Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


8 November 2017

IAS Lecture: Fake News and the Psychology of Source Interactivity: The Essential Tension Between Human Agency and Machine Agency

Presented By Professor S. Shyam Sundar, Penn State University

About this event

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With the rise of social media, online users have been afforded unprecedented agency in customizing, creating, curating and distributing news and public information to vast audiences. This has meant greater self-expression, but it has also often meant bypassing traditional professional gatekeepers of information, such as journalists, resulting in the spread of false information. Studies by the speaker have shown that online users do not appear to value journalistic sourcing as much, and are indeed more inclined to follow the lead of fellow laypersons, especially their contacts on social media. They are also likely to pay more attention to machine suggestions based on personalization algorithms, resulting in a tension between human agency and machine agency—a tension that is likely to characterize a whole host of emerging technologies such as internet of things, self-driving cars, and smart speakers. This talk will discuss the tension in light of results from psychological studies about the effects of ‘source interactivity’ in online media.

Prof. Sundar is the founder of the Media Effects Research Laboratory (Penn State), a leading facility of its kind in the country. He is a leading researcher in the psychology of communication technology and media theory, and his research investigates social and psychological effects of technological elements unique to online communication, ranging from websites to newer social and personal media. In particular, his studies experimentally investigate the effects of interactivity, navigability, multi-modality, and agency (source attribution) in digital media interfaces upon online users’ thoughts, emotions, and actions.