Is it a lie?
So I actually taught a 55 minute class Monday. I’d give myself a C- but I think the underlying concept and the examples are decent and worth sharing.
Here’s the idea. Essentially it’s easier and easier to tell convincing lies in a digital environment.
I’m stealing from Dan Meyer here. I asked the kids to tell me one thing they knew was true and then one thing they knew was false. The next request was for a statement that was sort of true or sort of false.
So I start with the question “Are these pictures lies?” and then try to drill down to the various pieces and apply the idea of context, intent, and manipulation.
Essentially, maybe it doesn’t matter so much if Dana Carvey is airbrushed up. He’s a comedian. I don’t think anyone cares too much what he looks like. He’s not selling anything to do with looks.
Does it matter more that they’re changing Beyonce’s skin color dramatically? Why would they do that? Does it matter? Interestingly, the students seemed to feel that this was done with lighting and wasn’t a big deal.
With Demi Moore, I tried to add complication. Would this be a lie if this picture was used to sell a beauty product? That seemed to trigger something for the students and they stated that manipulation of the audience was what made these “augmentations” of reality acceptable or unacceptable.
Now I brought in Mike Daisey and his comments about Foxconn. What was interesting to me was that most of his lies were simply adding himself into the story. Matthew Baldwin illustrated that really well in this post. I tried to illustrate that by starting with the entry statement above (which is true) and then adding the lie portion in red (below). “It’s a lie but the important part is true. Does it matter?” The students seemed to feel that if he’d add himself to manipulate you that stripped him of any credibility.
It’s important to emphasize that he’s an entertainer. That’s his excuse. It’s entertainment but the important parts are true.
So now we have “real” news and they’re certainly altering things to make a more compelling story. I didn’t seem to convince them that this mattered. The observation that the Newsweek title ought to have been on the Time magazine. The feeling was that the Time magazine looked like a movie poster. I should have drilled down more on why the image was darkened. What is the purpose?
Only the bottom $100,000 measure is showing initially. I then ask them to guess how much the house would cost at the peak. The red money markers appear sequentially and then we talk about how you might manipulate the axises to make graphs more dramatic and why you might want to do so. I’ll stress again that this is accurate. The question is then “Is this a lie?”
Now we get into quote mining or decontextualizing phrases. This was a quote used to promote the movie Se7en.1 The more complete quote is below and it turns out Owen was not very impressed by the movie.
So we got most2 of that done semi-decently in about 25 minutes.
I wrapped up with the idea that we were going to impugn the reputation of a historical or fictional hero. The goal was to come up with two images- one that uses a partial quote from the character/person and then one that uses actual data in some way to discredit them. My examples were from Star Wars.
I originally had Hitler stats in the chart. I replaced them with the Khmer Rouge. It is strange that one mass murderer feels more acceptable than another but it seems that’s the case.