Over the 2016 run to the White House, one of the most critical discourses was over "fake news" and "real news." When 200,000 people share a news on social media about terrorist attacks that never took place, the falsehood warps reality and begins to affect people’s lives.
The factual falsehood is not limited to the political stage, it affects academia, commerce, and the pursuit and development of knowledge. Frustrated by the increase in incongruous science, two professors from the University of Washington in Seattle have set up a course
titled “Calling bullshit in the Age of Big Data.”
In the wake of a new world order that hails “alternative fact” and shuns the “dishonest media”, the relevancy of a such a course is quite imperative.
Prof Carl Bergstrom and Prof Jevin West claim that studies which flaunt numbers often lack objectivity and credibility. Many studies take the numbers out of context to give them a warped meaning. Similarly, the two college professors have grown to develop a course curriculum approved by the university for one credit.
The course, launching from Spring 2017, will also be available to those who are not university students. Much of the teachers’ content will be video-based and be available on YouTube. The course curriculum has been selected on the basis of their accessibility on the internet.
As ludicrous as the course sounds, it is as authentic as it can get. Despite pervading frivolous segments, the course takes data analysis seriously. The case studies crunch numbers and spit it out to reveal how companies manipulate a simple truth to seem like a massive revelation. The approach is most useful in combating claims made by news sources who play up/down numbers to blow an issue out of proportion, the professors claim.
While many academicians turn up their noses at a term such as "bullshit," the course developers claim the epithet carries with it a certain force, citing "Saying 'I have reservations about you claim' does not sound as strong as 'I call bullshit.'"