Scaffolding the Media
The motivating insight of this project, which is generously supported by a grant from the Templeton Foundation via the University of Connecticut, is that, to the extent that we rely on (social) media to enhance our knowledge of important events, people, institutions, and issues beyond our local communities, we are vulnerable to difficult-to-detect epistemic injustices committed by the media even when we make efforts to be intellectually humble. This insight prompts the proposal’s central questions:
1) Which communication topologies best foster intellectual humility in public discourse, and which most hinder it?
2) Where between these extremes do various prominent contemporary ICT communication topologies lie?
3) How can contemporary ICT communication topologies be modified – by users, regulators, and/or ICT firms – to improve IH in public discourse?
In this project, we investigate social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, 4chan, etc.) in which discussions, debates, and diatribes about controversial topics (vaccine safety, anthropogenic climate change, violence by and against Muslims, genetically modified organisms, etc.) take place.
Here, for instance, is a map of the retweet network that engages with the topic of vaccine safety. Nodes indicated in red have at least four independent sources of information about the topic. All other nodes are indicated in yellow. The cluster on the left, which is primarily anti-vaccine, is larger and more interconnected, but it contains fewer nodes with multiple independent sources. By contrast, the cluster on the right, which is primarily pro-vaccine, is smaller and less well-connected, but it contains more nodes with multiple independent sources:
The first paper associated with this project is titled "Virtues for Agents in Directed Social Networks." A draft is available here.
- Christen, M., Alfano, M., & Robinson, B. (forthcoming). A cross-cultural assessment of the semantic dimensions of intellectual humility. AI & Society.
- Alfano, M., Iurino, K., Stey, P., Robinson, B, Christen, M., Yu, F., & Lapsley, D. (forthcoming). Development and validation of a multi-dimensional measure of intellectual humility. PLoS ONE.
- Alfano, M. & Robinson, B. (forthcoming). Gossip as a burdened virtue. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.
- Alfano, M., Huijts, N., & Roeser, S. (forthcoming). Trust and distrust in institutions and governance. In J. Simon (ed.), Handbook of Trust and Philosophy. Routledge.
- Alfano, M. (2017). The topology of communities of trust. Russian Sociological Review, 15(4): 30-56.
- Alfano, M. & Skorburg, A. (2017). Extended knowledge, the recognition heuristic, and epistemic injustice. In D. Pritchard, J. Kallestrup, O. Palermos, & J. A. Carter (eds.), Extended Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
- Alfano, M. & Skorburg, A. (2017). The embedded and extended character hypotheses. In J. Kiverstein (ed.), Handbook of Philosophy of the Social Mind. Routledge.
- Alfano, M. (2016). Friendship and the structure of trust. In A. Masala & J. Webber (eds.), From Personality to Virtue: Essays in the Psychology and Ethics of Character. Oxford University Press.
Presentations by lab members and affiliates:
- Alfano, M. Social epistemology in the 21st century. Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference on Social Epistemology. University of Melbourne, (June 2018)
- Alfano, M. Patterns of trust and distrust in a post-truth society. Conspiracy theories, delusions, and other ‘troublesome’ beliefs workshop, Macquarie University (August 2017)
- Alfano, M. Warranted (dis)trust in science: A case study on the Flint water crisis. University of Melbourne (August 2017)
- Tintarev, N. Fake news, filter bubbles, and echo chambers. Royal Society, London. (July 2017)
- Alfano, M. Moral methodology and epistemology. Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference. Adelaide (July 2017)
- Alfano, M. From norms to facts and back again. Ethical and legal implications of findings in moral psychology workshop. Center for Interdisciplinary Research. Bielefeld, Germany. (May 2017)
- Alfano, M. Virtues for agents in directed social networks.
- APA Pacific Division Conference. Seattle. (April 2017)
- Character and Responsibility Conference. University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. (April 2017)
- We received €25,000 from the 4TU Netherlands Institute for Research on Information and Communication Technology to conduct a bilingual study on public discourse in English and Dutch, then host a workshop and masterclass on social epistemology and digital humanities.
- We received €7000 from the Delft Design for Values Institute to conduct one network analysis of the quality of public discourse and one experiment on motivated numeracy; both studies will explore the attitudes and epistemic dispositions of Europeans towards immigration and refugees. This project will be pursued with our colleague Nava Tintarev.
Our approach is based on a series of visualizations of intellectual humility and its opposites in the semantic analysis mentioned above: