Cognitive Surplus and “Truthiness”

There have been two posts in the blogs I read that have been creating a lot of thought.

The first article is from Will Richardson at Weblogg-ed. The basic premise of the post is a review of a book, “True Enough”, by Farhad Manjoo. Manjoo suggests that Stephen Colbert’s ideas about “truthiness” have some merit, and that technologies are making it easier than ever for individuals to connect with others whom share views. This has the paradoxical effect of narrowing our world view, because it is easier than ever to narrow our information stream to just others who think like us.

This is scary and has a huge negative potential. It also helps explain why our society has such a fragmented feeling these days. I also can’t help but notice how this book as not been mentioned on any of the other blog sites that I normally read. It would seem that edubloggers are ignoring an important ethical conversation that is lingering in the wings.

The next article appeared in some form in nearly every blog I read, the Gin, Television, and Social Surplus talk by Clay Shirky. The catch phrase of “Cognitive Surplus” is the talk of the town. Personally, I think it is a brilliantly simple idea to explain a complex event. And while a agree with everything he said about TV, I can’t help but wonder about the societal ramifications when you think about Manjoo’s paradoxical effect. TV, while a colossal waste of time gives many people something in common. Of course, this is kinda sad but the truth never the less.

I worry that the majority of “cognitive surplus” will be squandered in activities that are no better than television and in some cases worse (i.e. the search for “truthiness”).

As educators, we are doing a lousy job at preparing students to leverage the power of social technologies. In most cases it is feared and downright banned (i.e. MySpace). So, I just wonder what are the new literacies or ethics we need to acknowledge so students are cognizant of developing a balanced information? Are we (educators) developing a balanced informational stream for ourselves? And finally, as Web 2.0 technologies diminish the expert in favor of the folksonomy, how do we judge what if true and what is “truthiness”?

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