We have seen quite dramatic change in our society in how and what is communicated in different kinds of media. Often it is not important, whether the information is correct or even true. More and more there exists disinformation and misinformation, and at the same time this disinformation and misinformation gets even more space in mass media. From this base I dare to argue that instead of what is communicated it has become more important how it is communicated!
In organisations and enterprises leaders every day communicates with stakeholders, customers, employees etc. Communication and how everything is communicated influences the recipients thinking and behaviour. All details or single parts of information can be communicated by several different ways. No longer is the important thing what is communicated, instead what is important is how it is communicated.
From the dawn of human race, the correctness of communicated information has been crucial. Ancient aboriginal tribes needed experience based information on how to survive, where to find food and which places were safe to live. The same kind of information sharing can be seen among other mammal species. The larger the human population became, the more important it became to protect food sources and places to live. With this came the need for disinformation and misinformation.
During the history of human race disinformation and misinformation have been used in different forms. In war opposing sides have shared disinformation and misinformation to mislead the enemy about becoming war actions. Individuals have used disinformation and misinformation in society and organisations to gain privileges and advantages, to secure their position in or to obtain a better salary. For a very long time in human communication, information, disinformation and misinformation have played important roles in what has been communicated. At the same time ethics and values have guided situations where disinformation and misinformation were used in communication. Also at the same time, people who received disinformation and misinformation were able to question the correctness of the information.
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Today the situation is totally different. Albert Einstein has said that, “I fear the day that technology surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Sadly, I have fear that Albert Einstein’s prediction has become true. Today it seems it does not matter what is communicated if it is communicated in an interesting way and form. Social media has made possible to spread disinformation, misinformation and even lies in such forms that recipient is not able to separate disinformation and misinformation from real information.
Change in society has lead changes also in the attitudes of individuals towards using and receiving of correct information, disinformation and misinformation. Where editorial media like newspapers, television and radio have lost their prime position, other forms of media have become more important ways to communicate with a wide audience. This development has led to a situation where anybody can publish practically anything. Whereas editorial media has some kind of critics about correctness of information and they have some kind of understanding about ethics and values, whereas an individual person doesn’t necessarily have any kind of critique about correctness of information and even this person’s ethics and values can be questionable.
Additionally, the ease of publishing in social media has led to the situation where everybody wants to publish something and for publishers it has become most important how wide audience they can get. For enterprises and organisations, the situation has arisen where an employee can try to take advantage of a situation by spreading disinformation and misinformation, while a dissatisfied client can "pay back" a bad experience by spreading disinformation and misinformation about the experience and even about the company.
The way of communication has become more important also in organisations and business marketing. Because information sharing in social media as a form of communication has got more space, it is very easy for organisation members to share disinformation and misinformation about things, events and changes within organisations. Organisation members may not know exactly which information is official and which unofficial. It has become more important how information has been shared and how interesting it has been made for receivers. Also, how information is shared between organisation members influences how it will be understood. Similarly, some small detail of some greater wholeness, can be shared between organisation members several ways, e.g. in positive or in negative light.
The situation is the same in business marketing. Of course, traditional marketing with newspaper, television or radio advertisements are important for the visibility of the enterprise. However nowadays visibility in social media has become increasingly important. Enterprise leaders are forced to take on the role of information producers which has led to the situation where in social media active entrepreneurs succeeds though some other entrepreneur could offer much a better product or service.
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People in western countries are generally better educated and consequently have good common knowledge. The situation is not the same all around the world and people in third world countries can be bought, for example, to kill endangered species like rhinoceros or elephants as the power of money steps into the picture with disinformation and misinformation. In China people believes that powder made from rhino horn improves man’s sexual capability despite the fact that scientifically there is no evidence about rhino horns to that effect. As a result of traditional misinformation and because very high money is paid for illegally gained rhino horn powder, poachers have hunted some rhino species to the edge of extinction. It is only by education and disproving such myths that the extinction of several endangered species might be avoided.
Also, we all know that number of whale species are dangerously near to extinction. However, in the name of science Norway, Iceland and Japan still allows whale hunting. As a scientist, I have not seen any scientific report presented based on this so called scientific whale hunting. More, I have seen documents which shows whale meat being sold in trendy restaurants for a high price. The same kind of situation exists with shark’s fin and shark fin soup. It is so easy to spread hysteria among people and blame sharks for attacks on swimmers. How about increasing meat consumption? In the United States of America every day beef production produces more CO2 emissions that traffic, and we must not forget how much methane, which is even more dangerous greenhouse gas, cows produce. Here the problem is in the communication skills of scientists and how all this important information is communicated to a wider audience.
Nowadays people lives in a visual world. Simultaneously while peoples reading skills have developed hugely in recent days, their interest to read has gone down. Life has become every day more and more busier, while all information should be shared and understood in shorter and shorter periods of available time. People don’t have the time or interest to think of the consequences of their behaviour. Society is full of visual stimuli, which more and more makes people lazy to find written information. We are living now in society where almost everything is communicated by using visual form.
There is an old saying that one picture says more than 1000 words. But the question is, will one picture be understood the same way by every viewer? Is it possible to be critical? Where is the opportunity for critical thinking and critical information seeking when everything is communicated in visual form? Does a picture really impress total truth about the situation where it is taken? Where has all this lead? I am arguing that we need more and more critical thinking, because everything is as it is communicated! In society, in organisations, in enterprises everywhere!