March 21｜Fake news and false alarms: mobile and digital communication in contemporary society
In a talk about fake news on Thursday, March 21, Richard Ling, professor of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, said that misinformation is not a new phenomenon, although it is a hot topic of discussion recently.
According to professor Ling, fabricated news or photos have “no implicit understanding between the author and the audience.” He differentiated information based on two dimensions, level of facticity and Intention to deceive, providing an appropriate framework for conceptualizing fake news.
He further argued that disinformation becomes more real than it actually is with a huge system of electronic reposting echoing around. He used an example of the 2018 false missile alert incident happening in Hawaii to discuss how people were affected by misinformation and how they reacted to it.
How do people decide whether there is a real alarm? Ling said that people rely on their internal sense of verification (i.e., whether hearing siren or not). Externally, people will check other information sources, such as radio or newspapers. In addition, the interpersonal responses via mobile communication play a large part because people tend to call their strongest tie in the first moment. Those calls “become a baggage your relationship have. In ten years’ time, when they talk about this event. The action of event will become the group’s legacy,” said Ling. He emphasized that those cherished connections during the crisis will be buried in people’s mind.
This phenomenon of looking for the reactions from close community can be explained by the notion of confirmation bias. The psychological theory posits that people tend to collect information consistent with what they have already believed. Though psychological studies have verified that people's connection with strong ties who support particular perspectives is pushing people to the polarized corner, there is still a lack of study from the sociological perspective (e.g., the role of social structure). On top of the conceptual advancement, Ling also encouraged scholars to “think creatively” for the methodology to get data after certain event occurs that serves as the basis of misinformation.
Professor Richard Ling is currently the Editor of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC) and was elected as an International Communication Association (ICA) fellow in 2016 in honor of his academic contribution.
This guest lecture was jointly organized by the Department of Social Psychology at Shih Hsin University 世新大學社會心理學系, the Department of Sociology at NCCU, and the International Master’s Program in International Communication Studies at NCCU.