Thinkrs is a movement.
Born from a widespread call to disrupt the status quo of online discourse and information, and then further exacerbated by the shifting global context, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We now find ourselves at the intersection of various large scale and impactful phenomena. As such, this ‘call-to-action’ demands we reimagine our collective responsibility, outside of existing power structures, in order to build our shared future and to have an increased hand in directing our own shared humanity.
The convergence of technology, social media, politics, news media, trust, radical inequality, value transfer systems, and evolving regulation, in a globalised setting has led to bigger implications for information and the way it shapes our lives individually, collectively, and how it directs entire societies. This phenomena has a myriad of pros and cons. The more negative aspects of this phenomena have led to behavioural, mental, and societal impacts, which can be best seen through polarisation, insulated information echo chambers, and marked increases in bias as well as censorship.
Amongst this maelstrom of an interests-based society, our role as founders is to recognise the system in which we are functioning in now, identify what value exists, and what is further leading us to a negative sum, detrimental path in the future. Also, to reveal the nuance in these discourses and facilitate a re-energized, community-driven solution.
In essence, our role is to act as human bridges.
We seek to encourage individual and systemic responsibility in this transformation by bringing to the table: context, diverse and disparate voices, their experiences, and enacting a way forward. Harnessing the experience of each founder, all of whom, sit on the fringes of the mainstream in one way or another. Sometimes wholly within it, sometimes outside of it but each committed to greater awareness of the depth and potential in human experience.
We believe this role is one that our community should take on with us.
WHAT IS THINKRS?
This brings us to Thinkrs: a collective, evolving contribution to addressing these phenomena.
We are a movement, looking to rebuild the standards of online discussion, consumption of information and reconnecting to nuance, over narrowing.
We recognise that 2020 presents a great opportunity to introduce our first adaptation of the Thinkrs critical thinking methodology to news media and political journalism.
We believe that this category provides the opportune instance to deploy the Thinkrs toolkit, and create a community around a common purpose: to obtain context around information and evidence for claims. One which will have future adaptations.
We are starting with our context providing Chrome Extension which enables critical thinking of information to an engaged community focused on building layered understanding of news and information, in an interactive way. The extension completes ‘fact checks’ of claims in articles and topics, encouraging the user to provide evidence, or list their thoughts as a ‘theory’. In future, we seek to build a citizen journalism arm to empower local communities to tell their stories easily and quickly, to the world.
Our platform utilises future-facing technologies, which are increasing in uptake against the backdrop of the current system. A system which as always, has benefits for some, excludes others, but whose time is slowly shifting and being reimagined.
Integral to our success, are four (4) key pillars; 1) Trust 2) Accountability 3) Transparency 4) Humanity
Built on a basic premise of our shared humanity, we recognise that talk of diversity is not enough anymore. Instead we must strive to give voice to, and hold space for, anyone willing to participate within the framework of our community. At the same time, Thinkrs hopes to create a context where all bodies of knowledge, truth, idea sharing, and parallel discussion, are prioritised over mechanical, unconscious human behaviour, that triggers our reactive brains for the benefit of those willing to exploit for profit.
This is a movement delving beyond the ‘black’ and ‘white’ of our present discourse into the complexity of ‘the grey’ in order to more completely grasp the context in which we consume information. The unique irony in this situation being; that the embrace of complexity, simultaneously enables a simplicity in understanding (Yunkaporta, 2019). This notion we recognize as embedded within certain indigenous knowledges, but is one we haven’t pursued enough in our dominant societies. We believe these bodies of knowledge, alongside others, can inform us in a more thorough, humane, and productive way for the individual, and collective (societies) as a whole.
Our movement of Thinkrs starts with you and your contribution as part of a diverse global community, which in turn enables us to deliver the best community-driven and optimised, critical thinking tool-kit to assist our community of Thinkrs. In an age of censorship and “fact-checking”, we believe this to be vital public good.
Our first step is to establish a foundational critical thinking methodology that underpins our Thinkrs movement. This is an ongoing and evolving process of identifying the idiosyncrasies of “the grey” and the ways in which we best bring these complexities into our collective consciousness.
