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

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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.

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  1. 'Les discours n’appartiennent pas à des zones de pratiques délimitées. Situés dans l’interdiscours, considéré comme espace de circulation dynamique et conflictuel, ils sont traversés et investis par des objets sociaux qui prennent sens dans la pluralité des trajets interprétatifs auxquels participe le sujet en assumant différents rôles sociodiscursifs successifs,' author's translation.

  2. 'Me in the car: only 5 min left until I get to my job interview, but I do not see what could make me late. Yellow vests: picture,'author's translation.

  3. 'Yellow vests, how… (1) we see them; (2) they see themselves; (3) media see them; (4) the government sees them,'author's translation.

  4. 'Hedi Taleb: unbelievable, these guys hurt, blind and put people in the hospital every week, even the UN points it out, you shout ‘kill yourself’ at them and the drama begins!? This is crazy

    Mila Bischerour: Hedi Taleb ‘kill yourself’ these are not sweet words you tell someone stop it come on now

    Hedi Taleb: anyway these are only words or slogans, it’s completely harmless, yet they blind people, make them lose their hands, jaws, send them to the hospital, with irreversible consequences etc. you are just losing common sense

    Daniel Garcias: Hedi Taleb you are out of your mind

    Mac Adam: Nailik Lupin you are one funny dude… gesticulating and talking too much are your only motivations? Sébastien Charpié: Hedi Taleb oh these poor innocent demonstrators… when young people demonstrate for climate, nothing happens, it’s PEACEFUL! But when it’s the yellow vests it’s a mess and it’s the policemen’s fault??? [cut]…

    Nailik Lupin: Mac Adam says the penpusher [kissing smiley]

    Matthieu Pariso: Hedi Taleb the nonsense is that you are not intellectually able to understand why this slogan is intolerable…

    Sarah Lacroix: kill yourself! Since it’s not a big deal!,'author's translation

  5. 'Catherine Périn: it has been 5 months that French people have been revealing their demands and expectations in the street!!! [angry smiley] Suddenly everything becomes intelligible for the government that has let an unprecedented chaos happen in our country…

    Wolve Vince: Catherine Périn let I would even say encourage or spur

    Capu-Ci Ne Flo-Rale: elections are happening… so promises are on again… in case people would have become gullible!!!

    Domi Nov: Catherine Périn explain to me, 300,000 yellow vests at best during demonstration are better than 2,000,000 French people that have participated in the debate, why exactly???? If you had things to demand you could have participated with registers of grievances, on the Internet, in debates, you remind me of people who do not vote but are against people who are elected by French people who vote

    Wolve Vince: Domi Nov and they do not have the right to be against other people’s choices because they do not vote, I think that your vision of the world is a bit skimpy. Maybe they precisely chose not to participate in the great farce because of the very representative choices that are presented to them do not you think?

    Rod Celi: Well… Look at the price of gas and electricity… it’s still rising comfortably…

    Nicole Gaborit: Yes it’s good, and who will GIVE the conclusion? In the end Macron will decide… Moral of the story: all this rabbiting for nothing, except to build a campaign for the European elections with the money of taxpayers… [three violins playing],'author's translation.

  6. 'Si chaque raison susceptible de justifier une croyance ou une action est. relative à un contexte socioculturel local et ne peut pas être jugée par des individus qui évolueraient dans des contextes différents, alors la rationalité explosera en une multitude dispersée de raisons différentes et incommensurables,' author's translation.


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Correspondence to Albin Wagener.

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Wagener, A. Hypernarrativity, Storytelling, and the Relativity of Truth: Digital Semiotics of Communication and Interaction. Postdigit Sci Educ 2, 147–169 (2020).

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