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Posts Tagged ‘literacy

The title of this reflection is a quote from one of the participants of the video below.


Video source

The participants had to evaluate the claims made by another video producer about the properties of “real” and “fake” food. I highlighted one reaction because it was an honest and direct response to attempts to mislead.

However, it might be easier to spot misleading claims about those food claims than statements in tweets or headlines.

Thankfully that is why we have the Navigating Digital Information series by Crash Course [my thoughts and annotations on the series] and two episodes so far by TED-Ed [annotations on part 1] [annotations on part 2].

The sad thing is that the video above will probably get more views on its own than all 12 of the videos combined about being digitally literate. It is easier to tell people “Don’t be a dumbass!” than to get them not to be dumbasses.


Video source

The video above has a clickbait title — this one weird trick will help you spot clickbait.

The examples highlight not one but three strategies when evaluating clickbait titles of news or video reports:

  1. Drawing a line between cause and effect
  2. Understanding the impact of sample size on reported results
  3. Distinguishing between statistical or scientific significance and practical bearing

Crash Course provided a ten-part series called Navigating Digital Information. But what good is claiming to be information literate if you cannot prove it?


Video source

This TED-Ed video is a quick test on applying some of that knowledge by evaluating misleading headlines.

The video title states that this test is Level 1. So will there be more difficult tests?

I am sad. This is the last episode of Crash Course’s series on Navigating Digital Information.


Video source

This week’s focus was social media.

Host John Green started by outlining how social media has had far reaching consequences, e.g., shaping our vocabulary, changing our expectations of privacy, organising grassroots efforts.

But probably the most important impact of social media might be that it is now the most common source of information and news. This includes disinformation, misinformation, and fake news, all of which are easy to spread with a click or a tap.

The ease of creating, sharing, and amplifying is social media’s best and worst set of affordances. The affordances are neutral, but we can choose to bully and mislead, or make new friends and organise special interest groups.

Regardless of their purpose, social media are powered by targetted advertising and algorithms. Both affect what we read, hear, or watch in our feeds. This can create filter bubbles.

This insulation is a result of social media companies needing to keep us engaged. A consequence of this is that we might not get to process dissenting views or the truth behind the lies we are fed.

If we know what drives social media, we could take Green’s advice by:

  • Following entities that have different perspective from us.
  • Deactivating the recommended results or top posts so that you get a more neutral feed.
  • Avoid going down rabbit holes (deep dives of content or perspectives that result in more of the same or the extreme).
  • Exercising click restraint and practising lateral reading.
  • Having the courage and taking the effort to correct mistakes.

The week’s episode of Crash Course’s navigating digital information focused on click restraint.


Video source

Click restraint is about not relying on the first few returns in Google search. It is about scanning, analysing, and evaluating the rest of the returns. It is not about immediate gratification but about figuring out the most valid and reliable sources of information.

Why exercise click restraint?

Searches are not objective. The search algorithms (rules) are shaped by us and the results are processed by us. We do all these based on our perspectives, biases, or bubbles.

How might we exercise click restraint?

By analysing the search results first:

  1. Scan the titles and URLs of the results for their sources
  2. Read the snippets or blurbs that accompany the titles or URLs
  3. Try to determine if the nature of the resource — opinion piece, satire, official report, etc.

This week’s episode of Crash Courses’s Navigating Digital Information focused on data and its visual representation.


Video source

Data, whether represented by raw numbers or graphics, can seem objective. However, they are not neutral because people gather and interpret them. (As a former academic, I shuddered whenever I overhead colleagues talking about “massaging data”.)

In evaluating data, host John Green reminded us to ask:

  • Does the data support the claim? (Is it relevant?)
  • How reliable is the source of data? (Who commissioned the research and why? Who conducted it and why?)

As for data visualisations, Green reminded us to check if the graphic was based on real data (check its source) and that the data was transferred and presented accurately.

Another consideration specific to data visualisations like infographics is how complex phenomena are simplified in the creative process. This might sacrifice the accuracy of the data.

If we combine both sets of principles, we might be in a stronger position to evaluate the following example. Two organisations, used the same set of data to send messages on climate change.

Organisation A’s image is on the left and B’s is on the right.

Screenshot of graphs from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiND50qfCek&t=201s.

Organisation A had already concluded that temperatures were not rising globally over time, so it manipulated the y-axis to range from -10 to 110 deg F. Organisation B zoomed in a smaller range and the average temperature increase was more pronounced. B critiqued A’s representation as misleading.

Both organisations used relevant data that supported their claims. The data was sourced from a neutral third party (NASA’s GISS). However, the presentation was manipulated by A to obscure the trend.

My perspective: Seeing should not immediately lead to believing because the data might be selectively or “sexily” presented. The first is only sharing data that supports preconceived notions; the second is using elaborate or compelling-looking visuals to disinform or lie.

A side note: Have you ever noticed that “lie” is central to believe?

One incident. Two perspectives.

The first perspective was a video recorded by an ordinary citizen and shared by the “blog father” of Singapore, mrbrown.

The second perspective was a newspaper article and headline.

The first laid the blame largely on the truck driver for being aggressive with his vehicle and then brandishing a weapon. The second focused on the cyclist hitting the driver in the face before cycling off.

Each entity had decided who was to blame. This exemplifies the opposites that we might find online. The same opposites that find ourselves caught between.

Instead of simply favouring our bubbles and biases to decide which side to take, we might use the principles shared so far in Crash Course’s Navigating Digital Information series (my summaries).

See for yourself. Decide yourself. But only after arming yourself with modern literacy skills.


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