Our second step is to translate this into a nuanced Google Chrome Extension, which helps you stay more informed while you read news, through context. In the first instance, this tool will be utilised by everyday readers of news, and in specific circumstances, it shall be used as a critical-thinking tool within an institutional setting (educational institutions). From this first application of the Thinkrs toolkit, we will continue to work closely with our community of Thinkrs to bring context around information presented in other categories of sites, outside of news media/politics.
We will then layer in a ‘claim checking’ feature, which allows users to provide evidence for claims, for or against. This will create a ledger of record, for information and claims. If there is no evidence provided, it will be labelled a theory, which is still permitted to be expressed, as theories can still hold truth, and shouldn’t be dismissed instantly, but will be identified as such.
Moving forward, we will build a decentralized social network which flows naturally from our initial concepts, and allows for optimised P2P and P2C (Person2Community) communication. This will allow for ergonomic interactive news discussion, which shall encompass inbuilt context, access to diverse news, forums for topic discussions, and a broader ecosystem for trusted citizen journalism, voicing their thoughts to an audience of subscribers.
Furthermore, we will devise incentives and a reward system for ‘claim checkers’ and purveyors of constructive debate, where information has been obtained and utilised within the ‘claim checking’ process. This includes live annotations of articles, with sources provided for checks as you read.
Read on and join our community of Thinkrs! Take part in our community early on, as we ALL have a stake in shaping the future of how we interact with information. Moving forward into 2021 and beyond, it is critical that we are building a collective of Thinkrs who are more conscious of the way they consume information!
We are excited, energised and optimistic about this future, which we will create together. Share humanity, rewrite the rules of online discourse and interactions. This is all achievable with Thinkrs!
We see a growing need for an informed civic community who is able to distinguish ‘fact’ from fiction themselves, unravel bias, and understand broader context. This is in response to the increase in polarisation of people from the ‘left’, ‘right’ and ‘centre’, lack of trust in media institutions, misinformation, and a community seeking clarity and credibility in information, across a breadth of issues.
On the one hand misinformation is embedding apathy, and perpetuating (un)conscious biases. As an increasing amount of people lack the time, the necessity and/or the tools to decipher these layers, they remove themselves from the discourse or fall into black and white interpretations of complex topics, to leave it in a ‘mental box’. An interpretation which then perpetuates.
It is at its peak, its boiling point. So much so that many people are paralyzed and unable to take action or even a first step. It’s tough to even know what the first step is.
At the same time, ‘big tech’ is coming to a reckoning with itself. Trying on the one hand to respond to the demands for action as misinformation, fake news, and propaganda proliferate, while simultaneously maintaining their resistance to regulation. As such, many large technology companies are stuck with a problem they can’t solve, or even attempt to solve in a straight forward fashion. They have become the power systems they originally thought they were disrupting.
Glaring conflicts of interest, a lack of trust in opaque, homogenous private entities, hastily assumed positions as ‘content regulators’ without recognition of the power possessed, are all leading in a direction neither in the public interest, nor in a sustainable way.
The underlying problems are complex and interrelated. Yet, rather than try to dissect to an acceptable and desirable simplicity, consistent with the ethos of the Thinkrs movement itself, the below seeks to embrace the layers and complexity of the challenge ahead:
Individual bias and social norms: we are all biased to some degree, it’s a part of being human. Additionally a truth can be a matter of perspective, experience, and understanding. From birth the individual’s mind is ‘systematically’ programmed to see the world through the lens of social norms and institutions which enact the dominant culture – family, community, media, education, governmental policies, etc. While our brains are also hardwired to think in particular ways, we seek validation and desire inclusion. The influence of these factors on our character is often invisible, coming both from people we know, and those we don’t, those we can’t see, or often those we may not understand.
