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Week 4: Peer Critique, Wrapping Up the Digital Literacy Narrative, and Crap Detection 101

We’re in the home stretch for Unit #1, so your digital literacy narratives should be nearly complete by now. Between now and next Monday, when we will critique one another’s narratives, you should complete the following tasks:

  • Go to the InnovationSpace in 1140 Torgerson Hall to record the final version of your narration. If you plan to combine music or sound effects with your narration, you can get help with this at the InnovationSpace. You should leave with an audio file that is ready to be added to your video.
  • Rehearse your PowerPoint presentation while listening to your final audio file in order to get the timings for each slide correct.
  • Add some type of title slide at the beginning and some type of “Credits” or “Works Cited” slide at the end.
  • When you are confident that your slides are timed correctly, export your PowerPoint file as a movie. (Instructions for Windows; instructions for Mac.)

(Those of you who are using a different software program for this project may follow different steps, but the outcome should be the same: an exported movie that will play on our lab computers.)

In order to accommodate our peer critique activity, we will swap our discussion and workshop days next week. Here’s how our class sessions will proceed:

  • Monday’s entire class will be devoted to a peer review workshop. In order to participate in this workshop, you must come to class with a finished, playable video containing your complete literacy narrative. If you arrive with a half-finished PowerPoint file and a rough audio track, I will ask you to leave and mark you as absent for the day. I don’t enjoy being a stickler, but in order for this peer critique session to go well, everyone needs to be on equal footing. Showing up unprepared is disrespectful to your peers who have put in the work to finish their projects. If you need help exporting your video, you can come to my office hours on Monday morning (8–11 a.m. in 427 Shanks Hall), but postponing your work on this project until a few hours before class starts is a very risky strategy. (P.S. — Don’t forget to bring your headphones to class!)
  • On Wednesday, your Unit #1 projects are due before you arrive in class. (This means I should receive a Dropbox notification email from each of you no later than 11:00 a.m.) To submit your project, please follow the instructions on the assignment sheet. In class, I will introduce the Unit #2 project, then we will discuss Howard Rheingold’s concept of “crap detection.” Before you come to class, please read Chapter 2 (pages 77–109) in Net Smart and explore the Hypothes.is website. (Be sure to watch the introductory video on the “What Is It?” page.) Sometime before Tuesday night, leave a comment on this post containing a passage from the Net Smart reading that you want to discuss in class.

As always, if you have any questions about our plans for next week, drop me a line via email or Twitter.

Posted in Weekly Updates
17 comments on “Week 4: Peer Critique, Wrapping Up the Digital Literacy Narrative, and Crap Detection 101
  1. Eli says:

    “As long as a site is toward the top of a search engine’s listings, many of this study’s subjects considered it credible.” -Net Smart, page 82

    Whenever I research something online, I type a topic in Google and one of the top results is usually a Wikipedia article on the topic, which I find to be very helpful. The other top results of the search engine’s listings are also usually very reliable in finding the information I need.

  2. Astleigh says:

    Is it possible that part of the reason we overlook the validity of a website is because our attention (as mentioned on page 77) is not controlled? And due to our short attention span, if we cannot find what we are looking for on the first page of Google then we give up or simply settle for the links we have found?

    • Molly says:

      Totally. I know if I’m looking for a quick answer and can’t find what I’m looking for in the first 5-10 minutes , sometimes even less, I go to the next site.

  3. Ethan says:

    “According to researchers Soo Young Rieh and Brian Hilligoss, interviews with twenty-four college students revealed that they would be willing to compromise certainty about credibility for speed and convenience.”
    -Net Smart, p.82

    • I wish I could say that I was surprised to hear that so many students admitted that they would be willing to compromise certainty about credibility for convenience. People call technology evil and like to point fingers, but I think we all need to take more responsibility. We have the choice. We can wait to read our text message until after class and we can use Wikipedia for the quick answer. It’s up to the individual to choose, not technology. Just because the resources are there does not mean we have to abuse them.

      It ties back to a later comment in Chapter 2 which says, “Knowing when not to text, when to bring your attention back on task, and when to take a break from all media is necessary, but not sufficient for successfully navigating the info flow. Not drowning is not the same as swimming,” (Net Smart, p. 98).

