New UNC Center To Study Information In The Digital Age

Jul 24, 2019

File photo of social media apps on a phone screen.
Credit Public Domain

UNC Chapel Hill has created a new academic center to study the social and political implications of the way information is spread in the digital age.

One of the goals for the Center for Information, Technology and Public Life is to increase understanding into how misinformation spreads on the Internet.

Gary Marchionini is the Dean of UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, and a lead investigator for the new center. He says complex social media have connected users in ways they don't fully understand yet.

“It's connected through these incredible computational agents that are really spending a lot of machine cycles and energy to try and form relationships between us and either other people or other ideas that may or may not be correct,” said Marchionini, adding that the center's research will be publicly available, and could help inform technological advances and policymaking.

UNC received a $5 million grant for the new center. The research will include the way so-called "fake news" might be promoted or the effects of targeted advertisements.

Marchionini said one of the key issues for consumers is critical thinking about the information they see.

“The reach of these media go so far beyond our personal human experiences with, say, having a conversation with someone,” he said. “We really need to understand that we pretty much are connected in ways that we don't fully understand.”