Digital Is folks will want to muse on this Atlantic piece
If there’s a simple lesson in all of this, it’s that hoaxes tend to thrive in communities which exhibit high levels of trust. But on the Internet, where identities are malleable and uncertain, we all might be well advised to err on the side of skepticism.
That’s a good summary conclusion for a recent article in The Atlantic called “How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit”. This very interesting article tells the story (new to me) of T. Mills Kelly, a professor at George Mason whose course Lying about the Past charges students with creating historical fabrications and hoaxes to as a way to explore academic argument, accuracy of claims, and, essentially truth and fiction on the web. The article focused on the recent hoax concocted by one class and how it was unmasked by Reddit.
The piece is interesting in the story itself, in the analysis of the cultures of wikipedia, Facebook communities, and Reddit, but also in the basic premise of the class itself — the assignment to perpetrate a hoax. I’d be curious, of Digital Is’ers, what you think. (I have lots of ambivalences.) You can find the May 15, 2012 Atlantic piece here.