      I completely agree with the idea that not drowning is not the same as swimming. I may be taking this analogy too far, but we have the option to take swimming lessons, sink, float, specialize in a particular stroke or subject matter. We have the option, it’s up to us whether or not we want to take the initiative.

    • Jonathan Roberts says:

      I wasn’t surprised at all to hear this, and must say it’s pretty true for me, as long as I’m not doing a long research project or writing for a public audience (like the newspaper). If I really need to fact check a source that seems reasonably credible, then I certainly will, but day-to-day there aren’t really repercussions for getting one fact wrong for a short homework assignment or doing a little bit of light reading. I’m always crunched for time and running late, so if I find something that looks legitimate, I’m not going to look further.

      Sort of related to this is Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google, who spent some time growing up living in Blacksburg!) statistic that every two days humans produce as much information as we did from the beginning of time to 2003. (Net Smart, p. 99) If this is true (which I doubt but don’t care to check because it’s convenient to believe this book and Eric Schmidt) then obviously all that information won’t be credible, which ties into last classes discussion about whether or not simply publishing anything is worthwhile. I think that simply putting the information out there is stupid, and we should as individuals only put out information that we can deem to be truly credible. Kind of an ‘if I help a little, then the world (or the interwebz) gets a little bit better’ sort of thing.

  4. George says:

    NetSmart p.95

    “One of the fears cited by scholars such as Cass Sunstein, head of President Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is the tendency of individuals to pay attention to only those online sources that reinforce their own beliefs. This has been called the “echo chamber” effect, in which bloggers read and quote other bloggers they agree with…Getting outside the echo chamber and bubble requires the conscious cultivation of sources beyond your usual ones.”

    Have any of you noticed this? I know I have. We as consumers of information don’t read online sources of those who usually disagree with us. We tend to gravitate to those bloggers and journalists who reiterate our own beliefs. But if we already have those beliefs then why read them? The same goes for Twitter. We follow specific journalists, news organizations, celebrities, etc. that tend to have the same beliefs as us. We do it without knowing it because its such a conscious ideal.

  5. Brooks says:

    “This told me that Twitter can be an hour or more faster than existing news networks – if you know how to triangulate. Those who failed to triangulate in 2009 about previous reports that “American Airlines will fly medical help to Haiti if you text this number,” however, ended up repeating a hoax. The “Gay Girl in Damascus” whose blog was widely followed during the Syrian revolt of 2011 was exposed as a U.S. man (a classic case history of journalistic crap detection).” (pg. 80)

    I see a lot of this on Facebook and Twitter everyday, people sharing and retweeting stuff that is given a once over by the reader, accepted, then passed along to thousands of others who do the same. I recently remember trying to do some detective work on the whole Chik-fil-a war that erupted on social media. I went to several different sites and counter sites that claimed pros or cons about chick-fil-a…from some saying they the CEO merely said he supported traditional marriage to others accusing that they made donations to certified hate groups. I failed to “triangulate” and just gave up – choosing to stay out of the whole mess. I’m looking forward to using some of the tools this chapter offers to help me with crap detection in the future.

  6. Erin says:

    “What person doesn’t search online about their disease after they are diagnosed?” (p.91)

    Rheingold sites an article from Time magazine written my Dr. Zachary Meisel who describes how more and more patients are using the internet to diagnose their medical systems. To me this seems to be a very distressing trend. Sites like WebMD are rarely helpful in finding the cause of medical ailments. Even as technology advances I don’t think that there will every be a replace for human contact.

  7. Sarah says:

    “Take the Web site’s design into account, but don’t count on it. Professional design should not be seen as a certain indicator of accurate content, yet visibly amateurish design is sometimes a signal that the “Institute of Such-and-Such” might be a lone crackpot. Treat a site’s design not as validation of credibility but instead as one possible clue that could convince you to lower your evaluation of the site’s credibility.” (Net Smart, 79).

    I enjoy going through company websites all the time, and I have to admit i definitely judge the way a website is designed by my initial reaction. Although as English and Communications majors we all thrive on strong content, it is the design aspect things that strikes our minds first.

  8. Molly says:

    On the bottom of page 78 of Net Smart, Rheinegold suggests to his daughter to think skeptically when questioning what is real. He says to Google the authors name and see what others say about him or her.

