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Information Cascades and Their Potential Dangers

One of the main focuses in lectures recently (and personally, one of my favorite topics of the course) is how people within a network can influence each other. In fact, the influence of other people may be so strong that people tend to even join the crowd regardless of their own thoughts, otherwise known as an information cascade (the two quotes “the more the merrier” and “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” come to mind.) However, information cascades contain their own fair share of dangers.

For example, consider feminist Anita Sarkeesian, lady behind the series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, where she dissects a myriad of video games from a feminist perspective, providing points in how misogyny is prevalent in all of them. Of course, with feminism becoming an increasingly large point of contention, these videos were met with their own share of media fire, ranging from vehement denial of her claims, fake Twitter accounts and fake quotes from her, to even graphic death and rape threats directed towards Sarkeesian herself.

In a recent talk at the XOXO Festival in Portland, Sakeesian dismisses all these threats, attributing half of them to an information cascade. By working off people’s thoughts on how feminists are overreacting or potential fears of how women are trying to revolt against the video game industry, people are influenced by the overwhelming influx of negativity and end up joining the crowd, adding to the unnecessarily large hatred towards her. But as you can see, the information cascade ends up overwhelming the facts that Sakeesian does nothing more than critically analyze the video game industry—no pushes for a revolution or anything of that sort. “It is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects,” says Sakeesian.



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November 2014