I feel like I may have found my kindred spirit in Nicholas Carr and thoroughly agree with his skepticism/cynicism in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Don’t get me wrong, technology (Web 2.0 tech, specifically, in this case) isn’t all bad. As Carr shows us through the use of historical precedent, new technologies are always lauded by some and derided by others. New technology changes the way we do things, as a culture, and change can be difficult. It’s easy to be hyperbolic when technology begins to disrupt the old way of doing things. But, I think, it’s still important to be cautious, too. The internet opens doors to, literally, a world of information and can help expose people to new cultures, ideas, and information. However, as Hargittai, et. al. point out in Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content, “while internet users have enormous amounts of material on the web, not all of it is necessarily reliable (2010, pg. 1)”.
I appreciated how Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content focused on examining how students found information online/or offline versus Research in the Real World: Improving Adult Learners Web Search and Evaluation Skills through Motivation Design and Problem Based Learning’s focus on which methods might work best for increasing this “media literacy”. I found both sources reputable because they came from research journals and higher education institutions and thought it shocking that Hargittai, et. al., found only 8% of their sample surveyed made statements about .edu or .org sites being more credible than commercial sites (2010, p. 15).
Personally, I look to appearance and information content when first examining a web source. But I think it’s very easy for any person to make a website look nice, so I dive into at least three or four different web sources to “cross-examine” the information at hand. Though I’ve found this to be troubling these days, with many sites seemingly copying and pasting (plagiarizing) content from another site. So now I tend to use ERIC or other education databases (sometimes Google Scholar) for professional research. Google or Bing do the trick if I’m looking for random web content or something less academic. I also have an undergraduate degree in History so I try to find and use primary sources whenever possible. So much of what is on the internet is often secondary, tertiary, or even further removed, from the original source. I see myself fitting into the Firtch and Cromwell model detailed by Hargittai, et. al. I tend to be constantly cycling through “Format and presentation, authenticity, institution, and affiliation” (2010, p. 4). However, I purposely try to get past my initial aesthetic turnoffs if a site doesn’t look the way I “think” it should look. In my experience, I’ve found some of these sites provide more valid and reliable information because their focus is on content not making the site look sleek and modern to distract from the content.
Honestly, I still prefer my content in print. Not always, but often, I print out the articles we read because I prefer to scribble and take notes on actual paper. Maybe I’m just a luddite or maybe like, Nick Carr said, “as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence (2008).” Regardless of whether Carr’s statement is true or not, I’m constantly conscious of the sentiment. Case in point, I bought a hard cover version of Minds Online. I’m definitely cool with the printing press but I’ve got some trust issues with digital/social media and online content.