Digital validation

Image: Laura Tancredi


The so-called Digital Age stimulated the immediate consumption of information (whether false or not); accelerated the confusion between information and knowledge

“Whoever does not appear in the newspaper, will not appear in the book, nor on the stage, nor anywhere – he will die. It is a dictatorship” (Lima Barreto, Life and Death of MJ Gonzaga de Sá).

"- Let's go. This isn't going anywhere. Run 100 copies that no one will read. Let's go to television. Let's trade depth for reach” (Hedyl Valle Jr. to Paulo Henrique Amorim, when he directed the Newspapers in Brazil in the 1980s).

In 1919, a character by Lima Barreto questioned the role attributed to the newspaper and, by extension, to the press, calling it the “fourth power”. It was no coincidence that Paulo Henrique Amorim used the same epithet in the book he published in 2015. Obviously, the context was quite different: more than a hundred years separated The Fourth Estate – another story de Life and Death of MJ Gonzaga de Sá. The Barretian protagonist protested against the need for the subject to circulate in newspapers to be recognized inside and outside them; Amorim denounced the controversial relations between our press and the powerful (before and during the dictatorship) in the name of “freedom”, under the interference of US representatives.

In addition to questioning the relationship between Tio Sam and Zé Carioca, throughout the XNUMXth century, what is being discussed is the omnipresence of the mass media in the formation of common sense – this powerful repertoire of catchphrases rarely subjected to scrutiny. verification by its users. It will not be necessary to recall the disastrous impact of some denialist politicians and “philosophers” in our recent history…

The so-called Digital Age, which began in the 1980s, stimulated the immediate consumption of information (whether false or not). Furthermore, it accelerated the confusion between information and knowledge, preparing the ground for the false equation between dogma and truth; opinion and knowledge; argument and guesswork – which can be seen in the way in which intellectual workers are endorsed, or not, by editable digital encyclopedias, entertainment channels and social networks.

If you want an example, just see how part of the students, during the class, resort without any embarrassment to the search engines of the Internet to “complement” – when not contest – the data presented or the reflection developed by the teacher. On the other hand, one of the most perverse ironies lies in the fact that the “content creator” brags about the laborious “research” he undertakes, as a way of certifying the quality of the product he offers on the channel he manages.

Even greater irony is that digital entrepreneurs turn to books they authored to consolidate presumed cultural relevance. It is emblematic that the launch of works signed by celebrities on occasion generate kilometric queues. Now, in most cases it is not the content of the pages that necessarily interests its admirers; but the possibility of posting photos with the idol on social networks, carrying a cultural asset (the book) that translates into symbolic capital (the reader facet).

Of course, this does not mean that every channel manager prepares content and other products of questionable quality; what is being discussed is the role of the internet as a means of compulsory validation of rigorous professionals, who have accumulated decades of activity: professors, doctors, linguists, journalists, philosophers, sociologists, economists, (astro)physicists, mathematicians, artists, gastronomists etc.

This reflection is old, of course. By Guy Debord (in The Society of the Spectacle, 1967) to Byung-Chul Han (see In the Swarm, translated in the country in 2014), what remains under debate is the role of the media as a vehicle for certifying oneself and/or the other. By the way, the idea has become popular that the relevance of a “content creator” is proportional to the number of followers and members of his channel… This is the implacable logic of the old audience rates contaminating the supposedly free, innovative and autonomous space of digital platforms.

*Jean Pierre Chauvin Professor of Brazilian Culture and Literature at the School of Communication and Arts at USP. Author, among other books by Seven Speeches: essays on discursive typologies.

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