Knowing the scope of your project & using WP as a team

Review map of strategies

Last class you worked with your team to map the strategies offered in Part II of “Dead Reckoning.” Let’s take a look at those:

Sample topic: fake news as information warfare

The strategies in this map are, of course, responding to the problem of fake news, but as this course has argued, fake news is a function of other many of mechanisms and web-based technologies: clickbait, demagoguery, conspiracy theories, algorithms, big data, surveillance, trolls, bots, info warfare, and more. I want to give you an example, then, for how you might think put your topic into perspective using some of the fact-checking strategies and concepts you learned in Units 1 and 2.

Let’s say my group all watched the documentary The Great Hack in Unit 2 and as a result, we are more interested in information warfare. Specifically, we are curious about election interference in 2020 and the potential regulation of Facebook (Strategy 4 from “Dead Reckoning”). So we search for both “information warfare” and “election interference” in Google News and come across a lot of stuff:

And let’s say one of links we eventually find is this video from the NY Times, an ideal video to play during the day of our discussion:

From there, we decide to zoom out and look to see if there is a Wikipedia page on web brigades (there is!). By reading its definition and history we notice that the term is an instance of broader concepts (trolls, bots, cyberwarfare, fake news, demagoguery) but can also be broken down into smaller ones (including different factions, methods, and examples). We see this in the “See also” section. At this point, then our topic is actually a constellation of topics that we can zoom into.

Activity: understanding the scope of your topic

Activity: Many of you already know what you’re interested in., but if you’re not try to derive some consensus. Then split divide two tasks:

(1) Search Google News to see how your topic is relevant today. From your results, decide on one news story that is most important and credible. Draw from your fact-checking skills in Unit 1 to evaluate these sources and be ready to argue your case.

(2) Search Wikipedia for your topic and read about its definitions and history. Notice related terms and keywords (a good place to look is the “See also” section). These would be words and phrases that help you map the possibilities for future research.

Clickbait could lead you to terms or concepts like social media addiction, attention merchants, virality, or net neutrality. Trolling could lead you to doxing/doxxing, hacktivism, hashtag activism, cyberbullying, trolling, online harassment, or the digital divide. Big data could lead you to algorithms, cookies, surveillance, or the internet of things. Conspiracy theories could lead you to Truthers, Antivaxers, Flat Earthers, InfoWars, #Falseflag culture, crowdsourcing, astroturfing, or the Dark Web.

Using WordPress for collaboration

Consensus from the course assessment last week was that the class would like to expand its knowledge of WordPress, so we’ll use the platform to organize and share your research in this unit. Here’s how.

Activity: To set up a WP site as a group, you’ll basically need one person to create a new site and add the others as users.

(1) Gather round the most confident user on your team & have them log into WP and add a new site. Choose “blog” from the menus and at the “Give your blog an address” page, your team should decide on a URL that reflects your topic but is also easy to remember.

(2) Once in the control panel of your new site, go to Manage > People at the bottom.

(3) Add your team members, one email at a time. Choose a role: either administrator, editor, or author (contributors & subscribers do not have enough permissions imho). Here’s what they mean.

(4) Once the invitations are sent, accept and log into your new site. You can now all develop the site together.

Benchmarks for Tuesday

  • Zero in on a topic and research strategy. Read as much as you can about your topic and be ready to share findings on Tuesday.
  • Decide on a way to share and organize your sources. Students often use Google Docs for this, but I can introduce you to some free tools that also help.
  • Set up your team’s WordPress site (decide themes, widgets, pages, posts, etc.) and assign blog post responsibilities.