Fake News Crisis
Obviously this is a huge topic (but aren’t they all?). I’m from Kentucky; I remember even in middle school how divisive the topic of climate change was; I remember some of the brightest students in my class arguing with the science teacher against the facts. What can we do to help people trust experts again?
Laws already do a lot of work to prevent the spread of fake information. Laws regulate drug advertising (although perhaps a better law would ban it). Slander and libel laws allegedly protect individuals from false rumors. Laws can change a lot more. They can require information sources to publicize more clearly their agendas, so that the American College of Pediatricians is not so easily confused with the the American Academy of Pediatrics when cited in news articles (or even to force a change of name).
I wonder if there is a way to use the market to decrease the strength of small organizations like the ACP. This seems like an extremely dangerous path, though, because such market regulations could silence minority voices. Any kind of taxation on information also seems extremely dangerous, because free information has always been considered so fundamental to the US democracy. But maybe, when newspapers have to put up paywalls and academic sources are often only available with a university email address on hand, we have already already changed and need to recognize a new society of paid information in order to address the issue effectively at all. It’s hard to say.
Norms affect Kentucky; so many people are so set in their beliefs, because beliefs reinforce their lifestyles and incorporating new facts (news) would tip that balance. While the importance of norms is overwhelmingly apparent, how to address the issue is not. Any campaign runs the risk of engaging those who already agree with it, since those it aims to convince are so quick to recognize the manipulation and turn off the TV. How can this possibly be addressed from a bi-partisan platform?
So much of the blame for fake news falls on Facebook (and it’s algorithms) that code (like norms) seems absolutely central to the topic. This problem is currently engaging experts, and I feel that these experts might find a means to address the problems (at least of isolated bubbles of like-minded information) in social media. What is at risk at this point is that these measures won’t be integrated into a larger plan that addresses the other levers, and will be destroyed when people simply turn to different websites for their news.
This has hit the architecture community as much as any other; just last year a list of “Shitty Men in Architecture” was released as an attempt to catalog the names and offenses of important individuals after the news on Richard Meier was published. I could narrow this topic, too, and talk solely about offenses in architecture (primarily in offices, without the protections of university regulations and resources), but I’m not sure.
To my knowledge, companies are not required to have any sort of personnel to deal with misconduct in the workplace. Larger companies often have HR departments, but these tend to cater to the needs of the company rather than those of the individual. Smaller companies often have no one to turn to if the boss is the perpetrator. How can companies be required to provide resources without (see markets) the laws being prohibitive to starting a business at all?
In addition to the above question, markets remind of a fear of reporting abuses–making oneself less marketable. I hear of this often in architecture; a firm can threaten to withhold reference letters, or even worse (and often threatened more often) to influence the hiring of other firms (because it is a small discipline with many mutual friends). How can the job market make these concerns less important? I actually have no idea, but I think it’s an interesting question.
#metoo was so successful because it addressed norms, but now the question would be how to sustain that momentum when the trending hashtag seems to have passed. Maybe workshops in schools and companies can help this, or maybe also making support groups more frequent, accessible, and confidential could help.
I’m not sure how code can discourage workplace abuse, but maybe it could even be through something as simple as protections of anonymity to something as complex (and potentially authoritarian) as a program that monitors human interactions for signs of potential abuses.
Also maybe–urban sprawl. Perhaps this topic is already becoming less “hot” as cities become, once again, more “hip,” but I don’t think that leaving the issue to resolve itself will mend the underlying problems that cause Americans (a case example, but one I am certainly most familiar with) to idealize the single-family home.
Architecture in the US is already restricted by certain code requirements that ensure the safety and well-being of people in the home–from fire codes to ADA considerations, to even requiring certain amounts of natural light and fresh air. These same codes can be expanding to concern also the well-being of the environment. Already LEED certifications (flawed as they are) provide standards for measuring the impact of buildings on their environments, and the Living Building Challenge holds even higher standards. These regulations encourage house types different from the regular American suburban home simply by the practical solutions to the problems the codes present.
Marketing, in this case, is not simply about subsidizing solar panels to fit on top of existing homes. Rather, it must aim to make multi-family housing desirable. Home ownership is extremely desirable in the US, and most often associated with with single-family homes (rather than condominiums). On top of that, multi-family housing is often in cities, and cities continue to be a generally expensive place to live. How can subsidies encourage city living, or how can markets find new models that make investments on single units in multi-family residences more valuable?
I remember reading somewhere that my millennial generation is already more inclined to live in cities than generations before–I’m not certain of the source so I won’t claim that statement is necessarily true, but it does suggest (and I think it is true) that cities are currently cool. This is great, however, sustaining this trend will require making cities not just cool for young adults, but for families as those adults marry and have children, and for seniors as those same parents grow old.
My ideas for the potential impacts of code all seem a little too simple right now–such as the monitoring of house performance that encourages a switch to more sustainable models, or existing technologies that already make city living easier (like app-based food delivery and transportation services). I think there is much more potential in code, but I am not yet sure of what that might be.