Blurring of truth: Certainly there are basic facts or “truths” that can be identified and are indisputable. It is also true, however, that other facts can depend on their context. Selective reporting, incomplete truths, particular language can all drive particular interpretations of truths. Further still, information can be entirely false but given the veneer of legitimacy through experts, scientific validation or official endorsements. While the drive for “balanced” reporting can create false equivalence and shift the necessary focus of critical issues. Each of these mechanisms is driving cynicism and diminished ability to decipher fact from fiction.
Lack of time: We live in a reality in which many people are busy living their lives and surviving to greater or lesser extents, who lack the time to engage in the process of critical thinking through research or by delving into the nuance of complex topics.
Complexity and breadth of information: More information is moving quicker through society, informing the politics that impacts individual lives. How does one decipher what is objectively true or factually grounded versus what is not in this category?
Apathy: Driven by the varying degree to which people benefit from, or are restricted by, societal structures as they presently exist, and the powerlessness or otherwise to change the status quo. This forces either a confrontation with, or disengagement, and apathy from active and/or political engagement in broader systemic societal issues and their effects on the lives of individuals and communities.
Discomfort and energy: As we have categorised and systemised many aspects of our lives as individuals, we often find it uncomfortable to change or adjust this on an on-going basis. Whether it be due to cognitive dissonance or procrastination, humans often allow emotional turmoil or complications to hinder rational thought and action.
Censorship: Information that doesn’t serve a dominant narrative has always been denied airtime, while narratives that reinforce or obscure interests are propagated. Social media has allowed ready access to typically marginalised discourses and decentralisation of the power to silence. Yet, alongside the proliferation of false or misleading information, the response to a very necessary call for action has been censorship by large corporates who fail, to either see or act on the nuanced distinctions, and lack the trust and accountability to deliver.
3.THE COMPETITION & THE MARKET
Context building apps
What the market offers:
Chrome extensions exist that give a one dimensional summary of the perceived bias in a media organisation. This is where the complexity stops and these tools may not delve into the nuance of their assessments when providing them to users. This can over simplify bias. Our consultation process, evaluation of published sources and live community voting, provide a more detailed perspective to guide your answers. Other known ‘fact checkers’ provide black and white interpretations of compelling issues in their checks, many of which are debatable and incomplete but again, oversimplify issues which are a disservice to the user. They are also funded by parties, which may present partisanship and conflicts of interest.
What the market offers:
The existing monopolies in the current ecosystem of social media are plagued by centralised, opaque platforms which have goals and objectives that are not aligned with the users. Whilst they may have the best intentions, their lack of transparency with data generation, exploitation of users’ data and attention, have led to a uniformly acknowledged issue in how users engage and are impacted by the use of their platforms. Whilst we acknowledge positives and negatives in these platforms, we are able to reimagine the future of social media, through an engaged, vibrant and mutually beneficial Thinkrs community. This community is aligned with the mission statement and values to the benefit of the end user long term.
What the market offers:
Some tools exist to identify bias, but once again, they’re limited in their scope and ability to identify the complexity of bias, through a black and white lens. Many of these ratings are from singular or limited individual perspectives, which are fallible but more valuable as the sum of a variety of positions; an approach that Thinkrs rigorously upholds on an ongoing basis.
What the market offers:
Some extensions attempt to provide solutions to a problem which is a lot more complicated than they may have first anticipated or set out to answer. They haven’t taken on the level of depth required or trust called for in order to involve a community, to build further buy in from end users.
Tech and society will not stop, but only increase in adoption and synergies. Our solution is to utilize tech and society in a more conscious way, to ease everyday citizens into the process of deciphering the complexity of information, which is constantly being presented to us. Using critical thinking principles, which have been verified and considered by a diverse network of experts and thinkers, we believe a general methodology to decipher (or get closer) to ‘truth’ in news is possible.
We are clear that finding pure objectivity is a dead end game, while paradoxically being a concept to aspire to, as in its pursuit we get closer, even if an absolute truth isn’t always possible. Further, these steps can be translated into an accessible Chrome Extension with prompts that can be given at the click of a button to assist in the critical thinking process. A process backed up by a dedicated and expanding community of Thinkrs actively engaged in the deciphering process. Implementing this critical thinking process takes practice as it is a skill, like any other. We are clear that this must be solved now, by our community, with diverse experts and the right, ethical tech.
