The Importance of Information Literacy

The future of the Inter­net as a cred­ible source of inform­a­tion is under threat due to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of spam and inac­cur­ate inform­a­tion online, sug­gests Howard Rhein­gold, pro­pos­ing that the most effi­cient way to counter this wor­ry­ing trend is for “a great many people [to] learn the basics of online crap detec­tion and begin apply­ing their crit­ic­al fac­ulties en masse and very soon”.

To start, Rhein­gold offers what could be called a com­pre­hens­ive intro­duc­tion to online crap detec­tion (crit­ic­al think­ing). I was won over by the intro­duc­tion:

The answer to almost any ques­tion is avail­able with­in seconds, cour­tesy of the inven­tion that has altered how we dis­cov­er know­ledge – the search engine. Mater­i­al­iz­ing answers from the air turns out to be the easy part – the part a machine can do. The real dif­fi­culty kicks in when you click down into your search res­ults. At that point, it’s up to you to sort the accur­ate bits from the mis­info, dis­info, spam, scams, urb­an legends, and hoaxes. “Crap detec­tion,” as Hem­ing­way called it half a cen­tury ago, is more import­ant than ever before, now that the auto­ma­tion of crap­cast­ing has gen­er­ated its own word: “spam­ming.”

Sug­gest­ing that “Who is the author?” is the root ques­tion, the art­icle con­tin­ues with links to essays and tools to aid in edu­ca­tion and online research­ing before offer­ing this on how import­ant the issue is:

To me, the issue of inform­a­tion lit­er­acy could be even more import­ant than the health or edu­ca­tion of some indi­vidu­als. Fun­da­ment­al aspects of demo­cracy, eco­nom­ic pro­duc­tion, the dis­cov­ery and use of know­ledge might be at stake. Some of the biggest prob­lems facing the world today seem to be far bey­ond the abil­ity of any indi­vidu­al or com­munity, or even the whole human race, to tackle. But the noise death of the Inter­net is some­thing we can take on and win.

via @finiteattention, @bfchirpy