As a research for my master graduation project (2015), I have been digging deeper into a topic which I was already quite interested in: common beliefs and especially online rumors.
The end result from this year of research was Contextualised Information: a publishing project aiming to archive but also explain online rumors in a PDF following an automated process. For more technical information, you can browse here or directly on the messy Github repository.
What I propose here is to go back a bit in time and to have a look at the core concept of this project. Here is the introduction which I wrote for the book.
This publication aims to make visible a part of the fake and unverified information circulating online. Its goal is to help internaute users to understand rumors’ spreading mechanisms and the fantasmatic ideas those fake information peddle and people believe in.
This publication stands as an outsider in regard to the other rumors specialized websites, which already exist on the Web, because it takes in consideration 3 points of view that are not usually compared.
It does not only focus on the falseness of the rumors and the role played by the medias conveying those fake information, but it also pays attention to the impact on people by the way people spread it on Twitter. And finally, it puts this phenomenom into perspective through a theoretical approach: sociological, anthropological and journalistic texts, especially selected to shed light on the subject.
What is the goal?
The goal of this publication is to contextualise this phenomenon and to look at it in a broader way. Theoretical texts propose to give it back its historical background. All the information set together in this book clearly show that the frontier between what we call “conventional information” and “unconventional information” is nowadays really porous.
With the Internet, the way we share information has been totally overwhelmed. Online journalism goes always faster and misunderstanding is quite common fact. Moreover, some websites based on “clickbait” plays with internet user’s emotions to make him share false information.
Even if some rumors look like not doing harm and being funny to share ore sometimes disturbing, it appears that they are always based on common fears and beliefs, allowing this simple way stereotypes and narrow minds to get more and more anchored in our collective unconscious. This book isn’t about blaming net users, but more about raising awareness.
Why a book?
This publication has been meant as an archive book. As information on the Web always change, and as online news titles are verified sometimes after being published and shared thousand times, it wouldn’t have been enough just to proceed real-time.
This book isn’t like an online plateforme which proposes links to fake information always updated. This publication proposes some more; it archives all of those information and makes it possible to conserve it for years. Thus, Contextualised Information proposes to take time to observe rumors online and have a critical look at this. Moreover, this publication is made to be widely distributed. This can be read online, in a PDF or as a printed book.
How to read it?
This book consists in the alternation of two kind of texts: news feeds and theoretical analysis. News feeds are organized in four news parts, which present the principal rumors from the 3 last months, in a chronological way. These are: Political Field, Economics and Technology, Miscellaneous and People.
For each rumor, a series of information is given: a short description of the spreading process, the origin of the rumor, the climax date, the first apparition in news online, people’s reactions (the most influent tweets in reaction) and finally the total number of shares on Twitter. In addition to this, this book contents a selection of 20 theoretical texts written by specialists of rumors’ issues. Those texts are placed at the end of each news feeds part and are introduced by some simple and “practical” questions they propose to answer. They bring the analysis further and makes the reader aware of the impact of viral information.
Thereby, this book can be read in two ways. This book can be read in a conventional sense, from the beginning to the end. But it can also be read more as an encyclopedia. Indeed, a series of index in the end of the book makes it possible to find a specific rumor and to get more technical information quickly.
A boundless book?
Because viral rumors on the Internet may come and go as soon as they appear and also often have similarities, rumors contained in this book are always updated.
This book contains 3 months of rumors. Every month, a new version of the book is created. The last rumors recorded take the place of the more ancient. Newest rumors come and oldest are taken away, as tendencies comes and goes.
This book stands as an illustration in perpetual movement. It means this book exists in many different versions, as much as rumors will exist on the Internet. You are reading the 0.1 version, with rumors registered from December 2014 to February 2015.