Editor’s note: Startland News is exploring a few of the most impactful quotes from speakers at Friday’s TEDxKC event at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
“We can be persuaded by what we see, even though we know it’s fake.”
— Robert Hernandez
Prepare for disruption like you’ve never seen before, Robert Hernandez warned media consumers at TEDxKC.
“The Internet, and all things digital, brought a wave of disruption that essentially challenges nearly every aspect of what we do,” said Hernandez, an associate professor specializing in web journalism solutions at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
That wave brings new opportunities and story forms, empowering students to inform their communities by hijacking emerging technology, he said.
“By paper, by pixels, broadcast or broadband, journalism needs to remain relevant in how it reaches and informs the diverse communities it aims to serve,” Hernandez said. “Accurately informing by any ethical means necessary.”
But while technology like virtual reality is beginning to fulfill its promise and be used by journalists for immersive storytelling, they aren’t the only ones hijacking it to spread messages online.
Hernandez cited fake video footage of President Obama speaking, with advance technology having analyzed his speaking patterns and produced video and audio of him making comments he didn’t actually say. Princeton University researchers also used Adobe technology to demo a “Photoshop for audio” that allows for realistic speech manipulation, Hernandez said.
“We live in the future. I want you take a moment to acknowledge how difficult it is to distinguish what is real in this mind-boggling future,” he said. “Right now, misinformation is being deployed, even weaponized, for profit, for power, or simply to troll.”
So what happens when — not if — this technology goes mainstream, and people use it for misinformation and propaganda?
“If this disruption is like any before it, it’s not going to stop. We’re not going back,” Hernandez said. “This next wave can change the world as we know it.”
Today’s media environment requires credible journalists held to a high ethical standard, and who can be trusted to fight for media consumers, he said.
In turn, those viewing media also must take responsibility as critical consumers.
“If you can be fooled by a fake Facebook post, you’re going to have to be a lot smarter,” Hernandez said.