Our presentation of bias, is intended to provide a reader with the context around the information they consume which is a skill that should translate into all walks of life and ultimately improve it for the better.
This can translate into investment, career, relationships, and other important life decisions. Critical thinking, as it were, is a lifelong skill that can only benefit everyone of us and make us better as a society, if practiced communally. This will be expanded on below.
Step 1: Critical-Thinking Methodology
Crucial to the Thinkrs tool kit is the underlying methodology that encourages users to become efficient critical thinkers of information.
While there are certain basic truths, it equally holds that truth can be found as an approximation. As famously quoted by Andre Gide: ‘the colour of truth is grey’. Getting comfortable in the grey and letting the nuance of complex topics sit with you, is more beneficial than jumping to the right or wrong conclusions, when in many instances they are incomplete perceptions.
The team at Thinkrs has undertaken a long, in-depth process, considering what constitutes truth and how to get there from a broad number of perspectives. We came to a methodology that is about:
Recognising a breadth of biases and how they impact truth;
Asking the right questions to get to the truth;
Providing the right context and research to facilitate this critical thinking process.
The following is our critical thinking methodology birthed out of this research, on-going consultations, as well as the high quality feedback to date. This is at the heart of Thinkrs.
I. BIAS UNDERPINS EVERYTHING
Critical thinking requires us to check both our internalized biases, and then look to the external biases in order to find truth in information.
II. ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS: CRITICALLY THINKING THROUGH INFORMATION
Understanding the layers of internal and external biases that affect the information we absorb is merely one part of the exercise of a critical thinking process. The next is asking the right questions that bring consciousness of those biases to the fore when figuring out the truth of information.
Internal Enquiry: Acknowledge Personal Biases
What are my inherent beliefs on this topic, and on what basis do I hold them?
How much of a role did the inherited conditions and influences (e.g. upbringing) have on my views? i.e family, friends, social and cultural beliefs which have conditioned me.
Do I trust this place/person/source? Why or why not?
Do I have personal connection to the subject matter, that affects my perception of what’s being said? Where does it lie on a positive → negative spectrum?
Where do I place value in this subject matter?
Whose humanity am I resonating with, and why?
Whose humanity am I missing, and why?
Where am I placing higher value on certain perspectives, in comparison to others?
What other value – environmental, monetary, proprietary – am I resonating with, and why?
External Enquiry: Assume Complexity & Ground Yourself in Context
Based on our study of various epistemologies throughout history and across cultures, we believe that a key step in applying critical evaluation to news and information is to assume that it could be incomplete, unrepresentative and complex. Because the world is complex, and due to the vested interests and narratives of media organisations, it is safe to assume all media you receive is biased to some degree (for better or for worse) and extrapolate from there.
As we have explained, a series of relevant questions is required in order to ascertain something closer to the approximation of truth. This process will help you to simplify, filter, and identify the nuances in information, whilst helping to decipher this approximation.
Which organisation published the article?
What is their history, political leaning, and editorial bias?
Where does the decision-making power lie in this organisation? Who owns this organisation? Who funds this organisation?
How was this reported by other organisations? Was this confirmed by other reporters or sources on the day or did they have another interpretation?
What role does their organisational demographics and leadership structure play in their editorial views (e.g. ethnicity, nationality, gender, etc)?
What is the organisation’s relation to the subject matter (context, epistemology, biases that form context and editorial perspective)? e.g. Koori Mail/an Indigenous media organisation vs The Australian reporting on Indigenous issues
Who is telling a particular story necessarily influences the content of what is being presented to the reader. Just as every reader has their own conscious/unconscious biases, so too does every person who writes a piece of information. For example, apparent neutrality to the subject issue has traditionally been valued by Western epistemologies, without recognising there are degrees of neutrality (distance from the issue) that impact on what is being told.
What is the author telling us – facts/news vs analysis vs opinion?
Qualifications of the author and authority to comment?
Alliances of the author?
