February 8th & 9th
University of California, Irvine
The popularity of false narratives about history and archaeology ("alternative" history and pseudoarchaeology) poses a unique threat to history and archaeology. In a post-truth world, false stories — e.g. that the Smithsonian has a hidden collection of bones that would rewrite human evolutionary history—have gained remarkable social media momentum.
Unfortunately, pseudoarchaeology proves difficult to debunk; often, the most virulent pseudoarchaeological narratives are those which feed into racist or nationalist sentiments and propagate deep-seated suspicion of academics. Work in cognitive science and epistemology on the phenomenon of conspiracy theories can aid in solving some of these problems. These fields study how and why people form beliefs and, as a result, they can offer strategies to counter the appeal of misinformation. This conference will gather scholars from epistemology, cognitive science, history, classics, and archaeology for an interdisciplinary dialogue about information literacy and scientific communication in a post-truth world.
This conference will provide theoretical depth to the conspiracy theory phenomenon as well as a needed opportunity for an interdisciplinary response to the dire matter of misinformation in the digital age. It will include traditional presentations, interdisciplinary round-table sessions, and will produce interactive media coverage and lesson plans to raise information literacy as well as recommendations for the future.