Introduction to Crash Course Navigating Digital Information #1


Hello and welcome to Crash Course: Navigating
Digital Information. My name is John Green, and you may know me
from my various channels on YouTube, all caps tweets about Liverpool Football Club, Q&As
about books on my website, or elsewhere on the internet. I spend a /lot/ of time online. In fact, in some ways, I live here. The average American spends 24 hours per week
online, but one in four U.S. adults say that they are online almost constantly. And I am among them. I love the Internet–it contains so much helpful
information; it connects us to each other; it allows more people to have a voice in public
conversations. But of course, the Internet is also littered
with misleading, sensationalized, and downright false information. So, OK. I only know two jokes. I’ll tell the other one at the end of the
series, but here’s the first one, which was made famous by the American writer David
Foster Wallace: Two young fish are swimming along one day
when an older fish swims past and says, “‘Morning, kids. How’s the water?’ The young fish just look at each other for
a second and then swim on for a while, and then one says to the other, ‘What the heck
is water?’” Now I am not the wise old fish of this enterprise. I am as susceptible to misleading information
as anyone. I tend to focus on information that reinforces
my pre-existing worldview, and to passively ingest all kinds of media while scrolling
and swiping endlessly through my feeds. But I also think we ought to be suspicious
of anyone who claims to be the wise old fish with some special understanding of what we’re
swimming in. Believing that you’re immune to the seductions
of false and misleading information is, if anything, a symptom of being influenced by
false and misleading information. I tell this joke for two reasons: First, because
I need you to call me out if I start acting like the wise old fish, and second, to point
out that much of what we’re swimming in is new and strange–and we’re still figuring
it out together. So, for this series, Crash Course has teamed
up with MediaWise, a project out of the Poynter Institute that was created with support from
Google. The Poynter Institute is a non-profit journalism
school. The goal of MediaWise is to teach students
how to assess the accuracy of information they encounter online. The MediaWise curriculum was developed by
the Stanford History Education Group based on civic online reasoning research that they
began in 2015. Other MediaWise project partners include the
Local Media Association and the National Association for Media Literacy Education. I’m saying all that, and I’ll say it again,
because I think it’s important to understand where this information about information came
from. Over the next ten episodes, we’re going
to dive deeply into the feed and share some tools that are proven to work when it comes
to evaluating the quality and accuracy of information. We may not figure out exactly what water is,
but we’re going to try to learn to improve our swimming. Stan, have we rolled the intro yet? We’re MULTIPLE minutes into the video. Roll the intro! INTRO
When you want to see what your friends are up to, you might head to Snapchat, WhatsApp,
Instagram or maybe /Fin/stagram. I don’t get that joke but young people in
the office said that it is funny. And then when you want the news, you may wait
to be startled by a push alert from a news app, or you might go to twitter, or snapchat,
or reddit. And when you need to settle a feud over how
to pronounce g-i-f, or possibly gee-i-f, you just use a search engine. These habits all feel quite natural to me,
but in fact they are part of a huge shift in how humans find, and produce, and share
information. Just a short time ago, the production of information
was controlled by a much smaller group of people. Instead of Googling movie times, you had to
buy a newspaper or call the movie theater and risk talking to an actual human being. To write a research paper, you had to hunker
down in the library, not for the outlets and the free Wifi but for the access to Encyclopedias
and books. Now I should note that there’s a lot of
information that’s not available online, and that is available at your library. Libraries continue to be incredibly valuable
resources. But these days, anyone can hop online and
produce information via their personal website, social media, or YouTube channel. Well, actually, no. Access to digital devices and high-speed Internet
is still a real barrier to entry for many people, which means unequal access to information. It also means that while it can feel like
everyone is participating in facebook or instagram, in fact billions of people are not part of
those conversations. Still, the barrier for creating and retrieving
information is much lower than it was a generation ago. Like, when I was a kid, if you wanted to share
an opinion with the public, you wrote a letter to the newspaper and hoped they would publish
it. There was no other way for a stranger to hear
your story or your perspective. Furthermore, as you already know from the
three DMs you’ve answered since you started this video, the internet changed how we communicate. We can talk across time and space. We can connect across geographical and political
boundaries, we can create organizations and communities, find people with similar interests,
or we can lift people up when they feel alone. But, when information flows this freely, dangers
are inevitable. Misinformation — unintentionally incorrect
information — and disinformation — information that’s wrong on purpose — spread quickly
online. As do hate speech and propaganda. Plus, we can easily create online worlds where
we only see information we already agree with, or that lines up with our point of view. For instance, if I only followed people on
Twitter who were Team Blake, I would have been pretty blindsided when Garrett won The
Bachelorette. The same could be said for, say, actual elections. And because we use information for all kinds
of decisions, misinformation and disinformation are powerful. This is true for small everyday decisions–restaurant
reviews affect where we eat–and for much larger issues, like choosing a college to
attend or a place to work.. The quality of our information directly shapes
the quality of our decisions. And the quality of our decisions, of course,
shapes the quality of our shared experience as humans
So, when we talk about [air quotes] “bad” or questionable information, that includes
fake news. The kind of news reporting that is /totally/
false. Which is a huge problem, especially on social
media and during breaking news events. And it’s a problem across all political
ideologies and perspectives. But we’re not just talking about fake news. We’re also talking about information that
