Information explosion and Context

With the advent of technology and and social media we the modern people are being bombarded with information. It can come in many forms. Like huge bombs, cluster bombs, time bombs and sometimes laser guided bombs which, one really cannot escape.

When internet arrived it was hailed as a great equaliser. It’s power to to disseminate information was very highly regarded. Information was talked of as a great power.

But as years have gone by this information overload had intruded into a lot many aspects of our life. Affected us in many ways. Right from easy availability of pornography to social media addictions and digitally connected people to socially disconnected people.

We just are waking up to the worst of its side effect. We are exposed to a huge pile rather a dump of information. Sometimes true, sometimes false and sometimes equivocal. We may need it or not, we will have that information coming into our mobiles and occupying our mind-space.

Was driving around town today and had switched on the FM channel on the car radio. Was listening to it casually. There was a programme about cooking on the air. And as I was least interested neglected it. But, till it came to the conclusion part. And here the host of the programme started shooting off the advantages of wheat flour which was the main ingredient of the recipe of that day. And like an expert he started off saying that wheat had a lot of calories to help you through the day, lot of protein to keep you muscular and selenium and copper and what not. And for diabetics it’s good because it has a less glycemic index.

Now per se that was not wrong. But then there are a lot of questions that arise from this. How much quantity is required to be taken to fulfil your daily quota of proteins, how much of carbohydrates will be excess, the role of micronutrient, the proportion of wheat in the diet in normal person and diabetics, etc was not explained. Nor was it explained that how much proteins or carbohydrates are required per day per individual. Everything was just explained in flowing generalisations. And there was a strong possibility that an ill informed audience may take those values as sacrosanct. And start eating more and more of wheat at the expense of decreasing other content in their diet. 

This is the problem with the information we receive on electronic media and social media. It is packed with information but totally devoid of context. The context is the most important part of any information. Because context gives the information a usability and utility. Without context all information is a mumbo jumbo. 

Many times the context is not mentioned accidentally or by design. Especially with respect to the information related to history , geography, economics, politics, etc. when the people peddling the information want to keep the general public misinformed. This would give the people who push the information a benefit. A benefit that may be utilised in marketing, politics, evangelical activities and/or elections. 

It’s easy to fool the general public nowadays, by pushing information about many issues without any context.  And it will be swallowed by the gullible people making them ripe for enlisting in the aforementioned activities. There are many examples to choose from from many countries around the world. Few of them are

  1. Decisions from the past being judged now, with the benefit of hindsight. Because when the decisions were taken the key people wouldn’t have an exact idea how the sequence of events will pan out. 
  2. Medical facts presented in bits and pieces. Like treatment for cancers, diabetes,  hypertension, etc.,  Here only few line from some journal are quoted and not the full article. And people are allowed to draw their conclusion based on a paragraph of extract without any context. 
  3. Mudslinging: Selective bits of news or photos of leaders and opinion makers are highlighted without any context. The news or the pic used are from one part of the story and not the whole developing story. The final conclusion of the story is not placed before the public. 
  4. Religious: a lot of religious posts are going on on the social media. Pointing fingers at other religion by posting selective information, news or pics which again form just a small part of the story. But the complete story is never placed before the public. This selective usage leads to fear mongering and spreading of hate against other religions or races. 
  5. Defamation:  this is quite interesting. Here some portions of speech or written material of some famous personality is used to defame him. The small portions may look incendiary and appalling but when taken together with the whole speech or article they are harmless. Sometimes strong words are used for dramatisation of an issue which are further explained in the speech or writeup. But the misinformation paddlers promote only the selective portion to create confusion. Many such video clips and quotes of many leaders abound on the internet. Leading to selective education of the gullible. 
  6. Lastly the absolute fakes: In this category belong photoshopped images, photoshopped social media quotes, digitally altered videos, addition of different voice to the video, deep fakes , etc., This are the most potent weapons. As for common people it is very difficult to distinguish between original and fakes. 

From all this it’s quite important for the general public to find out the context of the information floating around on the social media and Internet. The context is key word. Only from context it can be concluded if the information can be trusted. 

Further the general public needs to understand

  1. The motivations of the people pushing this information. 
  2. Their main objective behind it. 
  3. The effect these peddlers are planning for. 

Because if we the general public falls for such intentional misinformation, we are becoming tools in the hands of this unscrupulous people. Tools which will be utilised to spread hate and fear, at our expense. And ultimately the rising hate and fear is going to affect our present lives and our future, extremely negatively.