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  • Hello and welcome to Crash Course: Navigating Digital Information.

  • My name is John Green, and you may know me from my various channels on YouTube, all caps

  • tweets about Liverpool Football Club, Q&As about books on my website, or elsewhere on

  • the internet.

  • I spend a /lot/ of time online.

  • In fact, in some ways, I live here.

  • The average American spends 24 hours per week online, but one in four U.S. adults say that

  • they are online almost constantly.

  • And I am among them.

  • I love the Internet--it contains so much helpful information; it connects us to each other;

  • it allows more people to have a voice in public conversations.

  • But of course, the Internet is also littered with misleading, sensationalized, and downright

  • false information.

  • So, OK.

  • I only know two jokes.

  • I'll tell the other one at the end of the series, but here's the first one, which

  • was made famous by the American writer David Foster Wallace:

  • Two young fish are swimming along one day when an older fish swims past and says, “'Morning,

  • kids.

  • How's the water?'

  • The young fish just look at each other for a second and then swim on for a while, and

  • then one says to the other, 'What the heck is water?'”

  • Now I am not the wise old fish of this enterprise.

  • I am as susceptible to misleading information as anyone.

  • I tend to focus on information that reinforces my pre-existing worldview, and to passively

  • ingest all kinds of media while scrolling and swiping endlessly through my feeds.

  • But I also think we ought to be suspicious of anyone who claims to be the wise old fish

  • with some special understanding of what we're swimming in.

  • Believing that you're immune to the seductions of false and misleading information is, if

  • anything, a symptom of being influenced by false and misleading information.

  • I tell this joke for two reasons: First, because I need you to call me out if I start acting

  • like the wise old fish, and second, to point out that much of what we're swimming in

  • is new and strange--and we're still figuring it out together.

  • So, for this series, Crash Course has teamed up with MediaWise, a project out of the Poynter

  • Institute that was created with support from Google.

  • The Poynter Institute is a non-profit journalism school.

  • The goal of MediaWise is to teach students how to assess the accuracy of information

  • they encounter online.

  • The MediaWise curriculum was developed by the Stanford History Education Group based

  • on civic online reasoning research that they began in 2015.

  • Other MediaWise project partners include the Local Media Association and the National Association

  • for Media Literacy Education.

  • I'm saying all that, and I'll say it again, because I think it's important to understand

  • where this information about information came from.

  • Over the next ten episodes, we're going to dive deeply into the feed and share some

  • tools that are proven to work when it comes to evaluating the quality and accuracy of

  • information.

  • We may not figure out exactly what water is, but we're going to try to learn to improve

  • our swimming.

  • Stan, have we rolled the intro yet?

  • We're MULTIPLE minutes into the video.

  • Roll the intro!

  • INTRO When you want to see what your friends are

  • up to, you might head to Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram or maybe /Fin/stagram.

  • I don't get that joke but young people in the office said that it is funny.

  • And then when you want the news, you may wait to be startled by a push alert from a news

  • app, or you might go to twitter, or snapchat, or reddit.

  • And when you need to settle a feud over how to pronounce g-i-f, or possibly gee-i-f, you

  • just use a search engine.

  • These habits all feel quite natural to me, but in fact they are part of a huge shift

  • in how humans find, and produce, and share information.

  • Just a short time ago, the production of information was controlled by a much smaller group of

  • people.

  • Instead of Googling movie times, you had to buy a newspaper or call the movie theater

  • and risk talking to an actual human being.

  • To write a research paper, you had to hunker down in the library, not for the outlets and

  • the free Wifi but for the access to Encyclopedias and books.

  • Now I should note that there's a lot of information that's not available online,

  • and that is available at your library.

  • Libraries continue to be incredibly valuable resources.

  • But these days, anyone can hop online and produce information via their personal website,

  • social media, or YouTube channel.

  • Well, actually, no.

  • Access to digital devices and high-speed Internet is still a real barrier to entry for many

  • people, which means unequal access to information.

