I have made it clear in a number of comments that I see a prevalence of ‘analog bias’ in analyses about online hate and extremism. The thought that the genesis of the latter are brought about by, predominantly, effects which are situated in the ‘real world’ stems from a time when online texts, debates in social media, as well as the grooming on the web were largely under-researched – despite the fact that such debates have existed for decades, e.g. in the form of online discussion forums.
This has changed markedly. Hate and extremism have come to be scrutinized by a great many researchers. After all, the analog and the digital world have been merging in the lives of an absolute majority of persons in the countries in scientific focus, and they will continue to do so, e.g. with smart glasses and the availability of internet access throughout geographic boundaries.
There is no black-and-white dichotomy between the digital and the analog. The merging of the analog and the digital has it that originally online information is cast to the analog world in a way that the digital interlaces. This development has been on course since short messages and emails were first exchanged in a massive way. This has increased beyond what would have been deemed possible – with social media platforms that some people use as their prime source of information. Life in a filter bubble, with highly opinionated information. At the same time, trust in local and regional media has not faltered, which gives some reason for hope.
Albeit, it is simply wrong to assume, as some research analyses which I have read have stated, that any cause of hate, extremism, and their violent aberrations which can be traced back to an amount of analog developments makes the whole chain of events an analog one. There is, contrary to that assumption, an interchange of the digital and the analog, which, simply put, makes everything part-digital in our times.
The differentiation between the analog and the digital is, however, a crucial one, and should continue to be investigated by researchers, since it is easier to fool individuals or groups of people, via digital media, although up to this point, the effect of ‘tangible,’ visible experiences can create more lasting experiences for both vulnerable, passive supporters and those prone to commit illegal, even violent acts.
That is why we need to begin valuing education in a more pronounced manner: domestically and at school, through reliable media, from childhood to adulthood and up to senior age. But instead of casting away the significance of the digital to an analog world which, in fact, has become more and more influenced by the digital, we should differentiate more strongly between reality and fiction – a key ability and attribute of of maturity which can be achieved by promoting media competences and critical thinking.
Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
11 January 2024
Cause or Amplification? Digital Radicalization and Analog Bias (Policyinstitute.net)