As Internet use spreads and more people have the opportunity to raise their personal voices, information quality becomes a greater issue. I have always been told that the Internet is a secondary resource for academic research. However, whenever I need information on anything, my first resource is Google and, the second, Wikipedia. Although I will not use the Internet as a resource for my academic work, I believe that utilizing these tools will lead me to other sources, including contact with diverse conversations and perspectives about the topic I’m researching. Ultimately, I end up finding valuable information that can be used as reference in my research such as books, articles, ideas, etc.
So what are the issues which arise from the quality of productions created and distributed via the Web? Born Digital states why information quality matters:
More generally, information quality matters, whether online or off, because we base our decisions on it. Recent history is full of examples where low-quality information has led to bad decision-making… in both the private and public sectors.
The first question I would ask is: Do we benefit from the variety of information available on the Internet?
I don’t believe that we should focus so heavily on the negative aspects of producing knowledge on the Internet that it might overshadow its positive effects. As we have more information being produced by more people, we will innevitably have a wider range of information and ultimately issues of quality will arise. However, we will have more information, more points of view, and more chances of questioning our own knowledge and expanding it.
In The Wealth of Networks, Benkler discusses the idea of “Being on the Shoulder of Giants,” which refers exactly to the opportunity (and necessity) of us creating new knowledge based on what has been already done by others in order to keep expanding outwards, especially in regards to information and innovation. In a Berkman Center luncheon, we learned about the mechanism of collaborative work in a Contest and how useful information gives structure to new useful information while what is not useful is discarded.
So I understand that having more people producing information will inevitably generate more questionable information, but I also believe that a wider range of opinions and perspectives is incredibly helpful. What stands out is the role of Digital Natives in this environment where information is widely spread, not always being quality information. As Digital Natives, we need to be skeptical about what is available on the Internet. What is necessary, is that we work on our critical apparatus, learning how to question all information in order to reach quality information.
This topic has been an ongoing discussion, especially among educators. DNs have access to much more information than what a professor can store, so critical thinking is an essential tool that these DNs need to be equiped with in order to manage the massive amounts of information that is available to them.