  • It also means that while it can feel like everyone is participating in facebook or instagram,

  • in fact billions of people are not part of those conversations.

  • Still, the barrier for creating and retrieving information is much lower than it was a generation

  • ago.

  • Like, when I was a kid, if you wanted to share an opinion with the public, you wrote a letter

  • to the newspaper and hoped they would publish it.

  • There was no other way for a stranger to hear your story or your perspective.

  • Furthermore, as you already know from the three DMs you've answered since you started

  • this video, the internet changed how we communicate.

  • We can talk across time and space.

  • We can connect across geographical and political boundaries, we can create organizations and

  • communities, find people with similar interests, or we can lift people up when they feel alone.

  • But, when information flows this freely, dangers are inevitable.

  • Misinformation -- unintentionally incorrect information -- and disinformation -- information

  • that's wrong on purpose -- spread quickly online.

  • As do hate speech and propaganda.

  • Plus, we can easily create online worlds where we only see information we already agree with,

  • or that lines up with our point of view.

  • For instance, if I only followed people on Twitter who were Team Blake, I would have

  • been pretty blindsided when Garrett won The Bachelorette.

  • The same could be said for, say, actual elections.

  • And because we use information for all kinds of decisions, misinformation and disinformation

  • are powerful.

  • This is true for small everyday decisions--restaurant reviews affect where we eat--and for much

  • larger issues, like choosing a college to attend or a place to work..

  • The quality of our information directly shapes the quality of our decisions.

  • And the quality of our decisions, of course, shapes the quality of our shared experience

  • as humans So, when we talk about [air quotes] “bad

  • or questionable information, that includes fake news.

  • The kind of news reporting that is /totally/ false.

  • Which is a huge problem, especially on social media and during breaking news events.

  • And it's a problem across all political ideologies and perspectives.

  • But we're not just talking about fake news.

  • We're also talking about information that isn't credible because the author of that

  • content isn't an authority on the topic.

  • Take a blog of serious-sounding fitness tips from someone who loves gym selfies but isn't

  • qualified to give professional health advice.

  • We're also talking about information that comes from writers or organizations that have

  • something to lose from the whole truth.

  • Like a company that sells toasters creating BestToasters.com to publish lists of thebest

  • toasters, with their brand at the top of every list.

  • Or friends who conveniently find videos that supposedly [air quotes] “provegif is

  • pronounced gif when you know that gif is pronounced gif.

  • But the thing is, quality of information lies on a spectrum.

  • It's not a duality, good information and bad information.

  • It is our job to evaluate the information that we receive, find out where it falls on

  • that spectrum, and decide how to use it going forward.

  • But as a species, we are not particularly good at judging the quality of information

  • on the internet.

  • In fact, we've always been bad at it.

  • In 2002, a study with over 2,000 participants[1] reported that a website's /design/ was the

  • most frequently mentioned factor in judging a website's credibility.

  • When asked to choose which of two sites was more credible, 46% of participants used the

  • look of the website in their evaluations.

  • Adults and young people alike still typically evaluate information based on factors unrelated

  • to its content: how it looks, whether they've used it before or who referred them to it.

  • In 2016, our friends at the Stanford History Education Group released a study of over 7,000

  • middle school, high school, and college students.

  • When asked to evaluate online information, they based their evaluations on a site's

  • look and feel.

  • They focused on things that a website creator could easily change, like the URL or the About

  • page.

  • Spoiler alert: that technique doesn't work well.

  • One of the things that participants had to do was judge minimumwage.com, a site about

  • -- you guessed it -- the minimum wage.

  • It claimed to bust myths behind the minimum wage, listing ways that raising it would hurt

  • the economy.

  • Many students never discovered that that site was by a public relations firm working for

  • a group that wants to keep minimum wages low.

  • The firm represents industries that stand to benefit from paying employees less.

