Category Archives: Information Deficit Model

Ego-fodder

Element Descriptor

Ego-fodder is the audience at any event that is not designed for maximum participation. If you can’t see it, you’ll be it. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Something like that.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
you can explain the basic parameters of what ego-fodder is and why they happen and the negative consequences to fellow activists and interested parties.you can explain using examples from your audience’s lives in a compassionate way, how the ego-foddering works, and why we need to stop doing it and deal with what about theories and straw man arguments.you have a detailed understanding of the mechanisms that support endorse and enforce ego-fodder. And you have some experience of trying to undermine ego-foddering, whether successfully or not is another question.You can explain the ego-fodder to diverse audiences, including people who feel rightly that they’re being critiqued and have them grudgingly admit that you may just about have a point.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

The reason people can’t see that they’re being turned into ego fodder is that it’s accepted as normal practice, that one person will talk at everyone else, because their highest status because they have more experience or whatever. And everyone else will sit beautifully in rows. And listen. And there are many circumstances in which that’s entirely the right way things should be. But among adults, who are all more or less on the same page, it’s a power grab. And it’s a return to the comforting sense of being in school and thinking, well, if I just sit here, and copy down beautifully what the teacher says, and then on the appointed day, I will squeeze out the sponge that is my brain. All the factoids I’ve beautifully recalled and the ways of thinking, and then I will get the stamp that marks me as a good person. And I will keep doing that. And then I will end up middle class with enough disposable income and time to go to events that are about abstractions like the global environment, and I will actually be replicating that school thing without obviously having articulated myself in that way. And I will surrender my autonomy and responsibility to the person at the front. And the person at the front is some high status goon, who the organiser is in a little mutual appreciation packed with. And there’s a trade off between, I’ll get you the bums on seats, and then you will give me the bums to talk out to promote my latest book or TV show, or whatever. Now this would be fine, except, well, it wouldn’t be fine, but this would be fine. Except we know that it doesn’t work to build movements. what it can do, a little bit is mobilise, but nothing sustained, nothing sustainable.

So the consequences are that nothing is sustained and nothing is sustainable.

The fixes are to refuse to be ego fodder, as a member of an audience to refuse to give organisers your time, your body, your presence, because they’ll just use you to feed their own egos and the egos of whoever speaking and to explain to them exactly Literally why you’re not coming. If you’re an event organiser, to make sure that your events do not trend towards ego fodder, there are loads of ways of doing that. And fewer, an invited speaker, hack the format and make sure that there is genuine engagement, not just with you, but among people in the audience who don’t know each other. Don’t feel weird at first and you’ll be giving up some of your precious time where you are observed as the important person. But nobody said the global ecological revolution would be easy.

Development Resources

Assessment Resources

Information Deficit Model

Element Descriptor

Most social movement organisations have an implicit or explicit assumption that the main barrier to lasting change is a lack of information. Though clearly wrong, this is a persistent, tenacious position. Not understanding the reasons for its longevity will leave you demoralised and ineffective

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
Able to understand what the information deficit model is and spot its use in protests, rallies, meetings etc.Have a basic understanding of the individual and institutional benefits which accrue to users of the model, and why alternative models are resistedHave an advanced – even gasp psychoanalytic – understanding of the motivations keeping the IDM in place, and have various means at your disposal to chip away at it, peeling off supporters who were already wavering.Have an understanding – historical, sociological, political even economic of the underpinnings of the IDM and the means by which its proponents will defend it from attack.  Be able to launch effective attacks on it in hostile environments and live to tell the tale.At the drop of a hat, able to get previously baked-in IDMers to change their tunes and dismantle behaviours and incentives which have given priority to “information”, replacing it with something nicer.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

Understanding and explaining why the information deficit model is so prevalent and so damaging. I think the reason people don’t understand that the information deficit model even exists, is because they’re so familiar with it. And the people who have the social, political, cultural power to stand at the front of the room and talk and other people are usually but not always, the ones who did well in school, which was based primarily upon sitting in rows and being talked at, and heck, now it’s their turn. And so they just like a goldfish in the water can’t see the water. So, the other reason it’s not seen is it’s considered the only sensible way of doing things almost inevitable, but we have information that we must impart and therefore, dot dot dot.

I don’t want to claim that the opposite is true that there is never a need to impart information that there is never a deficit. I want to challenge the idea that the way to engage people, mobilise people, turn people into active citizens, is entirely or even primarily around talking information at them. This idea that you could sit them in rows and screw their heads, pour from the jug marked knowledge and then fill up their heads and screw them back on and everything would be tickety boo, that seems to be the assumption.

So the consequences of not seeing the information depth model for what it is, means you perpetuate it as you perpetrate it. And it hasn’t worked these last 10, 20 30, 50 however many years you want to go back. And so there’s no indication that it will start working soon. 

What to do? Understand that there is such a thing as the information deficit model. But there are certain very, very specific cases in which it might be appropriate to use, but that people learn, as well as through the delivery of factual information through their own narratives, their own stories, and in dialogue. And if you don’t want to do that, maybe you shouldn’t be doing active citizenship. There’s more to say on why it can’t be seen.

Development Resources

Assessment Resources