What is the author’s history in reporting/writing on this subject matter?
Author’s proximity to the subject matter? Are they “neutral” on the issue? Have lived experience of the subject matter? Direct secondary experience?
What are the power dynamics at play in the subject matter, and what is the author’s relation within those dynamics?
As with authors, so too sources impact on the content of what is being told to the reader both in terms of who is being presented and how they are being presented:
Who is the source, what is the standpoint?
The first step in breaking down a source is to identify whether we are analysing a primary source or a secondary source, acknowledging that a secondary source can create a whole other layer of biases, on top of those which already exist within a primary source, i.e. in the case where a secondary source quotes another secondary source, which in turn quotes a primary source; here we will see a spectrum of biases which are inherent within the information supply chain.
The questions being asked of sources within an article should first repeat, and then seek to build upon, the questions asked of the author/media organisation in relation to that given source.
Are they a primary or secondary source?
Do they have qualifications of the source and authority to comment?
Do they have alliances of the source?
Do they understand how personal interests and incentives affect the source, why are they saying this?
What is the source’s proximity to the subject matter? Are they “neutral” on the issue? Do they have lived experience of the subject matter? Do they have direct secondary experience?
What are the power dynamics at play in the subject matter, and what is the source’s relation within those dynamics?
If it is an institutional report or publication: Academic, Scientific, Governmental:
Is this peer reviewed (acknowledging the pros and cons of this non-foolproof process)?
Who wrote it and does the institution have a history of following a line of thinking? (i.e. For pres s, funding, reputation)
Are the scientific, academic, official papers themselves completely accurate?
Does the institution or author have links to lobby groups?
Who funded the research, study or report?
Do they have an anti-free thinking or diversity of thought history?
If a statistic or data reference is included, consider this an institution and follow the same line of questioning.
How are the sources presented?
The first step to understanding how sources are presented depends whether it is a news piece or an opinion piece. In a news piece, there is a presumption of balance, but how is that balance really being struck and is false equivalence being created? In an opinion piece there may well be an expectation of preference to one side or another, yet consciousness of that fact is important.
How many sources are quoted?
What is the quantity of sources? What is the quantity from each perspective or “side”?
What is the balance in the types of sources? Individuals, communities and institutions?
Is there a diversity of perspectives? Are the viewpoints of those most directly and detrimentally affected by the issue at hand given voice?
Is false equivalence being created?
What is the use of direct quotes vs paraphrasing?
Are full quotes provided or are selective quotes presented to the audience?
Claims within an article
Where does the claim originate?
Can the original source be identified?
Is there a factual basis for the claim? If so, what is the factual basis for the claim?
Is the claim disputed? If so, who disputes the claim? Why is the claim disputed?
If there is no factual basis to the claim, why not?
When was the news and/or claim dated?
If it is an older source, can more recent information be sought? If it is a new claim, can comparative sources be sought?
If it is proximate to event, does it factor in conjecture, emotions, and therefore errors?
How accurate is the title compared to the article itself?
Is there use of emotive language to invoke emotions over facts?
Words such as: Crisis, fighting, disaster, restrictions, attack (when they are unwarranted or exaggerated)
Choosing the Right Information Search Engine or Source
We recommend using Google, which has the most expansive source of online information. It is incredibly useful as a starting point. However, as we have seen over time, their presentation of ‘front page’ search results can be influenced by financing, advertising spend, or buried in later pages, where the click-through rate is significantly lower. As such, use Google alongside other search engines including: Duck Duck Go, StartPage, Qwant, Yandex, Ecosia, Yahoo, Bing, Newsnow, or Wikileaks for specific topics as they haven’t been disputed. (We will aim to produce an identification of where this article or info ranks on Google, compared to Duck Duck Go, and perhaps one other
engine for now).
III. CONTEXT BUILDING: LAYERING IN THE ANSWERS
If we are to encourage this active engagement in news and information, the third essential aspect of our methodology is to provide the information necessary for people to be able to consciously assess the biases at play, and reach their own understanding of the truth being presented. This is because most people do not possess all the answers to these questions at their finger-tips. It is also unrealistic to expect everyone to do the research necessary to find these answers, if such information is even readily available.
