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Deception and Countershading

Today two papers arrived pretty much simultaneously in my inbox. Both address deception; one describes work toward the revealing of ?truth? on the web and the other taking it as an assumption that today?s mode of deception expects to be revealed. The later paper is Michael Taussig?s ?Zoology, Magic, and Surrealism in the War on Terror? [1] and the former a draft chapter presented to an interdisciplinary forum today by Paul Thompson, a computer scientist at Dartmouth. Thompson?s chapter describes his work on ?cognitive hacking? and countermeasures to these increasingly common methods of deception. The term ?cognitive hacking? specifically refers to the user?s perception during an attempt to obtain access or distort information and as such research on this topic crosses disciplinary boundaries from computer science to sociology to psychology. I am fascinated by Taussig?s use of the term ?countershading? to cross the traditional taxonomic divide between dissimulation and simulation that researchers in the area of deception, including Thompson, use to characterize a person?s perception. While the research presented by Thompson demonstrated that significant work was addressing how to discover an adversary?s intent to deceive, the counterintuitive step of assuming that revelation was part of the deception didn?t register. I wrote a blog entry a few weeks back on Wikipedia?s ability to mark edits as either ?major or minor? and have been returning to this concept and others today in thinking about how digital media, and even automated detection projects, participate in the new mode of deception identified by Taussig.

[1] Michael Taussig, ?Zoology, Magic, and Surrealism in the War on Terror,? Critical Inquiry 34 suppl. (Winter Supplement 2008): S99-S116.

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