees.

2(90degrees) + 2(90degrees) = 360degrees which positionally on a circle = 0degrees.

Even in this case, 2+2 still = 4 because:

2(90degrees) + 2(90degrees)
=360degrees which can be argued as the same as 0degrees positionally.

Numerically, 2 + 2 = 4 is always true.

Nov 26, 2010
All I can say is outcome based progressive education has reared its ugly head. 2+2=0? Ok show me the mathamatical proof proves this?

Vendicar explained his reasoning as to why he said 2 + 2 can = 0 in certain circumstances.

Tieing his statement to negative results of an "outcome based progressive education" is a bit of a stretch.

Nov 27, 2010
Numerically, 2 + 2 = 4 is always true.

Unless you're dealing with base 4, where the answer is 10. :)

Nov 28, 2010
Let's squelch the crazies in here. . .spin my kook dial a bit. . .there we go, no more psychotic ranting from the anti-minds.

Freethinking: Don't lose your faith in human reason. Objective truth exists whether or not internet kooks give permission. Many of us still know the difference between things and aren't afraid to challenge those who desire irrationality and violence.

The unprecedented human advantage of the internet is from interpolation and extrapolation of all available data, which gives one a range of possibles, and the internet lets any mind participate in the iteration of awareness.

Information flowing freely is the simple secret of the internet, truth or falsehood of each individual datum is irrelevant.

Nov 28, 2010

Humanity professors believe in and propergate stupidity.

I think you meant Watergate.

Nov 29, 2010
"Relativity conflicts with the idea of objective truth." - FlatBush

No. Your view of what is true conflicts with the way the universe is.

Those who are interested in science change their view of what is true when it contradicts with reality.

"You Fascist Liberal/Communist vermin will never understand that all truth only comes through the loving interpretation of the Christian Bible." - American Patriot

There is no privileged frame of reference, hence no ultimate truth, hence your god (as you define him) cannot exist.

Nov 29, 2010
According to the professors, no objective truth exists other than the truth that no objective truth exists. Logic only a humanities professor can love. Since it is a subjective truth that no objective truth exists, therefore objective truth must exist, since in a subjective frame of reference, objectivity cannot exist, however it's nonexistence in a subjective reference will infer its true existence in an objective reference.

As shown above even if you change the reference 2+2=4. Only idiots, progessives, and humanities professors confuse the fact by changing reference. I'm suprised that no-0ne brought up binary which for example teaches 11+11=100, however when converted to decimal, 2+2=4.

Why dont humanities professors teach math? Because they are too stupid to know 2+2=4.

Why is the US falling behind in science, too many humanities professors influencing the educational system.

Nov 29, 2010
Numbers as we write them are just symbols that represent quantities.

2 + 2 always equals 4.

Again, 4 != 0 in your above equation. It has to do with how you wrote the problem.

4(90degrees)=360degrees=0degrees positionally, but 4 != 0. There are still 2+2=4 90degrees turns that were made. You still have to qualify your overall result by stating that you're working in degrees.

It's just symbolic semantics, not a challenge against the objectivity of basic mathematics.

Nov 29, 2010
Frajo, you are correct.... posting too fast for my own good. I have to keep that post away from my kids, my 8 year old thinks binary if fun, if he found out I goofed that badly adding binary, I would never hear the end of it. I should have said 10+10=100

Thanks for that correction.

Nov 30, 2010
Time for a useless post:

(for extremely large values of 2)

Saw that on a shirt once, made me chuckle.

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