isn’t credible because the author of that content isn’t an authority on the topic. Take a blog of serious-sounding fitness tips
from someone who loves gym selfies but isn’t qualified to give professional health advice. We’re also talking about information that
comes from writers or organizations that have something to lose from the whole truth. Like a company that sells toasters creating
BestToasters.com to publish lists of the “best” toasters, with their brand at the top of every
list. Or friends who conveniently find videos that
supposedly [air quotes] “prove” gif is pronounced gif when you know that gif is pronounced
gif. But the thing is, quality of information lies
on a spectrum. It’s not a duality, good information and
bad information. It is our job to evaluate the information
that we receive, find out where it falls on that spectrum, and decide how to use it going
forward. But as a species, we are not particularly
good at judging the quality of information on the internet. In fact, we’ve always been bad at it. In 2002, a study with over 2,000 participants[1]
reported that a website’s /design/ was the most frequently mentioned factor in judging
a website’s credibility. When asked to choose which of two sites was
more credible, 46% of participants used the look of the website in their evaluations. Adults and young people alike still typically
evaluate information based on factors unrelated to its content: how it looks, whether they’ve
used it before or who referred them to it. In 2016, our friends at the Stanford History
Education Group released a study of over 7,000 middle school, high school, and college students. When asked to evaluate online information,
they based their evaluations on a site’s look and feel. They focused on things that a website creator
could easily change, like the URL or the About page. Spoiler alert: that technique doesn’t work
well. One of the things that participants had to
do was judge minimumwage.com, a site about — you guessed it — the minimum wage. It claimed to bust myths behind the minimum
wage, listing ways that raising it would hurt the economy. Many students never discovered that that site
was by a public relations firm working for a group that wants to keep minimum wages low. The firm represents industries that stand
to benefit from paying employees less. In other words, the creator of this website
has something to lose by telling both sides of the minimum wage debate. So we can’t fully trust them to do so. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. During the study, some students also felt
the presence of certain types of content on a website meant that it was more reliable. Like, when students found something they thought
was evidence on a page — a statistic or an anecdote, perhaps —
they assumed that meant the entire page was more reliable. And they often didn’t check the sources,
because, you know, it’s the Internet. People never check sources. For example, participants also looked at an
article that was actually an advertisement for Shell Oil[2]. 70% of high school students rated it as more
reliable than a traditional news story. Why? Because of this pie chart at the top. Statistics and infographics are often easy
and effective ways to communicate facts and evidence. But that doesn’t mean all charts are trustworthy. Like, here’s another chart. It says that, 96% of the time, the sky is
green. The /existence/ of this chart is no more proof
of its validity than, say, a spooky noise is proof that your house is haunted. But back to the Stanford History Education
Group study. Over 80% of middle school students didn’t
correctly identify that this was an ad, either, even though it was labeled “Sponsored Content.” Sponsored content means a company paid the
publication for a space on its site, hoping to advertise with a post that /looks/ like
a news article. And as you may know, sponsored content shapes
a lot of discourse on YouTube. And it’s effective advertising, because
many of us can’t help but believe that what looks like a news article must in fact be
one. Thanks, Thought Bubble. You might argue that the students in that
study are still learning. They’ll probably be better at it when they
get older. Well, the Stanford History Education Group
also tested historians with PhDs, first year college students from a pretty fancy university,
and professional fact checkers from major news organizations. Fact checkers are the people who go through
each bit of copy in a news story to make sure that all the facts are accurate. There are far too few of them in this world. But anyway, how effectively would you guess
these three groups evaluated information quality? Although both the professors and the students
have achieved academic success and are smart, thoughtful people, they also didn’t do well
with the experiment. When evaluating online sources, they also
focused on superficial things like the sites’ layout, how much content the site had, and
whether it linked to other sites. They focused largely on appearance and the
/presence/ of things like evidence and links, not their content or their value. And those strategies might have worked in
the early days of the internet, but things are much more complicated, and there are many
misleading or false stories cite sources that either don’t say what they’re purported
to say, or are themselves also false. It’s misinformation all the way down. So, who /did/ sort out the misinformation
from the good info? The fact-checkers! I mean, that is literally their jobs, but
it’s nice to know they were good at it. The fact-checkers did well because they employed
a variety of carefully honed skills to decipher fact from fiction. And we are going to learn those skills together
from the fact-checkers in the next episode. Also the one after that, and the one after
that and the one after that. We’re going to fact checker school! In the meantime, if you’re interested in
learning more about MediaWise and fact-checking, you can visit @mediawisetips on Instagram. Thanks for swimming with me. I’ll see you next time. For this series, Crash Course has teamed up
with MediaWise, a project out of the Poynter Institute that was created with support from
Google. The Poynter Institute is a non-profit journalism
school. The goal of MediaWise is to teach students
how to assess the accuracy of information they encounter online. The MediaWise curriculum was developed by
the Stanford History Education Group based on civic online reasoning research that they
began in 2015. If you’re interested in learning more about
MediaWise and fact-checking, you can visit @mediawisetips on Instagram. ________________
[1] https://dejanseo.com.au/media/pdf/credibility-online.pdf [2] https://sheg.stanford.edu/civic-online-reasoning/comparing-articles

