A musing on Information Literacy and developmental trends Oct 3, 2015 9:32:59 GMT
Post by legios on Oct 3, 2015 9:32:59 GMT
I remember reading a load of stuff, from various sources, over the last half-decade about how what is now the current generation of young adults were growing up in a sea of digital information and were going to become far more information literate than any generation before them. So it came as a surprise to me that not only is it now considered necessary to warn students starting a Masters Degree course that Wikipedia is not an authoritative source and is not an acceptable reference for University level written work, but that a study cited by our course coordinator in his "Managing Information Services" lecture found that of the teenagers it studied one-third believed that any that turned up in a Google search was therefore true and accurate. This the same week as we saw the Call of Duty publishers pull a stunt of disguising their twitter feed as a news source and sending out reports of a nuclear incident in Singapore which apparently took a quite a few people in as part of their marketing strategy for there next game, and the week that we saw the whole "Peeple" app thing which now looks very much like a publicity stunt too.
Before anyone gets the idea that I'm ragging on "kids today", that isn't my intent at all. (After all, the generation above me fell hook-line and sinker for the "Spaghetti Tree" hoax - which illustrates fairly well what can happen when inaccurate information comes from a trusted source). What fascinates me is a trend in society generally. Quite a few thinkers across a number of fields put forward the postulate that the increased democratisation of information that comes with the penetration of the Web into everyday life which we've seen in the recent era would lead to a more information savvy population, who would have sharper critical faculties and more ability and resources to determine fact from fiction.
If anything the trend almost seems to have become the opposite - Wikipedia, for all of its inherent unreliability, has come to be treated as an authoritative source, as has Google (which is effectively a societal decision that "if a piece of information exists then it must be true) which isn't even a source in its own right, just a mechanism for searching for sources (its the catalogue, not the books). I think it is fascinating that so many theorists were outright wrong about how this would work out.