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...we show that searching the Internet for explanatory knowledge creates an illusion whereby people mistake access to information for their own personal understanding of the information. Evidence from 9 experiments shows that searching for information online leads to an increase in self-assessed knowledge as people mistakenly think they have more knowledge “in the head,” even seeing their own brains as more active as depicted by functional MRI (fMRI) images.

http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xge-0000070.pdf

http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000070
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Typically, people substitute their own thinking with trust. There are two basic types of trust: verification and prior experience. Verification is cognitively expensive; therefore we fall back on prior experience, i.e. intuition. In a social networking environment, this leads to reinforcement of personal and group biases because, given the rapid flow of content, one's own thinking and verification become prohibitively expensive.
Since its beginning, the web had a similar problem, which Google solved by incorporating prior experience (links) into its page rank algorithm. [is the rise of partisanship a side effect of the web?] Over time, we've learned to trust Google. Furthermore, if we go back in time we find a similar pattern with other media: newspapers, radio, TV, books, etc. Essentially, mainstream media represent networks of trust embedded into information flows.
So far, social media companies have failed to create an independent system of trust. Maybe because we use the new media for bias confirmation, not so much for information gathering. Although, the Belling Cat example shows that the latter is not only possible, but can be more efficient than traditional methods of investigation. Tyler Cowen has a good argument that under the circumstance an autistic person has a better chance to succeed than a socially adjusted one.
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BASSANIO

Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more
than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two
grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you
shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you
have them, they are not worth the search.


--- W. Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice.
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A most useful way of demonstrating the existence of a certain phenomenon is to examine the implications and consequences of its absence. As Benjamin Lee Whorf suggested, if a rule has absolutely no exceptions, it is not recognized as a rule or as anything else; it is then part of the background of experience of which we tend to remain unconscious.

The obvious methodological implication of this is that investigating the "pathological" might help us to discover, unveil, or simply bring into focus the "normal," which we usually take for granted and­ therefore tend to ignore.

--- Evitar Zerubavel. Hidden Rhythms, 1985.
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A man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them.
Thomas Jefferson. ( quoted from The Social Life of Information, p. 198).
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The measure of reality ( 940. CROSBY ) - in.

The social life of information. ( 303.4833 BROWN) - requested 12/3/06

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