    In an age where we need constant satisfaction, are we too busy to be skeptical of the author? I’ve never even considered putting an article’s author into a search engine. Usually, if the article is from a credible source and gives me the answer I’m looking for, I look no further.

    Rheinegold does bring up a good point which I know will most likely be more aware to the author and what other’s say about their writing before I use it as a resource.

  9. Augusta says:

    “A good question to ask yourself, particularly when a web site asks you to download something to your own computer, is, Might somebody be trying to put one over on me?”
    -Net Smart pg. 81

  10. Dylan Amick says:

    “Credentials and highly regarded brands reduce the burden of investigating the credibility of information online, but do not remove it; hoaxes as such distinguished institutions as Harvard and The New York Times signal that although they have proven reliable, even the most well-credentialed sources are not 100% authoritative.:
    -Net Smart pg 81&82

  11. Eric Avissar says:

    “One of the fears cited by scholars such as Cass Sunstein, head of President Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is the tendency of individuals to pay attention to only those online sources that reinforce their own beliefs. This has been called the “echo chamber” effet, in which bloggers read and quote other bloggers they agree with.”

    I deeply share this fear with Sunstein. It troubles me deeply when my own family members, both liberal and conservative, refuse to watch or read any media that does not fit in with their personal views. The fact that my dad only watches one news channel means he is really only getting one side of every story, and will never be fully informed as he should be because of his stubbornness. I think it is incredibly important that both bloggers and regular news consumers constantly remain skeptical of our news outlets in order to keep them honest. Perhaps more importantly, both need to also be willing to branch out in terms of which organizations they pay attention to, regardless of their own current views.

  12. Marcus says:

    I wonder if it is necessary to learn an entire set of “crap-detection” if search engines are figuring out a remedy for that already. Is their, for lack of a better word, A.I. search going to make it obsolete for us be aware of the sources?

  13. Liana says:

    As someone who is trying to become gainfully employed to practice ethical journalism (by which I mean no fabricated quotes, no bias visible in my writing, and facts verified personally by myself before I write them down), I related to his discussion of “citizen journalists” on p. 94-95. “Anybody can send a video or tweet from the scene of breaking news…all that is when journalism is being committed, whether or not the individuals engaged in the verification, contextualization and storytelling work for brand-name institutions.”

    That’s all fine and well that he is accepting non-legitimate or non-”brand name” journalists as being sources of information, because I do agree with him that people want to be their own journalist more and more these days. However, I think that people practicing crap detection on citizen journalists have also started viewing brand-name or gainfully employed journalists on the same level of credibility as those bloggers or tweeters. People will say, “why don’t you just blog?” And I’m like… because you have no idea if that blogger is making his crap up, and when you see my byline in a real newspaper you want to have the belief that I am an ethical reporter, my editor has read and questioned and challenged my story, and a copy editor has read and verified other information in my story as well, before it got to the newspaper or online.

    And I think you see “brand-name” journalists beginning to pull the industry back up to a hyper-fact-checked standard to avoid being lumped in with unverified bloggers. A great example is the obsession during this election season with verifying facts in political speeches — such as the Washington Posts’s “FACT CHECK” series.

    What I hope is that average internet users do learn to filter out the crap and educate themselves about bogus “news,” but I also hope that they realize that journalists whose work appear in newspapers or on legitimate news websites are more than just random people with computers and a blog — we attempt to crap detect our work before it’s published.

  14. Johva says:

    Hypothes.is seems rather lofty in my opinion–I don’t believe it’s going to work. The concept is well enough, but considering the fact that I didn’t know about it until now and the heavy reliance on experts, there just doesn’t seem to be an incentive for high-quality comment-editing. Backing will drop-off as people re-divert their energy and opinions to sites which are more trivial and that supports unadulterated commentary. We love to rage and give our unwelcoming-two-cents on the unintelligible and irrelevant.

    We are a nation behind a peanut gallery selling spicy, salt-loaded peanuts. Information is forever doomed to fail.

Where am I?
This is the class website for English 3984: Writing and Digital Media, taught by Quinn Warnick at Virginia Tech in fall 2012.
Worthwhile Reading
The links below are the most recent additions to my collection of bookmarks that are relevant to this course. You can find a complete list of ENGL 3984 bookmarks on Pinboard.

