Saturday, May 6, 2017

Unchecked fake news gave rise to an evil empire in Star Wars; Washington Post, May 4, 2017

Ben Guarino, Washington Post; Unchecked fake news gave rise to an evil empire in Star Wars

[Kip Currier: In discussing the "media-poor" fictional Star Wars-universe, the Washington Post reporter and cited experts implicate the critical roles of "real world" archives, libraries, the historical record, print and media cultures, education, access to information, data stewardship and analysis, rational "truth"-based discourse, free and independent press, and literate and questioning citizenry, within technology-infused--and increasingly tech-dependent--societies. These implications also raise some persuasive arguments for the relevance and interdependence of humanities-focused practitioners and research disciplines to technology fields and endeavors.]

"“Fake news in 'Star Wars' is probably their number one problem,” says Ryan Britt, an editor who specializes in science fiction at the website Inverse. Britt, in his 2015 book “Luke Skywalker Can’t Read,” makes a provocative claim: Most “Star Wars” denizens, if they're not illiterate, seem fundamentally disinterested in reading...

Fake news is a deadly symptom of the media-poor culture displayed in “Star Wars.” Facebook, in a report released at the end of April, defined fake news as a “catch-all” phrase that may include “hoaxes, rumors, memes, online abuse, and factual misstatements by public figures that are reported in otherwise accurate news pieces.” And in “Star Wars,” a few whopping “factual misstatements” by a public figure give rise to an evil empire.

Near the end of the prequel “Revenge of the Sith,” the elected leader of the Galactic Republic gives a speech. It's a rousing speech, full of carnage and conspiracy. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine spins a wild theory that the powerful elite, the Jedi, wish to subvert the government. It's also total bull...

“When you take out print, when you legislate against media, what results is some kind of totalitarian state,” says Joseph Hurtgen, an English instructor at Georgia's Young Harris College and an expert in archival theory, the way information is kept and stored. “That’s always where this goes when you undermine print culture.”

The funny thing about records in “Star Wars,” Hurtgen says, is that they betray an obsession with technology. “The only archive that anybody bothers to keep in 'Star Wars' is technology,” he says. “Nobody’s writing down memos or news.”

Even those technological archives are devoid of context. The Jedi library contains volumes of star charts but allows no room for questioning their accuracy. “The library is complete garbage,” in Britt's estimation."

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