The times they have changed – to paraphrase Bob Dylan. As I log in to my social media platforms I am perhaps guiltily aware that deep in a server-room, logic is whirring away to curate my intellectual palate, yet I read on. My eyes are drawn to emotive, manipulative memes which trigger reactions. Even before I have taken a sip of my coffee my perception of world events is being massaged. Am I alone in this ‘echo chamber’? Apparently I am and yet I feel connected to billions of other people who are doing the same. This deception of ‘connectedness’ is already providing a perceptual cushion for me to go forth and experience life. So what is the impact of this, can it be categorised, understood, does it even matter?
Its hard to say but I suspect that there must be a way? Surely we cannot walk headlong into making important decisions which effect our lives based in large part on what perceptual editorials we hold deep in our consciousness?
Social science is almost an oxymoron in that scientific methods are normally more successful if they are performed in a laboratory so that one can examine the interplay of variables on phenomena – but this is impossible and unethical in the social context. But is there something valuable in defending the intent to try to understand things critically using something repeatable, logic or reason to elucidate some validity? I think so.
I believe the need to think with a ‘sociological imagination’ is now more evident than ever before, even if its to give us the space to critically assess what we read and watch sunrise to sunset. If the job of a journalist is to organise a narrative around a set of facts and proffer ‘balance’ then the role of the sociologist is to help to place the journalist in a social and historic context and equally to help to buffer materials online with some scepticism. Digital content is often poorly edited as a result of less rigorous controls over the production of the message and therefore often unfiltered and downright misguided / and or manipulative. So this is why we need to think sociologically..
With the speed of consumption being so frictionless, how do we measure the impact of digesting such material if we cannot regulate its authenticity? Authenticity is now a phrase which casts doubt on itself as reality vies for more ‘realness’ than previously available. Politicians trade their authenticity as the single most marketable good in the search for votes. So instinct alone is no longer enough, empiricism is shunned as being elitist, and voices are democratised. The sound of the crowd, crowds out the silent complementation of the philosopher.