Hypernarrativity, Storytelling, and the Relativity of Truth: Digital Semiotics of Communication and Interaction

Wagener, Albin
Postdigital Science and Education

The aim of this paper is not to look directly at lies, bullshit, and fake news as a phenomenon drawing on a digital as well as neodigital era, but rather to analyze how their emergence is linked to underlying systemic processes. In this perspective, we wish to understand the functioning of online communication and interactions, in order to analyze why these new processes of socialization trigger a heavy production of fake news, bullshit facts, and viral misinformation.

- the digital era is not an era of illiteracy, but an era of hypernarrativity leading to the interconnection of semantic webs (Benhabib 2002) within and between online communities which need to rely on new ways of making meaning, formalizing it and telling it to the world—such as gifs or memes (Backhauge 2011);

- the digital era thus becomes an era of storytelling, thanks to the format of social media themselves (Proulx et al. 2012), leading to heavy serialization and the force of hypercirculation of discourses, meaning that it is important to rely on “good stories” for the growth of virality, rather than truth as a cardinal value;

- last but not the least, the accelerating influence of the philosophical stance of relativity in many fields of our social and political lives (Wagener & Rahimy 2015) has inevitably led to is ultimate avatar, namely the relativity of truth—which means that every speech act is seen as having the same relative truth value, whether they are coming from scientists, political activist, or random strangers on the Internet.