Educating for the “Infocalypse”: Educators, epistemic cognition and post-truth conditions

Year: 2021

Author: McCaw, Christopher

Type of paper: Individual Paper

What is the role of school education in a world of proliferating disinformation (fake-news, deep fakes, conspiracy theories), algorithmic echo chambers and filter bubbles? How should teachers and schools respond to the complexities of ‘post-truth’ conditions?This presentation will unpack key findings from a 2021 social-lab study involving a range of education stakeholders (teachers, teacher-educators, pre-service teachers, undergraduate students of education) in conversations about education in post-truth times. In addition to summarising the key perceptions, concerns and strategic responses of the study participants, I will illustrate tensions and aporias which arose as different perspectives on knowledge, truth and justice converged in the context of the social lab. Specifically, complexities emerged regarding the relationships of reason and emotion; the allure and impossibility of objectivity; and parallels between “personal truth” appeals of the political left and the “alternative facts” of the right.Interpretation of the study data is made initially through the lens of emerging theories in epistemic cognition, but the presentation will also address the limits of attempts to account for post-truth matters in merely epistemic terms. Specifically, the politics of identity, affiliation and affect loom large as important mediators in educational responses to post-truth.The social lab approach to empirical research, enacted in this study, is an effort to combine rich participant engagement with an orientation towards action through guided, iterative engagement with complex social problems. The social lab was conducted in a ‘dual-delivery’ format, involving participants both in-person and via teleconferencing software. This format presented novel challenges and opportunities for the research facilitator, and may serve to stimulate reflection on the on-going re-imagining of educational research under COVID-conditions.Under “post-truth” conditions the generation, circulation and status of knowledge are being transformed, with significant implications for democracy, social cohesion and public safety. These conditions raise complex challenges and opportunities within education, which plays a potentially pivotal role in supporting communities to reason and act assertively and critically within this environment. However, little is currently understood about the way key stakeholders within education position themselves epistemically in relation to post-truth conditions. This study provides an early insight into the views of educators, and the avenues and practices by which they seek to enact change in their professional and personal lives