Seminar series: What is an opinion?

In this seminar series, the Infomedia Methods Forum will host a line of speakers that will all provide different answers to the following question: What is an opinion?

We are observing a shift in how people acquire information about the world. For journalism, the particular phenomenon of departing from accounts of fact in the news has received much attention under different names; George Orwell’s doublethink (1949); Norman Mailer’s factoid (1973); Beverly Houghton’s woozle effect (1979); Harry Frankfurt’s bullshit (1986); Steve Tesich’s post-truth (1992); Stephen Colbert’s truthiness (2005), and most recently, fake news.

Because opinions are necessary in the rational deliberative process, opinion heterogeneity is important in sustaining representative democracy. However, as recent political processes have demonstrated, polls and other traditional methods of eliciting opinion can fail in ascertaining actual popular opinion. The role of the media in shaping public opinion is therefore up for debate, as are journalistic methods for identifying and critically confronting opinions dressed as facts. While the concrete problem setting is new, distinguishing knowledge from belief, and fact from opinion, ties in with age-old problems in the theory of science. We therefore ask what is novel about the application of established philosophical, sociological, political, and computational theories of opinions in relation to today’s digital media landscape, and how these traditional approaches can inform methodological developments in researching opinions.

In this seminar series, speakers will discuss issues connected to opinions. From philosophical and sociological investigations, through algorithmic techniques to logical theories of belief. The aim is to explore the practical and theoretical limits of application of computer based methods in analysis of opinion.


1 Feb     Helle Sjøvaag: Facts and Opinions in the News Media.

15 Feb   Lars Nyre: Technologies have Opinions Too.

1 Mar     Thomas Ågotnes: Reasoning about Knowledge, Truth and Lies.

8 Mar     Ole Hjortland: Rationality and Opinions.

15 Mar   Hilmar Mjelde: Survey Analysis and the Challenges of Ascertaining Public Opinion.

22 Mar   Fake news spotter workshop

19 Apr   Marija Slavkovik & Truls Pedersen: Simmelian obligations.

26 Apr   Cornelius Cappelen: Social Desirability Bias in Social Science Research.

3 May    Jens Kjeldsen: “Well, that’s just your opinion!” On the Nature of Opinions in Rhetoric and Social Psychology.

7 Jun     Sandra Braman: Fact vs. Opinion: A Legal Distinction.

14 Jun    Helle Sjøvaag: Summary and Future Research.

*All seminars are Wednesdays 14:15-16:00. Venue: 5th Floor Corner Room, SV Building (Fosswinckelsgt 6).

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