Intercultural Extraneity

Online sources - can we trust them?

This post applies Mike Caulfield’s strategies of web literacy to examine the reliability of web content, and is followed by reflections on web sources.

Kohler’s smart toilet brings voice assistant into bathroom.
Real or satire?

I started my research by entering key words, suck as “Kohler ‘’, “smart toilet” and “voice assistant” in my search tool, and in 0.43 seconds was showered with 715,000 results. The first source that appeared was Site Name, the website with the latest trends in voice technology. This seemed a reliable source, however, I wanted to continue my investigation, so I kept on looking and reached the actual Kohler’s website, which contains all the necessary information you need to know before purchasing this item. At this point, I was convinced that the news was not “satire”, although it sounded like one, because the actual voice assistant was on the market, and because there were plentiful videos with the recommendations and advertisements for it. Still, I wanted to “read laterally” as Mike Caulfield suggests in his book Web-Literacy for Student Fact Checkers, and found an article published by The Guardian, which also discussed this newest trend in voice technology.
Although this search was amusing and helpful to exercise checking fact validity, I must admit that the overload of information I encountered was overwhelming and frankly, scary.

Why do we trust some sources more than others?

I believe that we do so because of the reputation certain sources have. For instance, I know that The Guardian is a very reputable source, which checks reliability of information before they are published. In the same way, the bad reputation some sources have affects the way we perceive the information.
Another reason is that with the overwhelming amount of information online, we stick to those familiar sources that we trust more than others, and often do not wish to change our choice because of the pain we would have to go through if we wanted to check all the other sources as well. With new sources sprouting every day, it is hard to keep up and research the validity of each and every source.
Another reason that we take into account is the opinion of people we trust, as we follow their advice in order to escape the painful research for reliable sources.

Why do you think that newspapers have such a good reputation for truthfulness and care compared to the average online site?

I believe there’s a certain tradition when it comes to newspapers and their display of news. Before internet, the only source of new information were newspapers and they certainly held a reputable position among the audience. Since this was the main way to present the news, there were more inspections, they had greater accountability and therefore, the news had to be trustworthy. Additionally, the journalists who wrote for traditional newspapers were professionals, who had to have much experience before working for a newspaper company. Online newspapers are recent, and there’s abundant online sources now with journalists who do not even have to be experts in what they do or write about in order to be employed. This only decreases the reliability of online sites and explains the good reputation newspapers still hold.

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