Behind the Post-Truth World: A Philosophical Perspective on Information and Media Literacy

Behind the Post-Truth World: A Philosophical Perspective on Information and Media Literacy

Daniel Martínez-Ávila, Mariana Rodrigues Gomes de Mello, Ellen Valotta Elias Borges, Selma Leticia Capinzaiki Ottonicar
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2543-2.ch006
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The purpose of this chapter is to discuss information and media literacy from a philosophical perspective. This kind of discussion is important because it brings together scientific knowledge and philosophy. The authors base their arguments on some discussions about the Theory of Knowledge, such as the problem of truth, as well as philosophers such as Nietzsche and Foucault. This chapter is interdisciplinary, and it results in the evolution of information and media literacy theory. This chapter also aims to consider the power games that encourage fake news. These games are influenced by ideological aspects of the post-truth world.
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Information and media literacy are central topics in discussions of fake news in the Post-Truth world. People live in a society in which facts do not have relevance and information is focused on emotions (Cooke, 2018). Those who understand the culture of a group can manipulate information strategically.

Manipulated information is dangerous to society because it affects people’s decision-making, reflecting both the power relations and the imposition of standard behaviors. In order to conform to normality, people accept these standards and modify their ability to be critical and make choices. This manipulation is based both on individuals’ feelings and on the behavior of a group (Flick, 2016).

Fake news has complex consequences for society. Some politicians have used it in order to polarize the electorates in countries such as Canada (Jackson, 2019) and in the United States (Bovet & Makse, 2019). These examples suggest that fake news and misinformation can influence political contexts. Information and media literacy may be able to change that, since literate people learn to identify the interests and manipulations of content producers (Hobbs et al., 2013; Ashley, Maksl, & Craft, 2013; Kahne & Bowyer, 2016; Mihailidis, 2014).

Furthermore, this literacy can help people become more critical in interpreting information (Doyle, 2018). Individuals can become more investigative and analytical with respect to information sources (Yafushi, 2015; Zattar, 2018; Belluzzo, 2018). Information sources also reflect a certain group’s ideology, which may involve religious, political, and economic values. As a result, thus individuals must learn to critically evaluate these sources, too.

The research questions that guide this chapter are: how can information and media literacy be understood from a philosophical perspective? What is post-truth in our society? What are the interests behind fake news? How can philosophical thinking contribute to the development and refinement of information and media literacy concepts? Are information and media literacy torchbearers that have continued the philosophical tradition of training citizens to be critical and reflective about truth?

Thus, discussing information and media literacy from a philosophical perspective is important because it connects scientific knowledge and social issues, making the link between Information Science and Philosophy. In this way, this chapter is interdisciplinary in nature because it draws on discussions about the Theory of Knowledge, such as the problem of truth, as well as philosophers such as Nietzsche and Foucault.

This chapter also aims to consider and raise awareness of the power games that promote fake news, which is influenced by ideological aspects of the post-truth world. Thus, investigating and combatting fake news should be considered part of the role of human rights organizations that are trying to overcome violence, discrimination, intolerance and hostility against the most vulnerable social groups. It is unacceptable that fake news and disinformation attacks should affect ethnic minorities because these attacks and the violence or discrimination they may inspire degrade human dignity, a core concern of human rights. Thus, combatting and minimizing the effects of fake news should be included in discussions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The concept of truth is also an essential topic which is fundamental to understand ideology in a post-truth world that has been corrupted by the interests behind fake news. Furthermore, the concept of truth relates to the historical and conceptual aspects of information and media literacy. The goal of this chapter is to demonstrate the evolution of concepts and other terms related to this kind of literacy, such as digital literacy, information literacy, information competence, media literacy, computer literacy, data literacy, financial literacy, and absorptive capacity, relevant topics to any discussion of critical learning (Sundar, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Fake News: Lies about a person, organization, or situation shared in social media.

Multidisciplinary: The connection between two or more fields of knowledge to create new ideas and innovate.

Information Society: Social relations based on information communication technology. The focus of this society is the information as an element that influences knowledge.

Information Science: Interdisciplinary field of Applied Social Sciences that studies information in many contexts.

Post-Truth: Circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Information and Media Literacy: The ability to access, evaluate, and use information critically.

Critical Thinking: The ability to interpret a text critically. The skill of identifying authors’ ideology and intentions.

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