5 Responses

  1. Tria MacLeod
    Tria MacLeod February 23, 2013 at 2:51 pm |

    There really isn’t a black or white area to this. One one side, any hoax is considered bad form it’s just a matter of ‘how’ bad. I think the students would have gotten more flack if they had not ‘filmed’ the baby being dropped, the Mother recovering it and showing that no one was any the worse for wear. I honestly don’t think they would have gotten worse feedback if they had chosen a famous assassination or the moon landing or aliens or Noah’s ark as long as they made it clear no lasting harm was done to the involved players.

    That being said, this is the internet. Full of lies, rumors, photoshops. It is literally a ‘buyer beware’ free for all and in between accounting for cultural norms on a global level and the interesting (and all too common) manifestation of the ‘internet troll’ it would be overly optimistic at best and foolish at worst to take anything on the internet at face value without doing a good amount of research into any verifiable facts and the background of whomever posted it.

    As for the subject matter, that is one of the things that made this such a good hoax. Giant birds are a phenomenon that cross cultural lines. Nearly every group of people have stories or have heard stories about birds flying off with large animals and/or small people. It’s the grain of truth (or possibility) that separates the successful hoaxes from the ‘do they really expect us to believe that’ hoaxes.

  2. arcadiapariah
    arcadiapariah February 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm |

    The internet is not the singular phenomenon it was even twenty years ago; it now has an undeniable – if virtual – reach on a global level. Ease of access in the Information Age touches nearly everyone in a tangential fashion, even if they don’t use a computer, simply due to the inherent sociological changes that have taken place. While the “good” (accessibility to information and communication, especially among marginalised persons) has been amplified, the “bad” (misinformation, etc., whether intentional or not), has been amplified as well. This creates enormous ethical concerns, and I think the tendency of viewing them as decidedly grey areas, especially in academia, is creating bigger problems for those same students who must inevitably confront them.

    In the Information Age it’s obviously imperative that students learn critical thinking skills, and much of the ethical onus belongs to that concept. But that doesn’t absolve the creators and distributors of information/media of responsibility, especially considering the spectrum of ages, abilities, and cultures which makes up their audience. Socialisation itself has always been a “buyer beware” proposition, and with socialisation and information combining as they do now, there’s no longer any distinction. The realms of the town square and the cloisters of academia are, for all intents and purposes, one and the same. If we recognise the necessity for learning critical thinking skills, it only goes to follow that we also recognise that instructing students in ethical output – whether they be filmmakers, scientists, or journalists – is just as crucial.

    Ethics on an individual level are about as subjective as a concept can get. However, when charged with the instruction and education of others, some objective guidelines must be made. One of the most basic guidelines would be to not intentionally cause harm – which stands as a basic tenet of several existing fields.

    The crux of this is: A hoax boils down to the intentional manipulation of the perceptions of others, often without regard for the consequences. If undertaken by individual choice, a hoax can simply be a joke. But to instruct burgeoning filmmakers to do so to receive a high grade isn’t simply “bad form”, it’s introducing the concept that abusing your audience is appropriate – and expected – during the learning process.

    I saw an article this week in a science-minded forum which discussed the ease of manipulating memories, then encouraged the reader to make use of the technique as a practical joke. To see a common and particularly insidious form of abuse rendered as a parlour trick to teach the ‘fun of science’ was appalling to say the least, and I see distinct parallels here.

  3. DWA
    DWA February 23, 2013 at 7:50 pm |

    What annoys the bejabbers out of me is what allegedly “serious” elements of the culture are doing – on purpose, even if they may not see the effects of what they are doing – to subvert and stymie legitimate inquiry.

    It has long been a television “news” staple to find a bubble-headed but attractive member of the “news” staff and put that person on the “cryptozoology beat.” Even if the staffer may not be an actual idiot, it is in every case a person with (a) little if any understanding of the proper attitude of the pure scientist toward the unknown and (b) a conviction that treating this topic frivolously is the only way to be taken seriously.

    The scientific mainstream, on this front, is actually demonstrably guilty of both (a) and (b). The clear reason why, in my view, is that “science isn’t about the search for truth but rather the search for funding,” and therefore the path to the regard that ensures funding is to treat the subject just the way the folks with the money treat it.

