THE BIG SIFT
Did you know there are 571 websites created every minute on the Internet? With over 300 million sites added to the world wide web a year, that’s a whole lot of information to sift through, and it’s getting tougher and tougher every year!
How should Teacher Librarians address the big sift?
Living in a post-truth era with a severely weakened news media and a plethora of websites to wade through, finding good information can be like drinking from a fire hose. While it is important to guide students to appropriate vetted resources like the ones in virtual libraries including journal databases and encyclopedias, students are also getting their information from social media sites full of click-bait articles, and other emotionally charged bias-driven sources. Embedding Information and Media literacy into the research process is imperative in the preparation of learners for participation in a democratic society. It also is a key entry point for Teacher Librarians in instructional leadership.
The state of current News Media:
“When reorganisation and cost-cutting in this core area jeopardise accustomed journalistic standards, it hits at the very heart of the political public sphere. Because, without the flow of information gained through extensive research, and without the stimulation of arguments based on an expertise that doesn’t come cheap, public communication loses its discursive vitality. The public media would then cease to resist populist tendencies, and could no longer fulfil the function it should in the context of a democratic constitutional state.”
-Jurgen Habermas, 2007
The digital revolution and migration of advertising dollars online has had a direct impact on the jobs of journalists. The Toronto Star quotes the Public Policy Forum as estimating that one third of journalists lost their jobs between 2010 and 2016 in Canada and since 2010, 225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers in Canada have shut their doors or merged with other papers. This is bound to have quite an impact on the quality and breadth of current information our students are finding when searching for information on the Internet. Here are just some of the factors affecting “truth” in online current information.
“Post-Truth” Word of the Year
The 2016 English Oxford dictionary word of the year was “post-truth”. It is an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.
The term was selected after cries of fake news and alternative facts following the U.S. presidential election.
Fake News is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation, be it via fake media news sites or via social media, with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically. Some politicians began to appropriate the phrase “fake news,” using it to describe news organizations that don’t support them. News organizations don’t write fake news, though they are not entirely immune to making erroneous reports. Sites like Snopes work to dispel fake and erroneous news.
Read this article by The Guardian’s Katherine Viner, How Technology Disrupted the Truth
Currency of Online Information
Though the number of websites on the World Wide Web hovers around a billion, 75 percent of those sites are inactive or parked, making it ever more necessary to check currency and validity of sites.
UpWorthy’s Eli Pariser coined this term in response to the personalization of the Google search. Because the search function adapts and personalizes returns, matching and ignoring them based on our generated profile, we are more apt to miss information outside that which the computer algorithms have deemed as relevant to us.
Skim the report Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online by Alice Marwick and Rebecca Lewis for an overview of how voices online shape information.
How are you helping students and teachers understand the issues around filtering for good information? How are you helping them build the skills necessary to find good information?
I addressed “The Big Sift” at the Bring It Together Conference in 2015.