Our solution is to provide a series of Thinkr prompts to provide enough information to trigger or prompt the user into contextualizing the article or news piece they are consuming. However, it is important to note a few of the underlying principles for the context we provide through these Thinkr prompts:
Our prompts are about the user and their engagement with critical thinking;
Thinkrs does not do the thinking for the user and we are not providing definitive answers;
Bias is an inherent part of human nature and will be present even in the contextual information we provide. The goal is to minimize the degree of bias by bringing additional context and to encourage conscious awareness on the part of the reader
Our research itself reflects our critical thinking principles; it is not reactive or reactionary; however, it is arrived at through a process of research, consultation, and inquiry. Our research has involved experts and knowledge holders from diverse fields in order to ensure a robust approach to addressing the problems we describe above
Our information is and will continue to be interactive, drawing the community into the process;
We will strive for transparency in our algorithms; the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence components driving the evolution of our Thinkr prompts
Research and Critical Engagement
All of our research, methodology and information is grounded in the exploration and application of a range of perspectives. These include: Western Philosophy (Hegel, Kant, Plato, Descartes, Protagoras, Nietzsche), Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Indigenous thinking (Tyson Yunkaporta), Post-Colonial and Southern Theory and the Scientific Method.
In follow up to this process, the team also have consulted, and continue to engage with, a broad range of advisors from recognised subject matter experts, academics, professors, journalists, and commentators to knowledge holders as a result of their own lived experiences and/or grassroots community engagement. As our methodology itself demands, we seek diverse inputs that challenge narrow conceptions of expertise and welcome broad, considered perspectives.
User Empowerment, Accountability, and Responsibility
We are disrupting traditional notions of how information is published and consumed. We’re striving to use technology to transform this process from a one way conversation into a two way conversation in the hope that this dialogue improves the transparency of motive as it relates to online media, while also raising the bar for quality in reporting. Our mission is to empower users of all backgrounds with additional context that can support the evolution of their own critical thinking skills, and perhaps decrease one’s own vulnerability toward information designed to sensationalize, mislead, misinform, or generally work for a motive misaligned with the pursuit of truth-seeking.
Critically Developed Research
In the development of our methodology, we have had to recognize that to be true to our grounding principles, every aspect of our extension, our app, and our social media network is impacted by critical thinking decisions: from the way we engage users to the information we provide to users in their context.
Over time, we will hone the functionality of our prompts, developing subject matter specificity, incorporating indicators from our user community, weighed against expert and researched positions. While other Thinkr prompts such as the facts vs analysis vs opinion prompt, or the subject-matter specific alternative media source prompt will aid in context-building this line of inquiry.
Example – political spectrum and partisanship bias
The question of media organization bias preoccupies much of the discourse in this space. For us, it is an important piece of information users ought to be conscious of but it is just one contextualizing question of many.
In our research we have consulted widely, looking at sources like All Sides, Ad Fontes Media, Media Bias Fact Check, amongst others. We agreed with aspects of all, took issue with the detail of many and came to two conclusions.
The first that the actual political spectrum must be separated from bias. Many of these sources blur the lines between these, making the assessment that to be more partisan in a particular view pushes you further along the political spectrum. This conflation both implies that more leftist or right-wing views are inherently less factual or more problematic, and suggests that a centrist view is somehow more truthful. Neither are value judgments that bear up to proper scrutiny when seeking truth.
The second is that we are not looking to provide definitive answers on this question as these other apps and charts are trying to do. We are providing a qualified, non-definitive statement, couched in equivocal language in relation to both the political position and the partisanship bias of the given media organization. It is for the user to contextualize this information as it relates to the article they are consuming.
Step 2: Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
I. DEVELOPMENT OF CHROME EXTENSION
The team at Thinkrs recognise that 2020 presents a great opportunity to introduce our first adaptation of the Thinkrs critical thinking methodology, specific to news media and political journalism. We believe that this category provides the opportune instance to deploy the Thinkrs toolkit, and create a community around a common purpose: to obtain context around information. We do however plan future adaptations of our critical thinking methodology, all of which will be community-driven, and optimised.
