Reflection Blog: Report on assessing the credibility of information on the web or information behavior in the digital environment.
What are you taking away from lectures and readings? What will inform your practice as an information professional?
I work at a school and every quarter I listen to my boss teach a research class to middle school students. The technology room she teaches in is right behind my desk in the library. I can even see the power points for each lesson and hear the class discussions. The class spends a large amount of time discussing and analyzing credible sources. The students always come to the same conclusion that credible sources are based on:
Who is the author?
How recent is the source?
What is the author’s purpose?
What type of sources does your audience value?
A large component of the research class is helping the students figure out what is a credible information source online. Leah Graham and Panagiotis Takis Metaxas write “The lack of uniform standards and the ease of access have made the Internet a powerful but uncertain medium” (2003, p.71). Technology is now a part of our day to day and especially a means to information for many of us. Many of these students can pull out a phone or tablet and perform a random Internet search to answer every immediate thought they have. My boss works with her students to change some of their information behaviors. She teaches them about databases and how to tell if a website is reliable. Her focus is similar to Graham and Metaxas, that in today’s technological world individuals need to understand that the Internet is not always a reliable “primary source” (2003, p. 1). This is why my boss focuses on having the students learn about noted and consistent online sources. The students evaluate university and government ran sites while answering a succession of questions to turn in. The students also practice looking at sites made to specifically trick the reader in to believing they are a credible source, while offering false information. There is a vast amount of information available online and being able to have some understanding of what information is credible is important.
Another part to this middle school research class is having students find printed sources in books and journals that were not solely online. This was because online scholarly information is not always peer reviewed in the self-publishing online world we live in today. Maria Konnikova in “Being a Better Online Reader” discusses the challenges of students relying on only online sources for information. Konnikova writes in her article that teachers found, “That their students exhibited, missing crucial details because they failed to delve deeply enough into any one case” (2014). In Dr. Ziming Liu’s lecture “Perceptions of Credibility of Scholarly Information on the Web” he writes, “No one has to review the content” and there is a “Relative lack of professional gatekeepers that traditionally serve to validate scholarly publications” online (2015, p. 1). Any individual with access to the Internet can self publish or share information with out being reviewed. I believe it is necessary for every individual to take a research class to better understand the differences between true and false information. This middle school research class gives students a starting point and an introduction on how to sort through all the information available online.
The question that now comes to mind is how do online information communities understand if the information they access is coming from a trustworthy source? My online information community Twitch.tv is both information seeking and providing amongst the members of the site. Members of Twitch.tv are there to watch, play and chat about online video games. I think this relates to Liu’s lecture about “perceived credibility” (2015, p. 3). Liu writes, “Credibility does not exist within the information itself, but is rather a characteristic perceived by readers” (2015, p. 3). I talked to my sister who is my source for most of my Twitch.tv questions. I asked her how she knows which players to watch or how she knows where she can go to find answers for her questions. Her response was, “A lot of the ways you can tell if someone is knowledgeable about a game is if they have a lot of followers or have been on the site a long time… also people who earn the right to be in the role of Moderator usually have proven themselves as a responsible user” (personal communication, 2015). This is just one way of understanding how the information community Twitch.tv perceives what information on the site is reliable.
I started wanting to know if members of Twitch.tv go elsewhere to find answers related to games live streamed on the site. My sister said, “Some user’s also have their own YouTube channel or website with more information about the game they just live streamed on Twitch” (personal communication, 2015). Outside of the site I have found personal social media accounts, YouTube channels and personal websites from the members of Twitch.tv. Some users write and self publish outside the site on their own personal websites how-to guides for using Twitch.tv or guides to playing their favorite games. I am starting to understand Twitch.tv as more then just a centralized idea or stagnant online community. I am beginning to think of Twitch.tv as being similar to going to work and going home. In this case work is Twitch.tv the information community and home is “outside” Twitch.tv. Home could still be online, but is technically recognized as being outside of Twitch.tv. Home may be a member’s personal website or social media account that ties in to online video gaming. Everything is still online and attached to the online information community Twitch.tv. My new understanding of Twitch.tv expands my prior knowledge of the online community. It also expands my understanding how they seek and share information amongst one another. With members being able to access outside sites from Twitch.tv that are related to online gaming, it brings in to question the credibility of the information and the types of information behaviors users take to find answers online.
This new digital environment we have today is exciting and scary. I think Twitch.tv offers a realm of possibilities for online video gaming communities. It’s exciting because it is still fairly new and we are learning how to maneuver these types of online communities. It is scary for the very reason that it is still hard to sort through what is considered credible and reliable information. There is not a set standard to analyzing if information is reliable, but rather a perceived notion from the members of these online communities of what traits makes the information creditable.
Graham, L., & Metaxas, T. (2003) Of course it’s true; I saw it on the internet. Communications of the ACM. (46) 5. 70-75. Retrieved from
Konnikova, M. (2014, July 16). Being a better online reader. Retrieved from
Kruse, S. (2015). Telephone interview.
Liu, Z. (2015). Perceptions of credibility of scholarly information on the Web [PDF].
Twitch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2015, from