History Slam 207: Navigating Online (Mis)Information

By Sean Graham

Over the past two years, the onslaught of misinformation has increasingly attracted public and government attention. From the Covid pandemic, to election results, to protest movements, we are bombarded by a daily avalanche of information and it can be, at times, challenging to distinguish reputable sources from those peddling nonsense. Many creators of misinformation are part of sophisticated operations that understand how to create confusion and sow doubt. As we collectively try to navigate this environment, it is important maintain a healthy critical eye when consuming digital content. This challenge also extends to classrooms, where teachers and university faculty bear some responsibility for teaching students about finding and using high quality sources.

Some strategies for doing so can be found in Bethany Kilcrease’s new book Falsehood and Fallacy: How to Think, Read, and Write in the Twenty-First Century. A great resource for students, the book explores strategies to use in the digital age to ensure what you read is of good quality. With the traditional gatekeepers losing power and influence – which is simultaneously good and bad for the dissemination of knowledge – evaluating the legitimacy of sources needs to be central to our daily consumption of information and to academic curricula. With logical fallacies, causation confusion, and falsehoods commonplace, the book offers useful strategies for avoiding these materials while also offering tips to improve our own writing.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Dr. Kilcrease about the book. We discuss the assumption that young people are well prepared for online misinformation (10:55), increased accessibility of quality sources (18:40), and the pros and cons of gatekeepers’ reduced power (22:40). We also chat about the CRAAP test (27:05), the benefits of short-form online writing (34:10), and proving causation (43:05).

Sean Graham is a historian of Canadian broadcasting, an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University, and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca

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