Essential Conference on Post-Truth in the Age of the Machine

The Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning is hosting a conference on Post-Truth, Oct. 10-11, in Valletta, Malta. In the video below, Professor Alex Grech, expert technologist, discusses with Interpersonal Divide author Michael Bugeja the state of truth, surprisingly similar in Malta and the U.S. Reason? Social media misuse, partisan media and a world without “why.”

Michael Bugeja, distinguished professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University, says journalism and society in Malta and the United States has been divided politically and ethically. “Fact is alternative and truth is not truth.” We seek affirmation rather than information. Many of us would rather be friended but uninformed.

Meanwhile, journalism has aligned itself with those groups and political parties because “margins are too low in the objective middle.” Dr. Bugeja asks this intriguing question:

How can two countries thousands of miles apart with decidedly different cultures suffer from the same moral malady? Technology divides us into partisan groups. Corporate giants–Apple, Microsoft, Google (Alphabet), and Facebook–have programmed how we think and treat each other in the post-truth era.

This conference is essential for educators, communicators, journalists and citizens so that they can understand what divides them, who profits from the division, and what can be done about it.

Alex Grech, a change consultant, educator and speaker, is known for this work on Digital Identity, Digital Credentials, Blockchain, EdTech and Media Literacy. He holds a doctorate in Internet Computing from the University of Hull. He teaches these courses at the University of Malta:

  • DGA3008 – Digital Literacy and Social Networking for Creatives
  • MCS1000 – Aspects of Communications
  • MCS1050 – Internet Communications
  • MCS3953 – Social Media and 21st Century Communications
  • MCS5460 – New Media and Society

Michael Bugeja teaches media ethics and technology and social change at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. He is a dual citizen of Malta and the United States.

In the above video, Dr. Grech asks Dr. Bugeja candid questions about the state of truth in the age of the machine. Both professors advocate for understanding technology from a computer science perspective rather than consumer perspective.

Dr. Bugeja expounds upon that idea. “The biggest lie in Malta and the United States,” he says, is clicking “I agree” as if you have  read the terms of service when you download an application on your smartphone or computer.

Dr. Bugeja also discusses his research in Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine (Oxford Univ. Press). The first edition of the book won the prestigious Clifford G. Christians Award for Research in Media Ethics. His other major text, Living Media Ethics (Routledge/ Taylor & Francis), also won that same research award.

Social media is programmed to sell and surveil simultaneously, Dr. Bugeja says. For decades, journalism emphasized the so-called “5Ws and H”: “who, what, when, where, why and how.” However, you do not need to know “why” to make a sale.

“This is the state of journalism in Malta and the U.S,” Dr. Bugeja says. “We know how, what, where and when something happened to whom, but do not know why.” This allows political parties to insert the “why,” dividing society politically so that we distrust each other.

Drs. Grech and Bugeja also discuss how teenagers in Malta and the United States learn about social media by trial and error. Both professors have 16-year-olds. Teens accept everyone at first as “friends” and are trolled or bullied and then slowly utilize the privacy controls. By then, though, the damage has been done. They may have been hurt psychologically.

Dr. Bugeja expects pushback to his determinist views. He believes that technology has the power to control us unless we know its computer program and have read the terms of service. He also acknowledges the incredible power of technology, which can be used for the common good, especially when a journalist or blogger creates fact-based content that seeks common bonds instead of division.

Dr. Bugeja says it doesn’t matter whether those attending the conference agree or disagree with his views, shaped by the French-Maltese philosopher Jacques Ellul.

Ellul believed  technology is neither moral nor immoral. It is amoral. As soon as you insert it into an existing system, it changes that system and its culture. Insert it into education, and education is all about the technology. Insert it into the economy, and the economy is all about technology. Insert it into politics and journalism? You get the same result.

According to Dr. Bugeja, everyone attending the conference has an opportunity to take back to their institutions the notion that technology and media literacy should be a required course. “We owe it to Generation Z,” he says, so that students can utilizing technology to empower themselves and their ideals.

The 2019 3CL conference will be held on 10 to 11, October 2019, at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, Malta.

The registration fee includes access to conference sessions, conference materials, lunches, tea/coffee breaks, and the opening reception on the evening of 9 October, 2019. Registration closes on 3 October, 2019.

  • Early Bird Registration (up to 31 July 2019) – €275
  • Regular Registration – €375
  • Registered Non-profit Organisations – €100
  • Full-time Student Registration – €50

CLICK here to register. 

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