Time to Get Some Learnin’ Dun

This past week I started my first courses at Virginia Tech working towards a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies.

With a career spent in mass communications, social media, inform/influence, and misinformation/disinformation, I’m interested in exploring that seam between the rhetoric, the technology platforms (search engine algorithms, social media platforms, etc), and the impact it has on society.

Science and Technology Studies is an interdisciplinary look at how society, policy, and culture are impacted by science and technology.

My interest in this field of study was piqued after the 2016 U.S. election and all the turbulence that surrounded it.

There were three things in particular that caught my interest.

The first thing that struck me was watching coverage of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Cambridge Analytica was a company that built psychological profiles of voters through a Facebook app.

It purchased Facebook data on millions of Americans without their knowledge building a “psychological warfare tool” to help elect Donald Trump as president.

It was revealed that Facebook had failed to properly secure the data, and allowed the company to siphon (and in many cases keep) personal information from 50 million Facebook users.


The second thing was the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Russian government’s Internet Research Agency sought to influence American politics, encourage U.S. “secessionist movements” in California and Texas, created thousands of fake social media accounts that pushed information reaching upwards of 126 million people by some reports, and attempted to divide America by race, religion, and ideology.

The third item that impacted me was the increased recognition of our media filter bubbles.

Any time we’re only surrounded by views and ideas with which we agree, but shielded from opposing viewpoints, we’re in a filter bubble.

Filter bubbles distort our view of the world and limit our capacity to make well-informed judgments.

These filter bubbles are created due to a search engine and social media algorithms, or they are self-selected by only watching certain cable news channels that only feeds its viewers information they want to hear.

I think this STS Virginia Tech program located here in the national capital region is well suited for me and for the areas that I’m interested to learn more about, and now that I am retired and we are more stable, it’s time to get to work.

I will continue to work on the Communication Strategist Podcast, but as I will be working through a large amount of reading and writing for this program, I assume my writing here will reduce in quantity but increase in quality as it is influenced by my ongoing studies over the next few years.

Thanks for listening, time to get back to work.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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