The History of “Fake News”

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Right now, conversations about fake news are everywhere. Between debates about Facebook’s role in creating and promoting fake news, websites promising to fix or block fake providers, and the Trump administration shouting”fake news” at every opportunity possible, there’s a cloud of confusion around the idea.

But what actually is fake news? One thing is for sure- fake news was not born in 2016. It is not a sudden intrusion into the media world, and to treat it as such masks its history and context.

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A Sci-Comm Renaissance?

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News from the last three weeks has been bad, to say the least. Both Britain and America have seemingly been bent on destruction and bridge-burning. Yet despite being anxious about just what will happen next, I’m also a little bit curious as well.

One of the few good parts about the previous three weeks is how people have often responded to protect and support others. Social networks have shared resources for contacting politicians, lawyers and advocates, and advice on how best to do so. Widespread protests and calls for mobilisation have made some meaningful changes, called attention to the wrongs which would have remained away from the spotlights, and delayed political decisions. People aren’t taking the changes as quietly as either Trump and co. or May and co. had wanted. And I hope this atmosphere of fighting back will continue, and lead to bigger changes.

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How Is The World Feeling?

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If you have a smartphone, then right now you could be taking part in the world’s largest mental health study. Sounds interesting? Then head over to http://howistheworldfeeling.spurprojects.org/ to join in.

If you need a bit more convincing, then read on.

The survey is called How Is The World Feeling?, and it’s aiming to get a snapshot of how everyday people around the world are feeling during this week (October 10th- October 16th). The target is to have 7 million people taking part, and 70 million emotions logged.

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Signals and Noise

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The sheer amount of publications, information sources, and people that I follow has become too much to read, and too much to mean anything. Continual anxiety means I’m struggling to focus on anything useful, like uni work or project planning. But trying to escape or get ideas by reading non-uni media isn’t helping at all.

Between my Twitter feed, Medium recommendations and Pocket list, there’s almost 1000 items of “do this to be happy”, “do this to be better”,”here’s how everyone else is succeeding”, and “you need to care about this”.
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Writing Science Update

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This week I handed in my third piece of coursework- a group project to create a science-based magazine- which was possibly the most fun I’ve ever had with a uni assignment.

After bouncing facebook messages around the group, and continually uploading revisions and comments, we eventually got a final set of pages we were happy with. Off to print them out then- which was surprisingly difficult.

No printers in Uni could print the A4 pages properly, so we eventually found the low-tech solution of printing each page as on A3 and guillotining them down to the right size. Which would have worked well if I had any hand-eye coordination.

Apart from the myriad of issues actually getting the thing printed, I’m really happy with how the magazine turned out. Seeing it come out on proper paper, and how well the photos and colours work, it looks even better than on my laptop screen. It looks really professional, which isn’t how I’d normally describe anything I made, so I like the contrast.

 

A first-day draft of the magazine.

A first-day draft of the magazine.

Another first-day draft.

Another first-day draft.

Some ideas from the drafts made on the first day- mostly the teal, purple, and orange colour scheme, and the file-divider-style sidebars- stayed during the entire process.

However, while the first-day drafts were very sparse, the final layout contained many more ideas and tried out different styles to suit the article.

 

Mostly, it all looks varied, but still looks like it belongs to one coherent magazine. Ultimately, I’m really happy with it (despite the annoyance of finding a typo 5 minutes after hand-in) and I’m hoping we get a good mark for it.

Mental Health Online: Forums

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In 1994, Dr Phillip Long founded www.mentalhealth.com aiming to create a cross-cultural encyclopaedia of mental health conditions. The site is looking a little archaic now, using older DSM categories not commonly used now, and containing diagnostic ideas that didn’t really catch on, such as analysing all mental health symptoms through Greek personality dimensions.

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While the site may not be entirely relevant these days, it’s a fascinating and detailed read. Moreover, it’s attached forum has been consistently running since 2005. In internet terms, this is an incredibly long time. Imagining friendships possibly extending for 10 years, its easy to see the best part of forums; their ability to connect people with others across time and space, providing friendships built on common experience and support.

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Mental Health Online: Tumblr

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Of all the major social networks, Tumblr is the one I wanted to write about the most, because its a dramatic difference from the stoicism of Twitter and the envy-inducing highlight reel of Facebook. Just like most of its users, its young, bold, and easily misunderstood.

#History

For the uninitiated, Tumblr is a microblogging site with a very “anything goes” attitude towards content: drawings, videos, music, gifs, longform text, links and pretty much anything else you can think of are all found there. Its major feature is reblogging, which is reposting someone else’s content onto your own feed and adding commentary, opinions, or a visual response- a cross between a Twitter retweet and a standard blog’s comment chain. Content is organised and collected using hashtags, which are essential for posts being discovered and read.

Part of Tumblr’s appeal is how it conveys the impression of a private, almost clandestine association. Continue reading