I pay my taxes…what do I get, exactly?

Information is the currency of the age, but are you getting your money’s worth…?

Ever since the influential American social critic Marshall McLuhan coined the term in the mid-‘60s, the ‘Information Age’ has become a ubiquitous concept, a broad set of ideas that covers much of contemporary life from facebook stalkers to crude oil speculators. Despite the cliché-ridden nature of some of the discourse, the fact still remains that information is increasingly the currency of the times. The advent of globalisation in the 1990s combined with the furious explosion of information technology since the creation of the internet has eroded the traditional boundaries between public spaces and private life, between interaction on the internet and reality, between people and icons. With all the current worries about the enormous rise in commodity prices, the focus seems to have been distracted from the most valuable – and unpredictable – commodity of all.

Heather Brooke, an award-winning journalist, has recently published a book, The Silent State, which is disturbing and educational in equal measure. Her contention is that information is a commodity with a difference and that ordinary people – the apocryphal ‘man on the street’ – are being “priced out of the information market” by a host of entities, particularly the state. “A basic principle of trade”, she writes, “is that if you hand over money, you get something in return. That’s how most markets work, but not…the market of public information in the UK”. In this video Brooke appears on Charlie Brooker’s show and notes that the aim of the state is “information control”, which is “completely the opposite of information sharing”. Her book goes into striking detail about the degree of intrusion by the state into peoples’ lives, particularly through the information the British government holds on its citizens, from medical data to a large national DNA database.

Frightening as the state’s activities are, Bold Creative are also worried about the lack of guidance given to young people about the internet that would normally be drilled into them repeatedly in real life. In January this year, we launched our Digital Disruption campaign, which has amassed a great deal of attention and momentum. With the help of young people from Mile End, we created a video about vampires and rabid foxes. Within days, viewers on the internet began spreading some gruesome theories that weren’t even hinted at in the video. One viewer wrote: “Crazy thought in my mind…….could the “medicine” being given is just like a placebo. Euengenics [sic] master plan?! The medical industry could just stop making the med’s work. Then claim it is a super bug.” Disturbingly, we found that young internet viewers didn’t realise the movie was a fake.

Like viruses, information in the form of videos and even ideas can mutate into frightening and alarming conspiracy theories and by the time malicious and harmful rumours about a Jewish conspiracy to topple the Twin Towers spread or panic about vampires stalking the streets of east London disseminates, the credibility of the films or rumours that sparked all of this off is completely forgotten. Digital Disruption is an innovative campaign to promote critical thinking about propaganda in the media and particularly on the internet. The project aims to endow young people with the skills to guard against misinformation on the web with the aid of innovative videos and a grass-roots educational campaign.


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