100 thoughts on “Introduction to Crash Course Navigating Digital Information #1”

  1. If I evaluate a page based on its content, but I do not know anything about the content or I am biased about the content, I will possibly also evaluate the site wrongly.

  2. 0:55 Oh my god John how many times have you told us this same joke

    But also this was a great video and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

  3. Hey there needs to be volume level adjustments on the sound of the outro music if John is going to speak over it I could hardly hear him over the music through my headphones. Thanks for the series looking forward to it.

  4. Um, guys, where are the sources for this video? I mean, if any video needs source listing, then it's this one… thanks! dftba

  5. At 4:07, I appreciate the shout-out to librarians, but he really could have given the profession more credit than that. It's called library and information science for a reason, and we work to develop information literacy skills in school and public libraries and much more through databases, other online resources, print sources, etc.

  6. As a librarian, I would like to say we are information professionals. Not just book professionals. We, too, can assist you in navigating online information. Modern libraries provide digital databases and ebooks and friendly staff who know how to navigate the Internet. I hope this series consults some librarians.

  7. So, does Google support Media Wise so they can train people to look for bad info themselves, and thus not have to watch what their search engine returns to searchers? lol

  8. Love this series already! It feels like a special place created just for battle-weary school librarians like me, sick of hearing teachers say 'Go to Wikipedia'… This is my (digital) happy place!

  9. What about "How much influence does this information have?" as a key topic? … In looking at the 10 topics in the series, I don't see anything suggesting a discussion about prioritized fact checking. i.e. Information that impacts decisions with large consequences or is stated as a fact should be evaluated much more rigorously than inconsequential opinions. … Overall I'm very happy to see this series become available. Thank you

  10. Great job, and maybe the perfect online crash course. I wonder if "using search engines properly" may be a good subject for a follow-up (maybe episode #11?)

  11. I need the theme music at the end to calm down, I couldn't understand anything john said.

    so excited about this series! so happy i read my nerdfighter newsletter! teach me, a college student who is evidently bound to fall prey to misinformation, how to be better!

  12. I am about to ruin this joke before I state it. I am a vegan…. I want to marry John's brain lmao your wife can have the veggetable, I just want the meat. LMAO I am such a nerd sometimes I love it. Carry on.

  13. When you say 'we' who are you talking about? Caucasians in the US aged 20? I don't approach the internet with the level of naivety you say 'we' do. I'm generation X bro. I don't trust anything. Don't use social media don't watch the news just read books and watch you tube. Critical thinking is oxygen is the information age.

  14. Hmm, this video was predicated on a single study – I best learn the source of that if I want to be sure where the information for this video came from.
    Am I learning Mr. Green? 😀

  15. "I only know two jokes". I was going to point out that I know for a fact that's not true, but maybe John means he only knows two GOOD jokes.