  • In other words, the creator of this website has something to lose by telling both sides

  • of the minimum wage debate.

  • So we can't fully trust them to do so.

  • Let's go to the Thought Bubble.

  • During the study, some students also felt the presence of certain types of content on

  • a website meant that it was more reliable.

  • Like, when students found something they thought was evidence on a page --

  • a statistic or an anecdote, perhaps -- they assumed that meant the entire page was

  • more reliable.

  • And they often didn't check the sources, because, you know, it's the Internet.

  • People never check sources.

  • For example, participants also looked at an article that was actually an advertisement

  • for Shell Oil[2].

  • 70% of high school students rated it as more reliable than a traditional news story.

  • Why?

  • Because of this pie chart at the top.

  • Statistics and infographics are often easy and effective ways to communicate facts and

  • evidence.

  • But that doesn't mean all charts are trustworthy.

  • Like, here's another chart.

  • It says that, 96% of the time, the sky is green.

  • The /existence/ of this chart is no more proof of its validity than, say, a spooky noise

  • is proof that your house is haunted.

  • But back to the Stanford History Education Group study.

  • Over 80% of middle school students didn't correctly identify that this was an ad, either,

  • even though it was labeledSponsored Content.”

  • Sponsored content means a company paid the publication for a space on its site, hoping

  • to advertise with a post that /looks/ like a news article.

  • And as you may know, sponsored content shapes a lot of discourse on YouTube.

  • And it's effective advertising, because many of us can't help but believe that what

  • looks like a news article must in fact be one.

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble.

  • You might argue that the students in that study are still learning.

  • They'll probably be better at it when they get older.

  • Well, the Stanford History Education Group also tested historians with PhDs, first year

  • college students from a pretty fancy university, and professional fact checkers from major

  • news organizations.

  • Fact checkers are the people who go through each bit of copy in a news story to make sure

  • that all the facts are accurate.

  • There are far too few of them in this world.

  • But anyway, how effectively would you guess these three groups evaluated information quality?

  • Although both the professors and the students have achieved academic success and are smart,

  • thoughtful people, they also didn't do well with the experiment.

  • When evaluating online sources, they also focused on superficial things like the sites'

  • layout, how much content the site had, and whether it linked to other sites.

  • They focused largely on appearance and the /presence/ of things like evidence and links,

  • not their content or their value.

  • And those strategies might have worked in the early days of the internet, but things

  • are much more complicated, and there are many misleading or false stories cite sources that

  • either don't say what they're purported to say, or are themselves also false.

  • It's misinformation all the way down.

  • So, who /did/ sort out the misinformation from the good info?

  • The fact-checkers!

  • I mean, that is literally their jobs, but it's nice to know they were good at it.

  • The fact-checkers did well because they employed a variety of carefully honed skills to decipher

  • fact from fiction.

  • And we are going to learn those skills together from the fact-checkers in the next episode.

  • Also the one after that, and the one after that and the one after that.

  • We're going to fact checker school!

  • In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about MediaWise and fact-checking,

  • you can visit @mediawisetips on Instagram.

  • Thanks for swimming with me.

  • I'll see you next time.

  • For this series, Crash Course has teamed up with MediaWise, a project out of the Poynter

  • Institute that was created with support from Google.

  • The Poynter Institute is a non-profit journalism school.

  • The goal of MediaWise is to teach students how to assess the accuracy of information

  • they encounter online.

  • The MediaWise curriculum was developed by the Stanford History Education Group based

  • on civic online reasoning research that they began in 2015.

  • If you're interested in learning more about MediaWise and fact-checking, you can visit

  • @mediawisetips on Instagram.

  • ________________ [1] https://dejanseo.com.au/media/pdf/credibility-online.pdf

  • [2] https://sheg.stanford.edu/civic-online-reasoning/comparing-articles

Hello and welcome to Crash Course: Navigating Digital Information.

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Introduction to Crash Course Navigating Digital Information #1

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/30
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