Truth, Lies and Digital Communication or Why you should always tell the truth even in a post truth world.

There are three ways to communicate the truth.

1. The expression of an external fact.

2. The expression of an internal reality i.e. the representation of a psychological state or emotion.

3. Pointing to, through the juxtaposition of images, words, and concepts, things that are, because of the inadequacy of language, indefinable precisely in words.

Art can be made of both 1 and 2. Good art is the domain of 3.

Lies, on the other hand, are the representation of things as corresponding to the state of external or internal reality, which in fact do not.

Rhetoric, the bastard child of telling the truth and lying, is a combination of all four by which information is managed in order to manipulate the psychological processes of people to the advantage of the rhetorician. If a person senses they are being manipulated in this way it will cause resentment and anger but eventually, this reaction is diluted to a sort of weary cynicism through a callusing of the person’s ability to receive and process information.

Lies hide in subtly and are cloaked in sophistication. This is why the more basic the form of communication the more authentic it seems and the harder it is to fake.  Consider the puffery and obfuscation of a long and one-sided legal document against the cooing or crying of a child. Which one is a more accurate reflection of fundamental reality?

Sometimes the perceived difficulty of the production of a message can contribute to a false sense of credibility. You see one man’s name written on a piece of paper and another’s carved on a block of granite, which one do you think is more important? Why?  Because you suspect that it took someone more cost and effort to carve the one man’s name into stone and therefore he must have been, in someone’s judgment, worth the extra effort.

In a similar sense the printed word used to have the implied credibility of the costly infrastructure it required to be produced and distributed. Today words can be written and distributed with less effort than speech and so written language is now devolving in perceived credibility to the level of conversation.  Images will be next in this process.  The medium, I would argue, is no longer the message.  The message is the message.

For much of history, self-expression in anything but the most primitive terms was reserved for the lucky few who, because of talent, circumstance, wealth or some combination of these three had access to the necessary technologies and craft.  Even reading and writing were, in ancient times, first the domain of the priestly class, and the history of communication is one of the democratization of forms.

Now, because of this process, average people can produce a digital representation of just about anything they can think of. What will everyone do with this newfound and exhilarating capability?

I imagine the world being one giant conversation in a crowded room. Instead of just speaking, the conversation is comprised of the entire digital multimedia output of the Human Race and all its institutions.   In this new conversation, some are thoughtful and profound, some useful, some not so, others are just babbling on and on to get noticed. Most people in the room are likable enough and seem well-intentioned but I wonder if they really know what they’re talking about.  A select few say things that awaken my spirit to the world and its possibilities.  Others, I sense are telling me lies, both big and small, audacious and inconsequential and otherwise doing their best to lull me and everyone else in the room to sleep.






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