Another dot in the blogosphere?

Navigating digital information 6

Posted on: February 14, 2019

This week’s Crash Course episode on navigating digital information focused on evaluating evidence offered by online creators.


Video source

Anyone who says anything online needs to back up any claim with evidence. But not just any evidence.

Some might offer claims as evidence. Host John Green highlighted a claim about a new and supposedly deadly spider that had already killed five people in the USA. That claim (in all caps, no less) was made without reference to any other resource.

Others might offer wrong evidence after making a claim. Green provided the example of a US senator who brought a snowball into the senate floor and offered it as evidence that there was no global warming. This was evidence of winter and short term weather, but nothing against long term climate change.

In Green’s own words, not all evidence is created equally. So what are we to do? Ask two questions:

  • Does the information make sense?
  • Does the information merely confirm my pre-existing worldview?

Answers to both questions require value judgements and this can be a subjective process. To make things more objective, we could evaluate evidence by finding out how valid and reliable it is.

Validity is about how relevant and credible the information is; reliability is a measure of how much or how often that same evidence shows up.

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