You Are Here
A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape
How to understand a media environment in crisis, and how to make things better by approaching information ecologically.
Our media environment is in crisis. Polarization is rampant. Polluted information floods social media. Even our best efforts to help clean up can backfire, sending toxins roaring across the landscape. In You Are Here, Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner offer strategies for navigating increasingly treacherous information flows. Using ecological metaphors, they emphasize how our individual me is entwined within a much larger we, and how everyone fits within an ever-shifting network map.
Phillips and Milner describe how our poisoned media landscape came into being, beginning with the Satanic Panics of the 1980s and 1990s—which, they say, exemplify “network climate change”—and proceeding through the emergence of trolling culture and the rise of the reactionary far right (as well as its amplification by journalists) during and after the 2016 election. They explore the history of conspiracy theories in the United States, focusing on those concerning the Deep State; explain why old media literacy solutions fail to solve new media literacy problems; and suggest how we can navigate the network crisis more thoughtfully, effectively, and ethically. We need a network ethics that looks beyond the messages and the messengers to investigate toxic information's downstream effects.