Living into shared reality

/ 28 November 2016

There has already been a lot of commentary on the ways in which “fake news” shaped our recent election cycle. I worry that that concern sidetracks us from a larger issue, that of how we are beginning to inhabit our own realities, quite apart from any shared reality.

As Gilad Lotan notes, “With increased political polarization, amplified by homophily — our preference to connect to people like us — and algorithmic recommender systems, we’re effectively constructing our own realities.” He points to bias, and deliberately misleading information (otherwise known as propaganda), as stronger threats.

So what can counter them? Media educators have been working for years to develop pedagogical strategies that are effective and engaging, and now research continues to document ways in which media literacy education is much more effective at helping teens to improve “judgments of accuracy” with respect to news, much more effective than political knowledge, for instance. We are also learning that practices matter in relation to various media, even more than specific content.

I’ve long argued that media education is a crucial part of the religious education — indeed, that was the topic of my dissertation research — but these days I think it ought to be mandatory for theological education in particular, yet few seminaries do anything intentionally and explicitly in this area.