II. NEWS AGGREGATOR APP
The first iteration of our news aggregator app seeks to deliver the following features and functionality:
News feed – news centered social media
News aggregator app
Context cues within it
User annotations on news
Minimum requirements re prompts that must answer
Links to alternative sources of info
Tagging friends in sentence
Database of users – information data point that has value
Messaging functions in built – encrypted private chat – migrate to a video
Forum functionality off the bat
This will provide the foundation for an early MVP that will be tested with live users to inform the future evolution of the app.
III. DECENTRALIZED SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORK
Thinkrs will engage in the decentralized movement. We will strategically shift many of our technologies to blockchain environments. Blockchain will enhance the user experience of our platform by offering them tokenized responses to their behavior on our platform.
The key functionality of Thinkrs is to introduce the concept of Distributed Information Technology (DIT) and in time, the information introduced to the Thinkrs platform will not be stored in any one entity’s centralized datastore.
Thinkrs will also offer trophies to exceptional users of its platform in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT)s. When a user gains the acknowledgement and respect of a considerable number of other users on the Thinkrs ecosystem, they will be eligible for rare and unique rewards that will be stored on the Thinkrs blockchain indefinitely.
When users first register themselves in the Thinkrs ecosystem, they will be awarded with Thinkrs tokens simply through the act of joining and participating in our diverse, vibrant community. Receiving positive feedback from other users within the Thinkrs community will also garner the user more tokens for each instance.
Step 3: Community: Building a Movement of Thinkrs
Ultimately, it is our aim to build a movement of people engaged in rigorous critical thinking of news and information, holding media to account and fostering understanding and greater truth.
I. VALUING EVERY THINKR IN OUR COMMUNITY
Our movement can only ever be as strong as the sum total of all its parts. We recognise that central to building the movement is the appeal we have to the broadest number of people. The Chrome extension is key to this to build our community. The vast majority of people are time poor, increasingly apathetic, and lack the necessity or the capacity to be political engaged actors. In this sense, the Chrome extension is designed to appeal to those users, who want to be more critical in their consumption of information with the convenience of the click of a button.
The more passive nature of their engagement in our movement in no way reflects the value of these users to the overall movement. Properly engaged, the ways of thinking that the Thinkrs extension aims to provoke and promote will apply far more broadly in the users daily life than the consumption of news. To ensure individuals are properly inducted into the Thinkrs community, each new community member, or Thinkr, will receive an appropriate welcome pack via email. Contained within the welcome pack will be information on the project (via the mini whitepaper), house rules for community participation, setup instructions for the app, as well as an overview of the various ways in which a newly inducted community member can participate in the Thinkrs movement.
II. DECENTRALIZED SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM AND COMMUNITY
Our vision is to redesign news consumption, journalism and social media for the future.
Collectively, we aim to provide:
Interactive news reading and discussion
‘Fact/claim checking’ or providing evidence for claims
A database of topics, sorted by evidence, forums and discussions
Citizen journalism, with a focus on empowering local communities to report
Context cues are a mainstay of the app, with the Thinkrs toolbar populating useful context information for the individual as they read. Coupled with an increase in alternative news suggestions, based on the topic.
We’re reimagining an online platform for people from diverse political, social and cultural persuasions to be able to participate. To encourage unity in the shared pursuit of truth in information and greater comfort in complexity through our critical thinking process. Ultimately, we seek to build this platform for a positive-sum, pragmatic and humanistic real world application. The online platform is based on many of the values explained in this whitepaper, which is the foundation of our community. As such, you will be asked to subscribe to our methodology, values, and goals. We strongly stand for showing respect to each other in constructive, robust, critical discussion of the political, social, cultural, and topical discourses of our time, primarily those disseminated through news and mainstream media.
