What exactly is an alternative fact? If a fact is “a thing that is indisputably the case”, one may argue that an alternative fact is a thing that may be or is not indisputably the case. The problem is, facts and data alone do not tell the whole picture. As Rayna discussed in her recent blog, the world is not black or white, this or that; truth is subjective. Data can tell many stories, especially when we look at complex subjects and systems. It can contextualize a series of numbers to help make sense of them and help to make the data relatable to an issue.
Over the past number of months we have been overtaken in the media, online and from every source with claims of fake new and alternative facts. It has actually been quite fascinating to watch, in a spectator sport type of way. But, I can’t help feeling that watching news shows should not be like watching a sport or ‘reality’ tv … don’t get me wrong, I am an avid baseball and football watcher, and I don’t miss an episode of ‘Survivor’, but I don’t need news to be entertaining.
Our reality is that we live in a world with literally just about any source of information at our fingertips. Take a position on just about anything and you can probably find ‘facts’ to both support and disprove it. Like, when I google ‘is red wine good for me?’, there are claims to both sides. I think this reinforces the importance of transparency – the ability to state something and show the why to how you came to that answer. Ultimately, the decision comes back to you – to take in the information, provide the context, and make the decision (in my case, to drink the wine!).
Instead of focusing on what is fact, or what is fiction, maybe we should challenge ourselves to try to be curious, and push for more information. I wonder what the world would look like if we all took on the outlook of a toddler – asking why, being curious, and getting people to explain things in a clear and concise manner in language and context that makes sense to us. While this is a very simplified explanation, it does represent an important aspect of what we want to accomplish with We Think. We need people to be curious and ask questions in order to be engaged. This is going to be something we look further into as we move forward – we are working developing the prototypes and processes, but we also recognize that this is based on an underlying assumption that people care enough to participate.
We hope you are interested in continuing down this path with us as we explore ways to support and engage with people and data to increase transparency and evidence based decision making. Subscribe to our blog (see sidebar), follow us on twitter and most important – start having the conversations. We would love to hear from you!