Technology in the era of Fake News

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Demonstrators in Zimbabwe (Net photo)

Editor,

RE:Social media making street protests a thing of the past” (The New Times, January 9).

Mr. Rwagatare notes how new technology and the media possibilities it has opened, “... is already upsetting the concept and exercise of power, taking it away from some who have monopolised it in the past and spreading it in a more democratic manner among the wider population.”

Nowhere is this disruptive power of technology more demonstrated than in the current hysteria over so-called ‘fake news’; in truth the fulmination of old media over the loss of their traditional gatekeeper role, which gave them the power to decide what was newsworthy and how it should be reported.

They now gnash their teeth in frustrated anger as they see their power slipping fast through their fingers and becoming ever more widely diffused outside their cosy circles to new media (mostly online) and - even worse - to the great unwashed masses of citizen-reporters, who respect neither traditional media’s self-perceived sense of majesty, rigorous fact-checking (mostly fictitious) and journalistic professionalism.

Beyond this, I would define technology more simply as the practical application of knowledge to problem-solving. For instance, a chimpanzee in the wild is applying technology when it sharpens and uses a piece of wood to hook ants or out of an ant-hill or larva and caterpillars from tree-trunks.

What is more, as the first chimps teach their young, which in turn teach their own, how to use such tools to catch their food which might otherwise have remained inaccessible, and the use of these tools become integrated into that chimp band’s culture.

Thus technology shapes culture, and, in a learning society (including chimp culture), is in turn shaped by culture.

Mwene Kalinda