III. CROSS-CULTURAL HIGH SCHOOL EXCHANGE
Critical thinking skills in high schools have not notably increased in the last ten years, which leaves them unequipped to handle the overabundance of information online. This is particularly prevalent during late adolescence/early adulthood, when young adults are most malleable in terms of political persuasion.
Thinkrs plans on setting up a cross-border critical thought and analysis initiative, initially a cohort of both Australian and international high school students (I.e. UK, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka). Upon successful completion of the pilot program we shall look to expand our partnerships with additional high schools, globally. This initiative shall seek to utilise a nuanced version of the Thinkrs toolkit to assist in the applied practice of critical thought and analysis.
The primary objectives of the initiative will be:
Assisting the development of students’ critical thinking and analysis abilities
Giving direct feedback to students and teachers
Exposing students to unique cross-cultural exchanges with their international peers
We have thought long and hard about the news consumption future we want to build with Thinkrs and how we will leverage AI to deliver on that future. Although we cannot preempt every activity that happens, we commit to the following pledges and to continuously learning and growing to ensure that Thinkrs is designed, built and used in responsible ways, for you, our community.
We pledge to share how Thinkrs uses algorithms to get information to you. For us, this means generating easy-to-understand explanations regarding where our sources come from and what we mean by terms like coverage, perspectives and political bias. We will also publicize our activities and our plans for the future.
Autonomy and Freedom
We pledge to ensure that Thinkrs is an enabler of autonomy and freedom. For us, this means making sure that the Thinkrs platform contributes to your ability to engage in critical thinking and come to your own conclusions by giving access to a plurality of perspectives, tailored to you.
We pledge to be a platform that you can trust. For us, this means that you can rest assured that the platform will consistently deliver the most informative news coverage. And in cases where coverage is uncertain, we will communicate its shortcomings. We also pledge that you will feel safe using the platform and that your data is secure.
We pledge to give access to a plurality of perspectives in our news coverage. For us, this means giving space for perspectives that may have been traditionally suppressed.
We pledge to design algorithms that protect and promote your dignity. For us, this means empowering you to strive to be more informed in a way that matches your own unique ‘news exposure zone’, in the process warning you about sensitive content and protecting your sense of identity.
Q: Are you a fact-checking platform?
A: Short answer. No. Long answer: we aim to provide the context necessary to help users engage in their own fact-checking process, more readily and easily.
Q: What is the difference between the political spectrum and partisanship bias?
A: One perspective is that a political spectrum can be thought of as a relevant universe of political leanings and viewpoints represented in relation to one another. Partisan bias is a specific instance of a political party or other organization claiming a particular position on that spectrum and distorting its own arguments such that they are framed and targeted with the end motive of furthering the agenda of their chosen political viewpoint while discounting or under representing alternative perspectives.
Q: what if i don’t agree with your assessment of the political position of a source?
A: We are not in the game of providing definitive answers. Our categorisation is based on a complex mix of research, expert input, consultation with other sources and community voting. No one source or article will always align with the views of all other sources from a given political persuasion. We provide a prompt for the user to do with it what they will.
Q: but you aren’t using Artificial Intelligence?
A: The initial release of the platform (social network and extensions) will use so-called Expert Systems – algorithms pulling from the experience of our team, expert advisors, and public databases to run our news context toolkits. For example, we can use simple heuristics on article content, combined with an extensive database of media partisanship to suggest what overall biases readers should be wary of. Successive versions will incorporate machine learning (ML) into both the social network and its extensions. A strong and active community will be essential to this, where an ML model can, for example, be trained on user-provided data to help classify biases within an article without explicit expert input, or to suggest articles based on a user’s reading history that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.
Q: What is fake news?
A: Too many people assume fake news refers to incorrect, factually wrong news. While this can be true, it should be more broadly understood as referring to news that presents itself as neutral, or balanced without acknowledging its inherent bias, cherry picking or the impact of other interests in the perspective being presented. Our intent at Thinkrs is to hold all media to greater account for these unacknowledged biases and interests.
Yunkaporta, T. (2019) Sand Talk How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World, Australia: Text Publishing Company