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Friday, October 31, 2008

Internet = 'giant popularity contest'

The social Web is, in essence, a huge popularity context, Digital Natives blogger Sarah Zhang points out, with even Google search rankings based on how many people visit and link to the sites in your search results. We can't afford to assume "that what is popular is also most worthy" or we stand to miss a whole lot of quality material that hasn't yet hit the public radar. Sarah writes about how people and organizations try to game the system to appear to have widespread grassroots popularity ("astroturfing") - and also how Web users can often tell and be put off by said. But how can we and our children assess the quality of the information we're seeking? That's where media literacy comes in - why it's so important and why its top practitioners, librarians, are so important in the current and enduring information glut. But media literacy is not only about content we consume. It's also about intelligently handling communication and behavior via email, IM, phone texts, or one's profile) - what's going out as well as what's coming in. Constantly reworking the algorithms is great, but critical thinking is essential.

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