Who Is Your Source?

Web 2.0 encompasses all of our social media connections: blogging, YouTube, Facebook, Wikepedia….  In the Keen Vs.  Weinberger argument (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB118460229729267677), we see two very different versions of what the prevalence of social media communication and internet access to information means.

Mr. Weinberger argues that while much of the information and opinions we see on the internet are not churned through some sort of “truth wringer,” we do have the power to determine if a specific source is reliable.  “Where” we go on the internet and “whose” opinion we are reading, is a filter of sorts.

This new media can be viewed contextually and is every bit as reliable as traditional media, when we apply a clear filter.   As readers,  we are capable of applying that filter on our own.

Mr. Keen’s response makes me feel like I am a child and he is a parent chastising me.  He confuses the amount of communication that goes on via the internet, as equating with it being “garbage.”  The abundance, according to Mr. Keen, renders is a virtual wasteland.  He leaves me feeling that I am too stupid to edit through internet information.  He doesn’t trust my own sensibilities in seeking (and judging) the information I come across.

Personally, I love books and magazines.  My house is overflowing with “traditional media.”  I have never been able to make that transition to paperless reading.  I don’t want to see books vanish forever.  I get the value and merit of traditionally published medias.  I know that the information has been filtered through an editor and the facts reviewed.  I agree that I am less likely to run across inaccurate information when I pick up something published through a traditional source.  However, I agree with Mr. Weinberger’s comment that I can easily access an encyclopedia if I need to be assured of “facts.”

The internet allows us to be as “intellectually diverse,” to borrow a phrase from Mr. Keene, as we choose to be.  Mr. Keene’s summary of the internet and our ability to assimilate knowledge from it, seems to completely absolve the reader from having any intelligence in the matter.  My “take away” from his response?  We are all too dumb to navigate the internet on our own, and assess the value of what we are reading.

I regularly scan Facebook to see what is going on for the people in my “Friends” list.  At no time, do I assume any of them to be experts though.  What my mother writes about politics is different from what I read in a New York Times post.  Goodness, what my mom posts is very different than what my super smart and educated older brother posts!  I understand who the writer is and I value their credibility in light of that.  Having access to so many opinions and people’s take on life, is part of the value that the internet and our communication through it holds.  The internet is an intrinsic part of our world and I believe most of us, growing up with the internet, have developed a filter, with which we take in the information.  It is an organic part of growing up in an age that is technologically centered!

Clearly, I lean towards Mr. Weinberger’s views on this subject.  As a reader, I can discern what is of value and what is accurate.  As Mr. Weinberger points out, the amateur’s voice still has value and can provide worthwhile content.  Further, I like that there are so many voices at my disposal.  If I am not educated by someone’s writing, then I am entertained or at least encouraged to consider the topic more deeply.  If none of these occur, then I simply discard what I read as irrelevant. I appreciate getting information from varied sources, even if they are subjective or lack scholarly editing.  My intellect  is an adequate editor!

Posted on September 21, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Mr. Keen is a realistic pessimist, but I don’t see him as scolding anyone about their ability to edit or write on the internet. Rather he appears to be reporting on what he’s seen, and stating the vast amount of it is garbage. Sure, calling us monkeys and cockroaches isn’t necessary, but it’s to make the point that most people writing on the web (myself included) aren’t “saying anything that’s not out there a million times over. How many of us are actually contributing new points or ideas to a topic? Weinberger counters Keen’s assertion that amateurs aren’t driving out pros when it comes to “old media.” They don’t need to; they’re smothering and burying them.

    Facebook isn’t a blog. Facebook posts are casual and targeted to the friends list. Unless confined within specific corners like the academic groups Keen mentioned, blogs market to everyone. Redundancy and misinformation fills the Internet because everyone thinks they can write outside the scope of their knowledge. Opinion is assumed to be fact. Technical editors, communicators, etc. strive for professionalism, most amateur authors just want to be “seen.” As Keen states, “We’ve lost truth and interest in the objectivity of mainstream media because of our self-infatuation with the subjectivity of our own messages” (p. 2).

    Weinberger says “we don’t open up the web at random” (p. 3), and you state “I can discern what is of value and what is accurate” (rebeccab2828, 2015) but maybe our kids can’t. With books and magazines we do “choose wisely” or they wouldn’t be in our home. Keene and Weinberger both make good points, and after reading several classmate blogs, I’m now in a neutral corner.

  2. Great argument here about one’s ability, especially in this day and age, to evaluate and then filter information to conclude what is fact-based and what isn’t. Rheingold’s text will say more on this. I also loved this statement, “Having access to so many opinions and people’s take on life, is part of the value that the internet and our communication through it holds.” Sure, some audiences might be more passive than others and not take those extra steps to click/read/view further, but I think if the topic truly matters to them that they will.

    Somewhat related to your points about encyclopedias and facts is this old (2005!) TED talk by the creator of Wikipedia:

    In it he mentions a study that compared Wikipedia’s accuracy against Encyclopaedia Britannica and found the two pretty even, though not without objection by EB. It looks like more of those studies haven’t been published, but hearing how Wikipedia works, both in this TED talk and from users who have created sites, illustrates their “filter” since they have a policy which states, “If no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article about it.”

  3. I, too, think that most people are able to filter through all the unreliable information on the Internet by applying common-sense filters. As you said, this is probably particularly true for the generation that grew up with the Internet or who are long-time users of it. But I think the Internet might be a somewhat murky or even dangerous place for vulnerable people. When I say “vulnerable,” I mean younger or older people or those who are just not very sophisticated. I mean, when I write patient-education materials, I am advised to write to an eight-grade level and in very simple terms; that shows that not everyone has the same level of literacy. At the same time, I’m not advocating for any kind of controls on the Internet, even if it poses more of a danger than print materials (no interaction with others in print materials), because I think it is a valuable source of information–when you approach it with a critical eye.

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