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Public Communication of Science and Technology


Questioning the cyber-utopia
Skepticism in Digital Social Networks

Adan Lerma  

Digital Social Networks have breached geographical barriers, but not ideological ones because its intrinsic biases prevent online intergroup communication, also known as cyberbalkanization. Confirmation bias, a country's social situation, English as the dominant online language or the web's architecture can impede or break down the diffusion of information. These notions are important for the science communication community in general and Skeptics in particular. Skepticism has actively fought against pseudoscience, and in the past couple of decades it has flocked to online platforms assuming that its velocity to transmit information, low production costs and vast audiences favor better communication of scientific knowledge and the dangers of pseudoscience. This investigation questions this cyber-utopian perspective and analyses the cognitive, social, cultural and technological biases that can stop communication between communities in digital social networks. While it might be true that information spreads faster and that it's cheaper to communicate, the number of audiences hasn't necessarily increased through digital social networks. Research has proved that social networks motivate communication among the members of a group, but Skepticism tries to avoid preaching to the choir by reaching those outside the community: people that are not aware of the harm produced by pseudoscience. It has been assumed that through social media this can be achieved but it is only by understanding the biases that complicate the diffusion of information that Skeptics and science communicators can be more effective. This paper is the result of a two years master's degree research program in Philosophy of Science at Mexico's National University. The author has completed the program and is now pursuing a PhD on the same topic.

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