Sensemaking in the senseless digital theatre of politics 

It is polling time again soon in the UK and who are you going to vote for? Do you know? Have you made up your mind? Or are you going to listen to what's said and make and “informed decision?” 

Is that even possible in today’s world? Can you make sense of all the noise? If we put aside for one moment the rhetoric and hyperbole from each of the main party front liners and their spin doctors, which are bad enough, and we listen to the media pundits, bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers can we define what is real or not. What are the right issues to focus on and be concerned about and what are just sensationalism? 

If that alone weren’t enough we know we are up against the likes of Cambridge Analytica, albeit they may have gone but plenty of contenders for the role no doubt remain even if in the shadows. Then there are the Information Operations (state-sponsored, foreign and fundamentalist), Hackers and Crackpots. The political technologist, behavioural economists, dark advertisers and data scientists all trying to understand you, manipulate you and nudge your vote one way or the other. All battling for your attention and all willing to lie, cheat and steal your data to get to the top. And you willing let them do it, because you think it has no effect on you. And maybe it doesn’t, but it affects enough people to sway votes and shake nations so unless you sit up and take notice it's going to be running part of your life, if not your entire life from now on.  

It’s hard to make sense of what is going on when we get our news and views from social media, mobile phone news feeds and glimpses we get from our various digital ecosystems. With these bad actors and political propagandists able to access your data and use machine learning and AI to predict your next move digitally it is hard to know where to turn to find “truth” whatever that looks like today. 

We used to get our news from the broadsheets, the radio and the TV screen, but that too was always biased. Even the so-called impartial BBC shows its true colours every now and then but quickly backtracks when called out by others. 

To get a true view of what each political party and their candidates believe its best to go straight to their own respective websites. It is up to you then if you choose to believe and trust in what they say they will do and if it aligns with your beliefs and values.  

As for the media and all the various vacuous form of digital ecosystem exposure you fall into each day the only advice we can give is to;  

  • Test out what you hear, read and see for truthfulness 
  • Ask yourself who is, or could be, behind this message? 
  • Who does this story benefit? 
  • What is the imagery used trying to convey? 
  • What is the tone, feeling and sentiment behind the words being used? 
  • What is the other side of this argument? 
  • And so on 

Don’t just take at face value what you see. In my article on Tackling Information Operations, Propaganda and Dark Advertising we can see just how widespread and diverse the problem of misinformation is in this digital age that our only hope is to be our own sense makers. But it takes time, it takes series consideration and it takes stepping away from our digital devices long enough to think clearly. 

written by The Mentalist Poet

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