Category Archives: Knowledge Credibility

‘Only a hedge fire’

So interesting when your area of research is image and knowledge credibility and you find yourself questioning the credibility of reports in your own life.

On 24 May this year we and our neighbours called Tuross Head Fire and Rescue to help with a fire at a house a few doors down from us. Later I was amazed to see a post on the Tuross Head Facebook page saying “24/5/20 17:34 p384 called to assist Tuross Rural Fire service at a house fire. Turned out to be only a large hedge alight.” [1]

A hedge? That’s not what it looked like to us!

Firefighter sillhouetted against leaping flames

The following photos were posted: very tame, aren’t they?

The fire was actually from a garden waste and rubbish burnoff – too big and too near the house. The hedge might have caught alight as a result, but it was no small fire; flames were spreading and rising several meters into the air, licking at the edges of the house. It took three hoses to keep it from setting the house on fire long enough for Tuross Fire and Rescue to arrive and put it out. My husband was holding two of the hoses.

Here are a few more photos of the ‘hedge fire’:


All photographs (apart from Facebook post screen capture) taken by Sabrina Caldwell. CC-BY-NC-ND-SA
No alterations of the photos were done.



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Kim Jong-un fauxtographs

While I have no comment on the status or otherwise of Kim Jong-un’s health, I was interested in the photos in the media today purporting that Jong-un attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  As I trawled through the internet looking for the photos, I found several photos released by Yonhap News, North Korea of this event and Jong-un’s participation.

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All of the photos were released under the same caption: N.K. leader reemerges after 20-day absence and with varying blurbs; here’s one:  “North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attends a ceremony to mark the completion of a phosphatic fertilizer factory in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang, on May 1, 2020, in this photo released the next day by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency. Kim made his first public appearance after a 20-day absence that sparked rumors about his health.

Because Jong-un’s health is a current public question, with media speculating that he is unwell, perhaps even quite ill or worse, I was interested.  Were these photos real evidence of Jong-un’s present robust good health?

At first glance they look pretty legit.  But there are many significant issues with this portfolio of photographs.

The first thing that got my attention was the riotous colour of the celebratory cheer by a crowd festooned with flags, streamers, balloons and bouquets of flowers, surrounded by military troops of green and brown.


By comparison, the photograph of the assembly in the high elevation photograph is a somber affair of unrelieved black clothing.


Detail of fertilizer factory crowd

Since this is a small part of the photograph it is hard to decide if any of the green and brown military are present, but where are the balloons?  the flowers? the streamers?

It didn’t seem to be a very sunny day, so I couldn’t depend on shadow evidence, so I looked for other clues. Or could I?  I visited [2]  for yesterday’s weather in Pyongyang.  Hmmm, sunny day and a bit warm, ranging between 23 and 27 degrees Celcius most of the day.  And the high elevation photo does illustrate long shadows stretching towards the upper right of the photo.  As I contemplated the perspectives I could see that shadows would be no help as the assemblage seems to be tucked behind a building to the lower left of the crowd.

Now where is that building in the other photos?  Well, no buildings can be seen in the ribbon-cutting photo, so that’s no help. And the background to the photo in which Jong-un is standing and smiling for the camera doesn’t help either. The only other photo that could tell us is the one in which Jong-un is seated during a speech at the dais.


Now hang on, that isn’t the building either.  In fact, where is the building from the high elevation photo at all? It isn’t there!  And what are those red reflections in the windows of this photo?  Oh, they are the reflections of the red streamers from the celebratory photo.  That means that this photo and the celebratory photo (or at least most of it barring the banner and artist’s rendering) were not taken at the factory where the ribbon is being cut.

So I looked a bit closer at the artistic rendition of the factory behind the seated officials including Jong-un in the celebratory photo (quite small but visible) and and the one in the ‘seated’ photo and ‘ribbon cutting photo’.  Turns out that while they are very similar, closer scrutiny shows they are not the same.




And interestingly, note the large trees in the background (circled) that are not in the high elevation photo (below) where they should be.



The ‘seated’ photo was uploaded again to Yonhap News while I was writing this post.  It was captioned: “People watch a news broadcast on a television at Seoul Railway Station in downtown Seoul on May 2, 2020. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared in public for the first time in 20 days, despite a wave of speculation that he might be gravely sick or even dead.”  Fake news for the masses.


And one more little thing to point out before I stop – Jong-un’s sister’s hair seems to have grown quite a bit in one day!

Conclusion – these photographs are montages of pieces of photos taken at 2 different events at a minimum.  As evidence of Jong-un’s public appearance on Friday 1 May 2020?  Fail.



[1] Yonhap News 2 May 2020. Accessed 2 May 2020

[2] Accessed 2 May 2020

All original photos downloaded from Yonhap News and used in accordance with Fair Use provisions of copyright law. All derivative photos are licensed CC:BY:NC.






Knowledge credibility in popular culture: The X-Files


If you could peruse the titles in my entertainment collection you would notice an inordinate over-representation of science fiction, among which is an abundance of The X-Files DVDs.  From the early days of Dana Scully [1] struggling unsuccessfully to rein in Fox Mulder’s [2] paranormal proclivities, to the persistent conspiratorial high jinks that saw the two investigators locked in story-arc combat with shadowy government figures, to today when the selfsame couple return in a later incarnation and convincingly reposition themselves in the X-Files saddle, I’ve loved it all.


Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, The X-Files, 20th Century Fox

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I’ve spent years soberly researching the credibility of images (widened recently to knowledge credibility generally) and the computing and social solutions we need to re-instill trustworthiness in our knowledge infrastructure. This subject has only recently become popular in the public zeitgeist.

So you can imagine the dizzying moment yesterday when my academic world collided with my X-Files fan world while watching the 4th episode of the current season to hear the following exchange between Mulder and the mysterious Dr They:

Mulder: As long as the truth gets out…

Dr They: Oh, they don’t really care whether the truth gets out, because the public no longer knows what’s meant by the truth.

MulderWhat do you mean?

Dr They: I mean no-one can tell the difference anymore between what’s real and what’s fake.

Mulder: There’s still an objective truth, an objective reality.

Dr They: So what? I mean you take this Mandela effect [3]. Well, in the old days I would never have come out and admitted to you that yes I can change people’s collective memories. And that would have meant that I can control the past. And if that’s true, well as Orson Wells once said, “He who controls the past controls the future.”

Mulder: It was George Orwell that said that.

Dr They: For now, maybe.  Anyway, the point is that I can say all of this right out here in the open because it doesn’t matter who hears, they won’t know whether to believe it or not.

Mulder: To be honest, I’m not believing any of this.

Dr They: Well, believe what you want to believe, that’s what everyone does nowadays anyway.  … You know our current president once said something really profound.  He said “nobody knows for sure.”

Mulder: What was he referring to?

Dr They: What does it matter?


So it has finally happened – the concerns I’ve been espousing for years to often deaf ears are finding expression in mainstream popular culture.  And not just any popular culture, but my much loved X-Files. [4]  Have to make some slight mental adjustments, but hey, super news!.  Hmmm — and just a bit spooky.


[1] Brilliantly acted by Gillian Anderson.
[2] Portrayed by the timeless David Duchovny, who also played the lead role in one of my favourite ‘feel great’ movies of all time: Return To Me.
[3] Changes to collective human memory.
[4] Chris Carter (creator). The X-Files Season 11 Episode 4 “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat”.  (2018)  20th Century Fox. Aired in Australia 25 January 8:30 pm Foxtel.  Transcript and screen capture image used in line with fair use provisions of copyright law. Screen capture lightened.


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