The Internet: All or Nothing?

The Internet: All or Nothing? August 7, 2013

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel set in the near future, The Year of the Flood, said this about the internet, and I thought it deserved to be shared (p.293):

And the Internet was such a jumble of false and true factoids that no one believed what was on it any more, or else they believed all of it, which amounted to the same thing.

And that, my friends, is why I think information literacy is so important. The alternative is a dystopian future in which what could have been free and open access to information becomes instead a simulacrum in which no one knows what is real and what isn’t.

But perhaps that future is unavoidable, even so…

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  • arcseconds

    It seems to me to be a bit bizarre to treat ‘the internet’ as a single source of information.

    There’s plenty of crap in public libraries, in books, on TV, and in what people say to one another over coffee or the telephone.

    We do of course say things like ‘you can’t believe everything you read’ or ‘see on TV’, but I’ve never heard anyone say anything like ‘public libraries are just so full of a jumble of true and false stuff which people either believe all of or none of, so they’re completely disreputable and useless’.

    (although I wouldn’t be too surprised if people said that when public libraries were first becoming common…)

    • The internet, alas, does not have librarians curating its collections. 🙂

      If everyone turned to the public library for information, but with no critical thinking or discernment, I think we might find people feeling the same way about it.

      But I should add that Atwood is talking about a future situation, albeit one that follows along a trajectory existing in our time, in which the powerful shape the “news” to even a greater extent than today.