Richer Reflection on Web Literac(y)(ies)



Caulfield talks about how web literacies differ from digital literacy in that web literacy includes the ability to fact-check, to decipher between good sources, bad sources, and what is the truth in regards to what one is researching. Web literacy is about knowing what you are reading and if it is true or not. Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all give information to us, but we as web literate users must decipher between what is fact and what is fiction. Digital literacy is about knowing what to do with technological advances, while web literacy is just one part of it. Web literacy encompasses many things, but one has to be mindful of what is fact and what is fiction.

Here is one section from Caulfield that illuminates what he talks about:

“This guide will show you how to use date filters to find the source of viral content, how to assess the reputation of a scientific journal in less than five seconds, and how to see if a tweet is really from the famous person you think it is or from an impostor. It’ll show you how to find pages that have been deleted, figure out who paid for the website you’re looking at, and whether the weather portrayed in that viral video actual matches the weather in that location on that day. It’ll show you how to check a Wikipedia page for recent vandalism and how to search the text of almost any printed book to verify a quote. It’ll teach you to parse URLs and scan search result blurbs so that you are more likely to get to the right result on the first click. And it’ll show you how to avoid baking confirmation bias into your search terms.

In other words, this guide will help you become “web literate” by showing you the unique opportunities and pitfalls of searching for truth on the web. Crazy, right?” (Caulfield 1).

This search for truth on the web, to find what is really going on out there perplexes us today, with things like fake news, false stories, and unsourced material. This excerpt from Caulfield shows what the book is about and is a must read for all those who are approaching understanding what is digital citizenship. Checking sources is important and ensuring accurate as well as well-cited sources is important.

Here’s an excerpt where Caulfield talks about one of his videos:

“There’s so much more to say about this — of course in some cases intermediate reporting sources add additional verification or analysis, etc, etc. But the social web often pushes us low-quality re-reporting of higher quality originals, and the propaganda techniques of leveling and sharpening distort original stories along the way. Finding the source is an essential skill.”

I thought that it was interesting that he stated that often social media news is ‘low-quality re-reporting of high quality originals.’ This insight is very valid and shows that social media often repeats what has already been reported, but with less reliability.

The digital polarization initiative had some interesting articles. One I would like to highlight is by Howard Rheingold which talks about how to identify bad articles from real and good ones in the age of the search engine. He states that “You aren’t paranoid if you suspect that some sites might even deliberately try to deceive you. Some sites insidiously cloak their real bias, for example.” Inherent bias often is a problem and pointing that out is important.

The last source gives sources to arguments and assesses the sources validity. One example is with atmospheric carbon levels. Good websites like this one (DigiPo) are useful for advancing knowledge and fact-checking sources. Sources are the key to making an argument and knowing what is true and what is not helps citizens make an honest judgment about the issues.

Web literacy is similar to digital literacy in that context is important. The things surrounding what is being reported must be noted like what sources are behind the headlines.

The web has made it easier to communicate, offer insight, and to conversate about the issues of the day. But with ease of access comes new responsibilities like making sure that the sources behind what is being talked about are legitimate. When we focus on the sources behind the headlines will the truth prevail and knowledge can be created and learning can stay afloat.

Learning about web literacy promotes the advancement of knowledge.

2 thoughts on “Richer Reflection on Web Literac(y)(ies)”

  1. Caulfield has said somewhere—maybe in the class readings?—that a fundamental problem is that people use social and identity platforms like Facebook and Twitter as if they are news platforms. This has all kinds of problems, some of which you note here and in other places (low quality reproduction, headlines being conflated with stories, news taking over every hour of our lives). One approach to dealing with this is enabling people to make better choices, evaluate validity, etc. Are there other options? How could these platforms be changed to help?

    1. Platforms like Google News, which allows for readers to search for their own interests among articles and organize them into specific categories could be helpful in getting news to everyday people.

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