The Digital Age is such an ingrained part of our society, that seldom do we stop to think about it. Oh, us older folk shake our heads and reminisce about “the good old days” with actual phone books, FM radio and Rolodex files, but we’ve all come to some level of acceptance about the digital world around us.
I can still remember my first digital watch; a Texas Instruments, Circa 1976. It operated with one button and you couldn’t see it in the sunlight!
Today, several generations that have been born completely “digitized”. This period in history changes so fast, it’ll be decades before we can analyze how it’s affected our lives. We have all become comfortable, nay, expectant, that the device we buy today will be obsolete in as little as a few years
Anyone still have one of these?
Now information of any kind is a mere click away on computers, iPad, and Smartphones. The world wide web is our oyster. We have unlimited resources at our command; and that can be a very frightening thing.
The unlimited options create a tendency to Democratize web information. Multiple pages pop up with a single search and users unconsciously think every site’s validity is on equal footing.
When I grew up most information was received through TV, newspapers and books. There was, in a sense, an authority filter in place. Trusted news sources gave you in-depth stories with balanced reporting (hard to believe, I know) and Libraries were the source of educational and intellectual information. The cost of broadcasting and printing negated the idea of anyone putting the time and effort into a lot of false information.
Okay; Orson Welles did the whole, “War of the Worlds” thing, but you know what I am saying. Encyclopedia salesman were still doing a booming business in my youth. We had a few, very trusted places to find credible information.
Today we have the web. And just like it’s sticky, deceptive,devious and deadly namesake; it can ensnare the unwary traveler in a matter of seconds. Virtual “realness” is quite simple to fake compared to yesteryear’s hoaxes.
Take for example this website: The Tree Octopus
Octopus paxarbolis” ( means, “Pacific tree octopus” in Dog Latin).
It was purported to be able to live both on land and in water, and was said to live in the Olympic National Forest and nearby rivers,spawning in water where its eggs are laid. Its major predator was said to be the Sasquatch.
This SCAM throws light on an important topic surrounding a free and unrestricted web…..
ON LINE CREDIBILITY.
Old school folk, by nature, are somewhat distrusting of the web; but what about the digital generations? Does age, internet familiarity, education, or other demographics play a role in a person’s trust of on-line information?
The book ONLINE CREDIBILITY AND DIGITAL ETHOS seeks to answer some of these questions.
In Chapter 9, a study sought to find out how children, ages 11 through 18, viewed the web in terms of credibility. A very detailed set of questions were asked and some interesting results came to light.
Here’s some highlights of the Study:
Across the board, they knew of credibility issues surrounding web information
Most rated their ability to ascertain truthful sources as above average (slightly higher in younger age groups)
Younger children primarily used personal (heuristic) feelings to assess the websites rather than an analytic approach
A large percentage of children were overconfident in their abilities to rate reliability of websites (not much different than the adult population.This phenomenon is rooted in a cognitive process known as “optimistic bias” )
As they matured, Children used more and varied skills to measure a sites credibility
The results were, by and large, positive. While overrating themselves in their abilities, the children across all ages were aware of credibility issues on the web. As the researchers concluded:
Thus, the best strategy to help children become more skillful consumers of information online would appear
to be the adoption of a perspective that empowers them and capitalizes on their unique
upbringing in an all-digital world.
Offense is often the best defense.
If we capitalize on the children’s cognitive development in digital media usage, positive outcomes can occur. The report goes on to say:
education efforts regarding credibility evaluation should be ongoing at the upper elementary, middle, and secondary education levels, and should stress the
importance of critical thinking skills, including analytic methods of credibility assessment over
Now back to that Octopus website. If you haven’t already; go take a look at it.
I sent this link to ten people and ask them one simple question:
Does this seem like a credible website?
I am fortunate to have a stunningly intellectual set of friends (who may at this very minute be reading my blog) I expected ten out of ten “NO” answers. Much to my surprise two of the ten zipped back a quick “yes.” (both educated people over Forty) Wait! Stop! I had to investigate.
One friend, a very busy professional who gets a zillion emails a day was quite amused this weekend when I made him/her go back to the site and actually READ it. “Oh my God! I can’t believe I said yes!” His/her explanation was that,
In the middle of a busy week I looked at your question, clicked onto the site, scanned the overall layout, and clicked on a few tabs without ever reading a word. By APPEARANCE, yes it seemed legitimate. Obviously that was the intent…for whatever crazy reason. Had I taken a moment more, I would have realized the absurdity of the content.
My other friend, bless his/her heart, thought it was a website set up for kids in the Northwest in an effort to help save an endangered species. When he/ she went back and more thoroughly examined the pictures and did in-depth reading, he/she was much amused.
Egads! I fell for that hook, line, and tentacle!