Crap Detection 101

In the age we live in, our world has become a seemingly endless fountain of knowledge, bountiful with information that so conveniently is exactly what we are looking for. However, these are the times when it feels as though our want for more is always unsatisfied and that we continuously feed off of the information that is so accessible to our eyes in order to somehow or one day reach that optimum level of mental capacity. What is being found however is that we begin to over-prioritize the need for knowledge absorption that we forget to look for the credibility of what it is we are reading. This is what all of these people in these videos are saying is that as a part of the generation where knowledge is seemingly so available for the taking, we need to perfect the art of “crap detection” in order to sniff out the falsies.
Howard Rheingold speaks of how the internet is such an intriguing thing because it has two extremes on each end of the pendulum, one being that it has such a huge capacity for good and success while at the same time, at the opposite end it can be a dangerous place filled with many falsities. Specifically, he talks about how if we can get good at detecting the credibility of an online source, then we can begin to improve the pool for many. If people stop using information that isn’t credible, it’s possible that by setting this new standard, by raising social awareness of the “crap” that’s out there, we will be able to search better and find what we are looking for with more accuracy. I also really like his point about the distinction between skill and literacy. He says that its good to have the skill, but at the same time, if you don’t have all of the components necessary, to include the social and sharing ability, then you can’t necessarily be entitled literate. The problem is however is that many of the skill of crap detection, however they don’t ever reach the status of complete literacy because it is not simple the skill that makes the literacy.
I thought the one site that had an activity where you could test your crap detection abilities was interesting because what it gave me a great insight into just the type of “crap” there is out there and how believable researchers, marketers and honestly random people can make it sound. It’s interesting because some of the scientific experiments that were done or were said to have been done sounded like complete “crap” and it made me think that there was no way this experiment could have been real. However, what was important was the source itself that was listed below the experiment description. If that source seemed credible, then the experiment no matter how outlandish or unbelievable it was, was actually true. For example, the one where it compared a study of holographic displays on crowd control with studies of ancient Egyptian cat mummies, it seemed as though the later was completely plausible. However, if attention was then turned to the source, it was harder to believe the credibility of the Egyptian cat mummy study based off information from the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. This idea of a layer underneath of information and truth that at first glance can often be averted by the eye, really makes me think how fooled we can be to the grand headlines and exciting news, some things we often may simply want to see and therefore end up believing in them. It’s only when we can delve deeper into the pond that we find that the cover is not all that it seems to be, which unfortunately seems to be the case so very often these days.
On a similar sort of note, in the Frontline videos, Mark Baurlein talks of how our generation has advanced so far in the world of technology that we are now being viewed as digital natives. Our lives are consumed by the devices that we can hold in our hand, we can have in our rooms and we can use to find information and debatably make our lives better, easier and faster. As Baurlein mentions in the first video, kids these days are not being taught long division in schools anymore because with a calculator, it can be done twice as fast and often times without error. However, and I know he doesn’t touch on this but I’d like to, is it better to have a world where machines can do things for us to minimize human error? Is a world without human error okay? I think what Baurlein tries to say is that even though we have all of this technology to seemingly “make us smarter” is it really? It seems as though it’s just numbing our brain and letting it become lazy because it no longer has to do the work, but rather it can have a small little device do the thinking for it. What he also discusses is that even though this digital native generation may seem more inclined and more able to work with and learn from a form of technology whether it be laptop, mobile device or the internet itself, there is actually a huge problem when it comes to this age’s ability to use this technology effectively and to their advantage. Specifically, Mark talks about how there is a huge unbalance in the ratio of time that is spent on social networks and on technology devices and the time spent studying/reading for school. However, what he suggests is that if this age can use that time spent on social networks to absorb and be exposed to helpful and knowledge expanding information, then this huge involvement in technology can be used to their complete advantage.
In the last frontline video, a man named Gary Small of UCLA released a study the displayed two different brain maps of a brain while reading a book and a brain while searching online. It was so interesting to see that it was the brain that was searching online actually was the one with more activity in a wider variety of areas that a brain reading a book. It’s understandable that there is more activity in the brain while the searching is going on because there are so many things that are going on at the same time, so many decisions and judgments that you have to make, that your brain is all over the place absorbing every bit that it can. When reading a book however, you have one thing to focus on and that is the word on the page and you aren’t distracted by moving icons and switching screens at all.
After all of these CRAP detection activities that we have done in class, I feel as though I’m much more aware of how wrong I can be about something and how easy it actually is to find out the falsies from the truth. I simply have to be educated in what to look for and then I will be able to find credible, trustworthy sites that I can base my information off of.

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