    Science should be the auditor of truth in the society. In business, the auditor is outside the food chain of the organization being audited; this ensures objectivity through removing fear of the most direct means of reprisal, which is withdrawing the means of making a living. When scientists see themselves as beholden to that food chain, they behave accordingly. Businesses see the problems in this, and actively work to ensure the independence of auditors. The news media and academic institutions need to start doing the same for scientists.

    Not to mention which a lot of talent is being wasted faking films that might go a long way expanding true knowledge.

  4. AreWeThereYeti
    AreWeThereYeti February 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm |

    I guess I just see this a little differently. The students were asked to produce a reasonable “fake” video that would, at least superficially, pass muster on YouTube. It was a creative effort. Did they succeed? If over 42 million hits are any indicator, they did – splendidly.

    YouTube has, since its inception, been an outlet for creative videos – both of actual events and various flights of fancy. I’ve ALWAYS taken ANYTHING appearing on YouTube with a grain of salt. I do, in fact, enjoy watching those “unbelievable” videos and marveling at how “real” some of them look. But, at the end of the day, I don’t assume anything shown on YouTube is real; if someone you don’t know shows you something that looks too good to be true and insists it’s real, VIEWER BEWARE!

    People have been hoaxing various animals for ages. The postcards showing outrageously giant fish, chickens etc., stuffed jackalopes sold to tourists and various mermaid mummies for sale on the internet are all seen as tongue-in-cheek efforts to gain some notoriety and/or make a few bucks. The internet, specifically YouTube and its ubiquity in modern society, is just the latest manifestation and the only real difference is that the level of technology now available to the Average Joe makes the “fakes” look that much more believable.

    The difference between the Georgia Hoaxers and this class assignment is clear. The Georgia boys were in it for the money. Had those students attempted to make money off of the video, or submitted it directly to the mainstream media in an attempt to “prove” a large bird had carried-off an infant, that would’ve been something else: FRAUD, pure and simple.

    Twenty years ago, the same assignment would’ve been filmed in Super 8 or VHS and gone nowhere. Now, over 42 million people worldwide have occasion to view it and mainstream media, ever-eager for ratings, is only too happy to give it it’s 15 minutes of fame.

    Let’s face it: it ain’t gonna go away and the fakes are only gonna get better; get used to it and adjust your level of (dis)belief accordingly.

  5. alanborky
    alanborky February 25, 2013 at 4:06 pm |

    Loren I know most people’re rightly hostile to hoaxers especially since much of it seems maliciously intended viz that guy who recently died after allegedly spending decades going round North America leaving fake Sasquatch footprints [though I'm less convinced of his claims than most because his clear intention seems to've been simply to muddy the waters whenever real footprints were found by perpetrating and perpetuating a legend which'd provide his pseudosceptical chums with ample supplies of bull sh*t to fling at serious credentialled highly reputed investigators like yourself].

    The thing most people fail to pick up on though’s hoaxers’re actually a guarantee of the quality of cryptozoological and other high strangeness researchers’ work because their primo material can’t be so easily disregarded and in that regard their situation’s very similar to that of Industry where the greater the quality of the product the more severe the testing it’s expected to undergo.

    But conventional science doesn’t get tested to anything like the same sort of stringent degree in spite of which everyone’s always so surprised when this or that scientist’s caught out fiddling their results though hypocritically unlike cryptozoology it’s never supposed to reflect on other researchers in those fields.

    And it’s this lack of REAL quality control which’s why weak ideas like natural selection’re still taken seriously in science even though its back engineered explanations require a complete knowledge of all the facts before an interpretation of them can begin to be devised in spite of which natural selection was used to explain why bees were attracted to red flowers [until it was discovered they weren't!] then why they were attracted to ultraviolet when flowery ultraviolet markings were finally noticed and now no doubt it’ll be wheeled out to ‘explain’ why bees and flowers may be talking to each other in electricity [even though history continually shows whenever scientists think they know the full facts they must shake themselves and remind themselves they don't!].

    My point being cryptozoologists and other researchers into the supposedly weird and eldritch work within much tighter disciplinary boundaries than most other researchers and history’ll probably view their work in higher regard than much of modern astronomy or cosmology which’re allowed to pad all the huge gaping gaps in their theories with other still more untestable theories without ever being pulled up once.

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