Thursday, June 14, 2012

INFORMATION: Question The Source Before You React.

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We are consistently bombarded by infomedia, with product and service reviews, company evaluations, news (both reporting and commentary) from both reputable and non-credible sources of information. But we can never take what is being said at face value just because of who said or or where it was said; we must now look further to such influences as sponsored ads, paid subject or section sponsorship, and incentives to reporters, reviewers, bloggers, announcers, editors, and a host of other parties to the news delivery process who might be giving us biased information or advertorial content because of direct or indirect financial influences.

The formerly hard line separating factually-oriented news reporting from marketing (including advertising, promotion has now become almost indistinguishably fine; perhaps 'dotted' may be a better descriptor. And citing my role in The Global Futurist Blog [a perfect example of a 'line crossing' right there!], I will tell you that the trend in this direction has been increasing and will continue to increase -- both in its prevalence and its subtlety, even in some very high places. Your parents might have told you that "Some people just can't be bought." What if some of these people don't know that they are being bought, or if they are being 'gently' exploited or subliminally directed?

During these past two years, issues involving the legitimacy of virtually all types of media have been popping up everywhere.

Let's categorize these issues into several types:

1) Search engines or ranking systems that give us results based upon their information about us and our preferences -- You and I can each input the exact same search terms into Google or any other search engine and get different results. This is because Google (as have these other data-mining conglomerates) has been collecting and analyzing user data in order to present viewers with the experience that would seem most compatible with their demonstrated interests -- yet, to me this seems as if I were being fed specially filtered data (think of the movie, "The Truman Show") which was slanted heavily in favor of my research and consumption habits. If I want news, I want mine to be the same in terms of scope and weighting as everyone else's. I do not want to be told only about what someone thinks I'd like to hear;

2) Search engines, keystroke loggers and browser or drive-embedded data collection devices, selling my psychographic and demographic compiled data files to advertisers and marketers so that they can send me information and products that their statistical analyses indicate I will either be sympathetic toward or be likely to purchase. Much of these psychological intrusion attempts masquerade as newsletters, alerts and bulletins which are merely "carrying vessels" for sponsored products and services that they want me to purchase;

3) Major news media publishers and distributors (both web-based and printed) which are owned by large corporate interests with their own economic and political agendas which determine either A) how the news will be slanted in terms of negative or positive reporting on certain subjects, candidates or industries, or B) even more subtly, how much coverage, in terms of quantity of disclosure and of prominence in physical positioning (a kind of exploitative heat mapping) certain subjects are given versus other subjects.

4) Increasing volume and prominence of "sponsored ads" and other "pay-to-play" strategies imposed upon end-users by media, search engines and ranking services in order to earn income from advertisers. Oftimes, these results are not very clearly separated from the "objective results" we would hope to see in the interest of getting at the truth.

If a search engine service, news release service or ranking service (in terms of expertise or industry standing) gives me advantageous perceptual positioning, placement, prominence, rankings or anything else for that matter if I give them either more money or more free content [this latter approach based on the imbecilic theory that the more answers I submit to questions or the more articles I produce for an ezine or other resource to re-publish, the more of an expert it makes me] they are reducing their credibility and the perceived validity of their results.

What actually triggered me to post this article was that the Founder of a fairly large and well-known 'personal growth' web resource with many articles written by many authors and archived on many focused subtopics sent me an email stating that I could be ranked as their primary expert in a certain sub specialty if I simply paid them a certain monthly fee and committed to submitting a certain number of articles per month for their publication. I will not bother sending a response.

5) An attitudinal sea change from the very highest executive levels on downward in the organizational motivation behind reporting or providing information from that of unassailable credibility and expert non-partisan analysis (this was once referred to as 'journalistic integrity'), to A) aggregating information about the end-users, subscribers or readership for purposes of resale or exerting influence (mind control through sensory and informational distortion), and B) using the medium as a staging platform to feed other businesses. 

At the risk of sounding a bit paranoid, I often wonder, when I am at work on my computer if I am studying and working on a project, or if I am the subject being studied and worked on by some sort of ever-growing algorithmic mega-mind in cyberspace which has its tentacles reaching out for me through the screen, keyboard and webcam of my desktop machine. Even in my necessary use of social media platforms I have an increasing sense of violation and outrage.

When the media becomes a barrier between my inquiries and reality, or between my questions and getting honest answers, the media is no longer a useful tool to me, or to anyone else like me. It has become an obstruction which I must skillfully navigate my way around.

Before you evaluate anything that you see or read in any media source (and I am including rating services, ranking services and search engines in this category), question several things:

1) the historical objectivity and reliability of the source;

2) the agenda of the source - is it providing information, or seeking to sell you things or influence you? Is it advertiser -subsidized or fee-for-subscription?;

3) the master to whom the source is answerable, and the possible interests which the source might be protecting or patronizing or competing against.

Also, I believe that the following secondary protocols may be very useful in helping you evaluate what you might be seeing or hearing, and its veracity:

1) Look for coverage of the same subject matter in other unaffiliated sources -- as many as possible;

2) Do some of your research from other machines (IP addresses or telephone numbers), or through other proxies which have not historically been connected with you.

One thing is certain. With the passage of time, and with the increasingly tremendous concentration of power and wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer organizations, many of which contain media affiliations or 'extensions,' the truth is going to be more and more difficult to sort out.

Douglas E. Castle for The InfoSphere Business Alerts And Intelligence Blog

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