Crap Detection

“Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.” – Ernest Hemingway, 1954

                In class, we discussed how being constantly shoveled information (true and false) calls for a more critical attitude towards the credibility of the sources of this information. Learning how to detect the correct information amid all of the “crap” it’s lost in is the only way to be sure of the truth anymore. Internet naivety can be your worst enemy.

A video called “Crap Detection 101” made by a University of California Berkeley professor, Howard Rheingold, explained the process in which one must follow in order to judge information and its sources critically to avoid being misguided by false information in media. I found it interesting how he said that it would be more beneficial if everyone just learned critical skills to differentiate legitimate pieces of information from illegitimate ones rather than “shoveling with a teaspoon” all of the bad information in our databases. The result of this would be that the value of the commons would actually increase, which is much more efficient. The solution is to educate everyone to make the false information on the internet seem even more obvious, which I believe is the most practical and best way to solve this problem.

To test my “crap detection” skills, I went on a website which had three different questions with both a real and fake scientific study. My task was to select the scientific study that I believed was legitimate. The idea seemed really easy at first, but when I actually started the test, it proved to be rather difficult. The choices for the studies were both somewhat outrageous and hard to believe, which was also made even more difficult when the sources credited underneath both looked legitimate as well. Fortunately I got 3/3 correct, so my crap detection skills thankfully might be a bit sharp, but I won’t deny that I did have to think about my answers to the questions a bit. It just goes to show that picking out false information may be even more difficult than I thought. It might have been simpler to me only because I’ve been accustomed to using the internet and have been ever since I was young. I can see how the older generation, or those not used to the technology of the internet get fooled by information that may appear to be true, but aren’t in reality. Crap detecting really is a skill that is developed, rather than an innate ability that works well the first time around.

I watched three videos on PBS.org about how technology has shaped the environment we live in, and as a result, our mentality. The first video interviewed a man that had mentioned how we’re losing basic knowledge as a result of our gadgets such as long division, reading skills, and spelling. Many young adults in college have to take remedial classes to review the information we once knew how to do without our technology, but had long forgotten. He says that the root of these disappearing abilities is the fact that nowadays, we have so many opportunities for divergence because of our easily accessible technology. Handheld videogames, cell phones, and computers have contributed in the decline of basic skills and made us more dependent on them rather than ourselves. I agree with this statement because I’ve seen how too much exposure to technology has influenced a person’s way of thinking and behavior. Most children that I’ve observed have become more impatient (want things to happen instantly), less productive (as a result of gadgets being a distraction generally), and have abandoned the useful skill of reading. It’s really scary to see preschoolers hypnotized by their iPads and not being able to avert their attention from it for a single second. It’s even more so when you evaluate 8th graders’ English projects and find that every single one of them had trouble remembering to capitalize the letter of every sentence and to put periods. Even I don’t remember my peers’ or my writing skills being that bad since third grade.

                During class, I took a quiz on web literacy to test how much I actually know about the internet. I was really shocked to find that, even though I use this tool every day, I barely know anything about the technicality behind it. I was stumped at simple questions such as “What is URL an acronym for?” and “Identify what the extension .sch and .ac represent.” Doing that quiz really was an eye opener for me on what certain terms meant and how to find the credibility of a website.  I learned that you could find the history of all of a website’s changes by going to “https://archive.org/.” Our class explored the history of the “Apple.com” website and was amused at how much it has developed over time in the last decade. The most changes to the website were from 2011-2013 (which was the release of new iPhones and iPads). It was interesting seeing how technology and graphics online were very different from the 1990s compared to now.  We’ve evolved quite a bit in what we find aesthetically pleasing as well as gotten better at our website making skills.

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