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    nmw 15:27:59 on 2016/07/12 Permalink
    Tags: academia, academic, , , , , , , , bandwagon, bandwagon effect, , , , , , , , , , compute, , corrupt, corrupted, corruption, , , , , , , group think, groupthink, , , , , , , , , , , , , majority, , , , , populism, populist, , , rason, , , , , , , , , , systemic, , trust, trusted, , , universities, , valid, validity, vote, votes, voting, ,   

    The Spectre of Populism 

    There is a spectre haunting the Web: That spectre is populism.

    Let me backtrack a moment. This piece is a part of an ongoing series of posts about „rational media“ – a concept that is still not completely hard and fast. I have a hunch that the notion of „trust“ is going to play a central role… and trust itself is also an extremely complex issue. In many developed societies, trust is at least in part based on socially sanctioned institutions (cf. e.g. „The Social Construction of Reality“) – for example: public education, institutions for higher education, academia, etc. Such institutions permeate all of society – be it a traffic sign at the side of a road, or a crucifix as a central focal element on the alter in a church, or even the shoes people buy and walk around with on a daily basis.

    The Web has significantly affected the role many such institutions play in our daily lives. For example: one single web site (i.e. the information resources available at a web location) may be more trusted today than an encyclopedia produced by thousands of writers ever were – whether centuries ago, decades ago, or even still just a few years past.

    Similarly, another web site may very well be trusted by a majority of the population to answer any and all questions whatsoever – whether of encyclopedic nature or not. Perhaps such a web site might use algorithms – basically formulas – to arrive at a score for the „information value“ of a particular web page (the HTML encoded at one sub-location of a particular web site). A large part of this formula might involve a kind of „voting“ performed anonymously – each vote might be no more than a scratch mark presumed to indicate a sign of approval (an „approval rating“) given from disparate, unknown sources. Perhaps a company might develop more advanced methods in order to help guage whether the vote is reliable or whether it is suspect (for example: one such method is commonly referred to as a „nofollow tag“ – a marker indicating that the vote should not be trusted).

    What many such algorithms have in common is that on a very basic level, they usually rely quite heavily on some sort of voting mechanism. This means they are fundamentally oriented towards populism – the most popular opinion is usually viewed as the most valid point of view. This approach is very much at odds with logic, the scientific method and other methods that have traditionally (for several centuries, at least) be used in academic institutions and similar „research“ settings. At their core, such populist algorithms are not „computational“ – since they rely not on any kind of technological solution to questions, but rather scan and tally up the views of a large number of human (and/or perhaps robotic) „users“. While such populist approaches are heralded as technologically advanced, they are actually – on a fundamental level – very simplistic. While I might employ such methods to decide which color of sugar-coated chocolate to eat, I doubt very much that I, personally, would rely on such methods to make more important – for example: „medical“ – decisions (such as whether or not to undergo surgery). I, personally, would not rely on such populist methods much more than I would rely on chance. As an example of the kind of errors that might arise from employing such populist methods, consider the rather simple and straightforward case that some of the people voting could in fact be color-blind.

    Yet that is just the beginning. Many more problems lurk under the surface, beyond the grasp of merely superficial thinkers. Take, for example, the so-called „bandwagon effect“ – namely, that many people are prone to fall into a sort of „follow the leader“ kind of „groupthink“. Similarly, it is quite plausible that such bandwagon effects could even influence not only people’s answers, but even also the kinds of questions they feel comfortable asking (see also my previous post). On a more advanced level, complex systems may be also be influenced by the elements they comprise. For example: While originally citation indexes were designed with the assumption that such citation data ought to be reliable, over the years it was demonstrated that such citations are indeed very prone to be corrupted by a wide variety of corruption errors and that citation analysis is indeed not at all a reliable method. While citation data may have been somewhat reliable originally, it became clear that eventually citation fraud corrupted the system.

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    nmw 17:51:27 on 2016/02/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , confidence, depressed, depression, doubt, doubting, , , , , Galileo, , group dynamics, , , , , , , , , questioning, , , sad, , , , , social cohesion, social group, social groups, , , , trust, , , , ,   

    Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want To Be Happy? 

    Did anyone ever ask Galileo this question? Why or why not? Why do some people ask other people this question today?

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    feedwordpress 14:20:32 on 2014/02/22 Permalink
    Tags: , Edelman, Edelman trust barometer, , , , , publics, trust, trust barometer   

    Google is not an NGO 

    There are several interesting quotes from the recently published Edelman Trust Barometer 2014 — Executive Summary. First, the Edelman report makes a big deal about “informed publics” (but they don’t define this term):

    General public populations reported substantially lower trust
    levels than informed publics, a global trust difference of nine

    I sort of get the feeling that “informed publics” might be the ones who are more likely to watch Superbowl ads than the so-called “general public population”(?).


    NGOs are the most trusted institution.

    And finally:

    The Technology industry continues to lead with a trust level of 79 percent among informed publics (Fig. 7) but is beginning to show cracks in some key markets such as France.

    Maybe the French informed publics are not as well informed as the Superbowl-watching informed publics… and maybe that’s why they appear to be cracking up? ;)

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    feedwordpress 18:16:44 on 2013/11/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , trust, ,   

    Crowds revisited: How the Wisdom of the Crowds is related to the Wisdom of the Language — and also the Open Web 

    I usually point out how the Wisdom of the Language is different than the Wisdom of the Crowds, but it is also important to underscore how they are related.

    English is a global language because a lot of people can speak it. All global languages are spoken by many people — and it is these crowds of people make these languages significant. It is actually a type of “network effect”: the ability to communicate in a language that is used by many people make the language more attractive than a language that is spoken by fewer people.

    A similar network effect exists in trading markets: A market that enables trading between more people is preferable to a market in which less people are trading. To some degree, this is fundamental principle behind the thinking that motivates people to trust “dot com” domain names — they figure that since so many dot com domain names are registered, domain names like weather.com or homes.com are reliable sources of information about weather and/or homes. And even here the principle of the Wisdom of the Crowds also applies to the Wisdom of the Language… because “weather” and “homes” are more widely used (and widely known — in essence, more widespread) concepts than, say, “physics”, we can trust “weather” and “homes” domains more than we can trust “physics” domains.

    Yet on a more advanced level, online literacy requires us to also know who/what is behind each of these names (whether that is a person or an organization, what their “motives” are, etc.), and we also need to gauge to what degree these people / organizations deserve our trust, or whether they ought to be relatively distrusted.

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