While people turn to digital media for news at higher rates, algorithms for media manipulation are becoming more powerful. In a Pew Research Center survey (August/September 2020), 53 percent of adults in the United States say they get news “often” or “sometimes” from social media. People have long known about “theory” photos and widespread misinformation, but machine learning is enabling the spread of “deepfakes,” videos or images of fake events with increasing sophistication.
Now, the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality (MIT Virtuality for short) has produced a course that addresses misinformation in the context of both specific contemporary technological developments and a wider media perspective.
“We are currently facing an information crisis,” says Joshua Glick, education producer for this MIT virtuality project and assistant professor of media studies at Hendrix College. “The combination of political, technological and economic forces has driven the spread of misinformation and disinformation throughout our media environment – and the crisis has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
The MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, part of MIT Open Learning, is led by Professor D. Fox Harrell, has created a free online course, Media Literacy in the Age of Deepfakes, with the goal of giving teachers and independents. Learners’ resources and critical skills to understand the dangers of misinformation. In addition to teaching participants how to decipher fact-based claims from falsehoods and credible sources, the course aims to lay deepfakes within a larger history of media manipulation and show how activists, artists, technologists and filmmakers can use AI- using enabled. Media for a wide range of civic projects.
The curriculum is implemented as a dynamic, multilevel website including video and case study material, as well as providing a great deal of context and information through various self-paced learning modules. A illustrative example used in the course is “In the Event of Moon Disaster,” an Emmy-winning MIT virtuality production co-directed by Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund. The project depicts President Nixon’s deepfake for a scenario in which the Apollo 11 crew was unable to return from the Moon, and includes a number of learning and analysis resources, from an actual casual speech written in 1969.
The Media Literacy in the Age of Deepfake Project was supported by a grant in Higher Education Innovation from the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) to provide both a range of in-class educational experiences for students and an online course to serve can be designed. As a resource for educational institutions more broadly. Glick, an expert in the public humanities, was hired by the grant’s principal investigator Professor Harrell to work on the project. Other contributors to the project include Senior Project Manager Rita Sahu and Kathleen Naleziti, digital publishing specialist at OpenCourseWare, as well as web developer Nicolae Herrera, consultant designer Ksenia Slavina and graphic artist Dan Sharkey, creating a rich learning experience suitable for higher education. We do.
“The course responds to the growing need to address misinformation and disinformation on a variety of fronts, from policy to technological intervention – in which case we are focused on increasing public knowledge and understanding,” says Harrell. “Deepfakes are just one example of the technology of virtuality, which we describe as technologies that blend the imagination with the physical world. Our center is a leader in the creative and impactful uses of such technologies for learning and social good – and to counter their use towards negative ends such as propaganda. The goal of this course is to empower students and teachers to become critically aware of their media environment, and help them become savvy interpreters of media What they face daily.”
The curriculum was designed with maximum flexibility in mind, consisting of three separate learning modules that can be taught individually as “micro units” as a media studies, computer science, or communications class. may be extended, or all may be extended for one to three weeks. section.
In addition, the course website includes a comprehensive section of resources with module-related assignments. For example, there is a StoryMaps project that includes research into historical newspapers and a design prompt for prototyping a new work of synthetic media. There is also a longer bibliography and a sample syllabus that can be used for a semester-long class. The course team included many citations and references throughout the module, allowing teachers to dig deeper into the subject matter and learn more about specific topics, such as 20th century misinformation or AI-enabled art.
Media literacy in the era of deepfakes has been used in courses in comparative media studies and media arts and sciences at Dartmouth College and other universities, as well as at MIT. It is also hosted through MIT OpenCourseWare, which makes it available to millions of learners and educators around the world who turn to that website for the best open access learning materials from MIT.
“It has been eye-opening and rewarding to hear from colleagues how their classes are connected to this online course,” says Glick. “If students could be a little more critical about the articles, videos and images that pop up on their social media feeds, the project would have done some good. Hopefully, they can apply what they are learning to their research work beyond university and into their professional and public life.”