i attempted to start a very small trend on twitter tonight after reading a mcsweeny’s article on the topic of rebunking. for one, the article (here) is quite funny and deserves a read. but, for two, it also introduces the idea of rebunking, as in ‘that conspiracy theory was technically debunked but i rebunked it.’
this is a timely term given the run-up to the US presidential elections but it also relates to helpfully the idea of evidence-informed decision-making (not precisely as the author uses it but i think the general principle will generalize).
as author keanon patti notes:
one of the most well known conspiracy theories is that NASA never actually landed on the moon, and the apollo missions were actually filmed on earth, which is not on the moon. did we really land on the moon? maybe. i know i didn’t.
various forms of facts and evidence have been brought up to debunk this conspiracy theory, but as we all know, facts and evidence are just a set of quotation marks away from being “facts” and “evidence.”
two quick points:
- if we want to produce evidence that will be convincing (un-rebunkable, as a term i don’t expect to take-off), it depends critically on understanding what key stakeholders need (and is possible) to be convinced of the evidence coming in. this means engaging stakeholders early on what they need to be convinced. helping facts not be “facts” requires early and on-going engagement about facts and “facts.”
- there’s an important role for qualitative and descriptive data here. we can’t always get all stakeholders to the moon but we can better help them feel like they were there, rotating the flagpole so that Kubrick didn’t yell at them. i mean —