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015_ Conversation: the use and misuse of narrative

16 December, 2020 - 5 min read

015_ Conversation: the use and misuse of narrative

Why helllloooo, thanks for tuning into this episode of _bandwidth: coast to coast

This one, like the 10th episode with Ari Novy, I walked in primed and ready for an interview. But before we even really got going, we were already deep into a conversation about the conundrums of our present day.

Going with the flow, I threw out my notes and decided to see where the conversation with one of the foremost experts, and first to get into the game, on social media misinformation and disinformation would take us.

My guest is professor Yotam Ophir, who’s expertise ranges from Misinformation; persuasion; effect of media content on audiences, including in health, science, politics and terrorism.

I’ve been musing over what exactly to say in this intro message, how best to frame this discussion as we covered quite a bit of ground. After listened to it a few times over, it really comes out the gate strong and the pace of our conversation only picks up from there.

It was a lively discussion and at a certain point you’ll actively see Yotam shaping my perspective that since, I’ve been using to view a whole spectrum of dualities infecting the mainstream narrative.

And the usefulness of a simple three word framework, skepticism or cynicism.

To be skeptical is to question with an open mind. To be cynical, is to be looking for reasons to shut down, dismantle or destroy.

The former cultivates a growing mind, one open to new ideas, concepts and actively looking to find them through an act of poking and prodding.

The latter, is a destructive mindset, meant only to break down, discourage and disavow.

Two themes that emerged in this conversation that I wanted to highlight, are actually ideas that have come from previous episodes.

First being from Steele Brand, in episode 12, where Steele introduced the concept of the ancient Roman constitution not being a written document as we see our near immortal text, but one that was unwritten within the lives and culture of the citizens of the republic.

If one was to take that concept and lay it over our contemporary times, suddenly a lot of the chaos of the moment comes into focus. Or as Yotam puts it plainly, it’s amazing how much of the American system is run on unwritten norms that was not set up to handle a player acting in bad faith.

Or put another way, it’s not the rules of social media algorithms, election systems or any number of things, but the space between the rules and how the numerous complexities that emerge once sapiens enter that game, that make the difference.

The other theme, is a call back to episode eight with Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, where he expands upon the framework that bad ideas are more influential than good ideas.

For a bad idea, is easy to understand, a dilution of reality to fit into a soundbite if you will, and as it is passed from one sapien to another, does not lose form.

But a good idea, requires a complex understanding of the world and an equal understanding of where this idea falls short, or requires the web to get larger and larger still to encompass it all.

Such an architecture for an idea, by its very nature, makes it hard to transfer from one person to another, as each individual would need to have an open mind and pass along that knowledge in whole from one to another.

Now think about election validity, use of masks, vaccines, or any number of complex issues currently thrust into the spotlight and quickly cut down by snarky, well packaged bad ideas.

And that’s before the algorithms on you name it’s platform steps in and selects for the content most likely to keep you engaged.

Then there’s the very nature of us as sapiens, in which narrative is an effective means to relay a message. It’s a simple chain of events from one to another, carefully carrying the audience along to a well packaged end.

Just as Felipe commented in history, such an unbroken chain almost never exists. Reality is much more messy.

A thought I cannot escape anymore, is just how much culture is the water we live in each day, without realizing we’re swimming. With technology more and more, creating and influencing the currents within.

This is just the start of my dialogue with Yotam, so I hope you enjoy.

Real quick before the episode starts, if you’d like to find us on your social platform of choice, sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know about episode drops, know about upcoming guests or opportunities to ask questions and provide suggestions, visit us at bandwidthpodcast.com

And of course, if you like what you hear, follow, comment or subscribe to the pod from however it is that this is getting to your ears.

Without further delay, my conversation with Yotam Ophir — Enjoy!

-J.R.

This was an excerpt from the intro essay to _bandwidth: coast to coast

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