  • Buffy vs Edward Remix Unfairly Removed by Lionsgate
    A long, carefully documented saga about fair use. Great case study.
  • The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy
    Nice guide from Lifehacker: "First, we'll walk through the basic privacy settings that determine what you share, then look at a few lesser-known settings you'll want to tweak, and finish with a few third-party tools that will help keep your Facebook information private."
  • The enduring mystery of Roberto Clemente's bat
    Great writing by Kevin Guilfoile, but also a beautiful example of multimedia storytelling.
  • tapestry: a new way to write
    John Borthwick explains what tapestry is and collects some examples of great tap essays: "When we started developing tapestry it struck us that there weren’t many native reading experiences on the iPhone or iPad. Our goal is to build such a tool. A space to slow things down and let you create or experience, short, tappable stories in a simple, clean, distraction free reading environment."
  • All You Need Is (Facebook) Love: ‘Compliments’ Accounts Go Viral at Colleges and Universities
    Time magazine reports on an encouraging trend: college students setting up Facebook pages to collect compliments for/from their fellow students.
  • Demand a Plan
    Online effort to improve gun control, started in response to the Newtown school shooting.
  • Causes.com
    "Causes is a free online platform that provides easy-to-use tools for driving change. We help passionate people share ideas, find supporters, raise money, and make an impact."
  • What Ancient Greek Rhetoric Might Teach Us About New Civics
    Ethan Zuckerman: "If we want to prepare people to be effective citizens, we need to think about teaching this new civics as well as older forms of civic participation. Citizens need to do more than watch or read about the issues and then vote. They need to know how to report, to advocate, to coordinate, to propose and test solutions."
  • SPOT Survey - Fall 2012
    Students: If you haven't completed the SPOT evaluation for this course, please do so during class on Wednesday. I take this feedback very seriously, and I use it to revise my classes each semester, so please be specific about the aspects of the course (and my teaching) that you found successful and unsuccessful.
  • Popcorn Maker
    New web-based app from Mozilla: "Popcorn Maker makes it easy to enhance, remix and share web video. Use your web browser to combine video and audio with content from the rest of the web — from text, links and maps to pictures and live feeds."
  • The People's Bailout
    David Rees explains how the Rolling Jubilee works: "OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)"
  • Understanding Digital Civics
    Ethan Zuckerman: "I’m beginning to think that certain types of civic participation are simply organic to the internet. Once we have the ability to create and share our own information, we create and spread media to promote the causes we care about and raise money to support the causes we value."
  • Google Docs Stories Builder
    Fun little tool to create text-based stories in which various characters interact within a Google Doc. (Sound confusing? Yeah, you kind of have to see it in action.)
  • Twitter Is A Truth Machine
    John Herrman: "Twitter is a fact-processing machine on a grand scale, propagating then destroying rumors at a neck-snapping pace. To dwell on the obnoxiousness of the noise is to miss the result: That we end up with more facts, sooner, with less ambiguity."
  • The Fallacy of Digital Natives
    Amen to this: "Sure, there may be a larger percentage of Millennials that tap into technology first compared to their elders, but oversimplifying the division of generations to suggest one prefers an all-technology learning style whilst the others use it when necessary is preposterous. Learning and technology has nothing to do with generational divides."
  • Click and Drag
    An amazing, endless xkcd comic.
  • Nice piece in Transom explaining Cowbird
    Annie Correal: "Our goal is to build a public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as part of the commons."
  • Being Online Has Become So Common That Some People No Longer Identify It As Being Online
    Techdirt, quoting a study by Forrester Research: "Our analysis revealed that 'being online' is becoming a fluid concept. Consumers no longer consider some of the online activities they perform to be activities related to 'using the Internet.' In fact, given the various types of connected devices that US consumers own, many people are connected and logged on (automatically) at all times. The Internet has become such a normal part of their lives that consumers don’t register that they are using the Internet when they’re on Facebook, for example. It’s only when they are actively doing a specific task, like search, that they consider this to be time that they’re spending online."
  • Reddit's balance of power: community values are tested as a troll is unmasked
    Links to all of The Verge's coverage of the Violentacrez debacle.