Scientist develops game to arm users against climate change 'fake news'
A George Mason University scientist is developing a mobile game that will teach users to defend themselves from 'fake news' on climate change.
ProfessorJohn Cook, an expert on misinformation with Mason's Center for Climate Change Communication, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable development of the game, "Cranky Uncle," for iPhone and Android phones.
Cook has spent over a decade studying different ways to counter misinformation. He is now combining his research into inoculation, critical thinking, cartoon humor, and gamification, into a mobile game.
"Misinformation does great damage to society," said Professor Cook, a member of Mason's Institute for a Sustainable Earth. "An essential solution is making the public more resilient against fake news. But how? Gamification is a powerful approach that can potentially reach many millions of people."
In the game, players are mentored by a cartoon Cranky Uncle who is dismissive of climate science. As they learn to recognize the flaws in Cranky Uncle's arguments, they gain points. This is based on a behavioral technique called active inoculation.
"Before becoming a scientist, I drew cartoons for a living, "said Cook. "So, imagine my delighted surprise when after a decade of research, I discovered that cartoons were a powerful tool in countering misinformation."
Cook has tested a prototype of the game in various college classes. "My students appreciated the combination of humor and real-world examples, while I appreciated how engaged they were in learning how to critically think," said Professor Melanie Trecek-King at Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts. "Learning how not to be fooled is empowering."