  16. You know what would be funny, if in the last episode Jon reveals that "MediaWise" doesn't exist and it was a lesson the whole time!

  17. I would first like to state that I really don’t care how one pronounces GIF. Language, writing, accents, and the sounds that come out of our mouths are weird and often illogical. They constantly break the patterns and precedents they set.

    However, at 3:25–3:30 it seems that an attempt to claim that the pronunciation should be with the common J sound due to how you say the letter G is made. This then would mean that the pronunciation should follow how the names of the letters are and not the sounds they might represent, thus with the argument made it would be ‘jee’-‘eye’-‘ef’ and not the sound from the i in a word like “into”. Thus this reasoning for the overall pronunciation is unsound.

    Although, this is the English language. Far stranger pattern breaks and letter sounds exist, that go without debate, than the GIF quarrel.

  18. This video is brought to you by mediawise and Stanford Education Group. Sponsored content? Is it believable? And why should I check mediawise instagram page, for heavens sake?

  19. The fascinating thing about human psychology is that I'm not going to go to Media Wise and check to see whether the content is reliable.

  20. I appreciate the effort to help students decipher what they see online. Unfortunately, I think we run into a problem whenever doing something like this. We want to point kids to "safe" and "trustworthy" places to go on the internet, but like John mentioned, we fall victim to our own biases regarding what sites are reliable. In the video, John notes that fact-checkers were the best at deciphering how reliable online sources are, but which fact-checkers were they? I've seen some ideologically biased fact-checking out there from both sides of the political spectrum. I hope he and Stan are taking care to walk the fine line of giving helpful information while checking their own biases. Kids deserve our best efforts, even if we have to take a deep breath and allow for the fact that the other side of the political spectrum has facts that are inconvenient to our own world view. Again, thank you for the effort and I look forward to seeing what you all come up with.

  21. I'm a big fan of Complexly and think this is essential content, but why does a video that stresses the importance of checking sources not include citation links in the description? Am I missing something?

    EDIT: I see that they're in the captions at the very end of the video, as was pointed out by another commenter. Still, that's pretty hidden away. Is there a reason for them not being in the description?

  22. This series should do an episode on Deep Fakes, and other dangers of the internet that you don't expect, but are extremely realistic.

  23. I'm still watching this video, but before I forget, shouldn't you have added a link to those Stanford studies in fact-checking by the Historians, first-year college students and fact checkers?

  24. Jiff is a peanut butter. It's Gif as in GIFT with out the T. How the hell do so may people get it SO WRONG?

  25. This is literally philosophy.
    Information literacy is not a biological human thing, it's a living thing… thing. Artificial intelligence programs such as Google makes perform fact-checking algorithms, therefore any life form with opinions would face these concerns. And style is intuitive experience analysis of sources, don't hate. I'm sure I missed the joke.

  26. Wonderful as I teach SPeech and Debate to 7th and 8th graders. Thanks. As I tell students who tell me how great I am, "I would never argue with such legitimate facts as your well thought out opinion."

  27. Did the sound editor just get tired of hearing you talk at the end and decide to blast the theme song over your voice?

  28. So if I came across a website made by some workers on the benefits of raising the minimum wage, I shouldn't trust it because they have something to gain?

  29. Love me some scishow and crash course but the intro isnt as important as that good info youre giving.

  30. This series is SO important!!!!
    I would gladly add the subs for spanish speakers (my mother tongue), i already did the ones for the first video, i dont know how they get approved, but if they do, i wanna do them for all.the series.

  31. If you get in the habit of looking at the source, not just seeing that they give one, it's terrifying how frequently they're misused, misconstrued, poor sources themselves, or not even real links. I know in the field I study where it is much easier for me to spot a bad source, I also see links (often on wiki which is generally reliable tbf) that point to a popular science article write up that could be totally wrong when the paper on the actual research is totally available.

  32. Great idea for a crash course! Please people, share this with your parents and other nearby baby boomers <3

  33. I take an issue with the part where you assert that "not everyone is participating in the internet and billions of people do not have access". As far as I am concerned and aware, you only exist if you are on the internet. There is no possible existence except for on the internet. People only come into existence from my perspective once I see them on the internet. However, if I am disconnected from the internet, the only "real" people are the ones I can see or interact with in my general vicinity.

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