Image Attribution

Background image by anarchosyn

Monday, May 18, 2015

bubbles and bias and new literacy, oh my!

One aspect of the new literacies that crosses up users of the Internet at all efficacy levels is judging the reliability of sources. This is an issue that is constantly in flux. It is changing as quickly as the modes of online communication and interaction are changing, which is always. The barriers to posting content online are basically non-existent anymore. Anyone can put content online, and they often do. However, most people (not all) are savvy enough to spot obviously erroneous information or at least suspect sources when a site looks something similar to this:

People with moderate Internet skills often can see when Wikipedia should be used with caution:

Even our students (well, mine at least, by the time they get to 8th grade) already know that the tree octopus is a hoax. The days of the static, single authored, omnipotent, must-travel-to-it  website are dying. In fact, I'd say they're pretty much dead outside of webquests and things we create for our students. Instead we have dynamic, multi-authored, and boots-on-the-ground information that comes to you. And now we arrive at the one of new reliability problems.

I've been duped, probably numerous times, by the deluge of tweets that flood my timeline after a major news story breaks (a major news story according to a middle school social studies teacher looking for content and connections - sorry not sorry, royal baby). However, the one event that truly comes to mind is the Boston Marathon Bombing. Like most of the nation, and especially us here in New England, for a week straight I was glued not to my television, but to my phone. CNN and pals were too slow. All I had to do was pull down and release on my phone screen and I'd be rewarded with fifty new tweets about the topic. Many of these tweets contained misinformation, hearsay, and unverified pictures - but at the time, the in visceral rawness of the moment, none of that mattered. In fact, it never even crossed my mind for the first few days. Once it did occur to me, the idea of real time terror was something that made me step back and realize I was not as savvy a consumer as I had foolishly imagined myself to be. 

This realization has not made me disavow twitter for breaking news altogether. There is most definitely something positive to be said for news in real time, from primary sources, unaltered by the mainstream media - when taken with a grain of salt. I relied on twitter for news and updates from Ferguson this past summer, Baltimore last month, and Burundi last week. While I have focused my information flow to a few reputable curators of news (most specifically Andy Carvin and the crew at to name a few) there still arises a new, more dangerous, problem. By getting my news from a self-selected list of people whom I trust, I have put myself soundly into a filter bubble. This is perhaps a much more harmful problem than the erroneous websites that most people associate with misinformation on the web. Within a filter bubble I have the comfort of confirmation bias and the amplified effect of an echo chamber, resulting in a steadfast belief that I am always right, which simply is not true.

No comments:

Post a Comment