Criteria of Credibility Workbook
Expertise Case Study
Who Are The Experts? The Web 2.0 Debate
Web 2.0 is a concept that takes the network as a platform for information sharing, interoperability, user-centred design, and collaboration on the Internet or World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumers) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumers) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them. Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups and folksonomies.
The term is closely associated with Tim O'Reilly because of the O'Reilly MediaWeb 2.0 conference which was held in late 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specification, but rather to cumulative changes in the ways software developers and end-users use the Web. Whether Web 2.0 is substantively different from prior web technologies has been challenged by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, who describes the term as jargon. His vision of the Web is "a collaborative medium, a place where we [can] all meet and read and write".
In terms of Web 2.0's social impact, critics such as Andrew Keen argue that Web 2.0 has created a cult of digital narcissism and amateurism, which undermines the notion of expertise by allowing anybody, anywhere to share and place undue value upon their own opinions about any subject and post any kind of content, regardless of their particular talents, knowledge, credentials, biases or possible hidden agendas. Keen's 2007 book, Cult of the Amateur, argues that the core assumption of Web 2.0, that all opinions and user-generated content are equally valuable and relevant, is misguided. Additionally, Sunday Times reviewer John Flintoff has characterized Web 2.0 as "creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity: uninformed political commentary, unseemly home videos, embarrassingly amateurish music, unreadable poems, essays and novels... [and that Wikipedia is full of] mistakes, half truths and misunderstandings". Michael Gorman, former president of the American Library Association has been vocal about his opposition to Web 2.0 due to the lack of expertise that it outwardly claims, though he believes that there is hope for the future.
"The task before us is to extend into the digital world the virtues of authenticity, expertise, and scholarly apparatus that have evolved over the 500 years of print, virtues often absent in the manuscript age that preceded print".
There is also a growing body of critique of Web 2.0 from the perspective of political economy. Since, as Tim O'Reilly and John Batelle put it, Web 2.0 is based on the "customers... building your business for you," critics have argued that sites such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are exploiting the "free labour" of user-created content. Web 2.0 sites use Terms of Service agreements to claim perpetual licenses to user-generated content, and they use that content to create profiles of users to sell to marketers. This is part of increased surveillance of user activity happening within Web 2.0 sites. Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard's Berkman Center for the Internet and Society argue that such data can be used by governments who want to monitor dissident citizens.
Are comments posted on blogs as valid as those of recognised scholars?
The final ‘RAVEN’ criterion is neutrality or bias, i.e. whether someone is predisposed to support a particular point of view for reasons other than vested interest. Someone who knows other people involved in a dispute, for example, may be liable to side with them or against them depending on their relationship, weakening their credibility.
Neutral witnesses are witnesses who are likely to be objective, to reach a conclusion based on the evidence without being swayed by personal prejudice. The opposite of neutrality is bias. Someone is biased if they are pre-disposed to reach a certain conclusion.
The simplest way in which bias tends to arise is when people have good or bad relationships with other people involved. Witnesses may distort the truth in order to stand up for friends, relatives or colleagues, assuming that they get on with them. Witnesses might also lie in order to get enemies into trouble.
The best witness will therefore be a neutral witness, one without prejudice, unconnected to the other people involved in a dispute.
Students often confuse vested interest and neutrality. Vested interest refers to whether the witness personally has something at stake, whether they stand to gain or lose anything depending on how an event is interpreted. Witnesses may have no vested interest in an incident whatsoever, nothing personally at stake, but still suffer from bias, e.g. if they know others who are involved.
Objectivism and Subjectivism
Subjectivism is the idea that our knowledge is shaped by our perception, and in many cases limited to it, whereas objectivism is the idea that the things we perceive are independent of our perception of them. Thus in the case of subjectivism the key issue is whether there is anything behind (or outside) our perceptions whereas objectivism presents the problem of how we can know we are reliably perceiving anything which lies outside the scope of our perception. One might regard such a debate as futile. One may say, 'I know the world exists and I know people exist in it. Why should that be in any doubt?' Well consider the following picture:
To me this is a red dot. To you this may be a red dot as well. But how do we know this is a red dot? There are people in the world who may not see this as a red dot. Such people may be regarded as colour-blind because they claim to see it differently to me or you. They may also argue with us as to whose interpretation of the colour is right. How will we be able to tell who is right? We cannot ask other people as they may be possibly seeing things differently as well. It appears the only way we can have certain knowledge is to step outside our perceptions in order to test the 'hypothesis' that this is a red dot. Yet this is clearly not possible. As René Descartes (1596-1650) considered, we might be literally stuck inside our 'thoughts' (or our 'mind')!
In short, can we ever make rational objective decisions or are we constantly tied to our prior knowledge and experience and therefore forever biased?
Working in pairs:
6. Observation and Eyewitness Accounts
Testing the Validity of Observation Based Accounts
1. Observation- Eyewitness accounts are direct evidence. Evidence from those that saw an event firsthand. Observations are affected by:
2. How did the author report and what was her/his ability to do so?
Eyewitness Case Study
The Assassination of John F Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he travelled in an open-top car in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas on Friday at 12:30 pm, CST (1:30 pm EST) November 22, 1963; Texas Governor John Connally was also injured. Within two hours, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder of Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit and arraigned that evening. At 1:35 am Saturday, Oswald was arraigned for murdering the President. At 11:21 am, Sunday, November 24, 1963, nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald as he was being transferred to the county jail.
Testimony of eyewitnesses
According to some assassination researchers, the grassy knoll was identified by the majority of witnesses as the area from where shots were fired. In March 1965, Harold Feldman wrote that there were 121 witnesses to the assassination with 51 indicating that the shots that killed Kennedy came from the area of the grassy knoll. In 1967, Josiah Thompson examined the statements of 64 witnesses and found that 33 of them thought that the shots emanated from the grassy knoll.
In 1966, Esquire magazine credited Feldman with ""advanc[ing] the theory that there were two assassins: one on the grassy knoll and one in the Book Depository." Jim Marrs also wrote that the weight of evidence suggested shots came from both the grassy knoll and the Texas School Book Depository.
Lee Bowers operated a railroad tower that overlooked the parking lot on the north side of the grassy knoll. He reported that he saw two men behind the picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll before the shooting. The men did not appear to be acting together and did not appear to be doing anything suspicious. After the shooting, Bowers said that one of the men remained behind the fence. Bowers said that he lost track of the second man whose clothing blended into the foliage. When interviewed by Mark Lane, Bowers noted that he saw something that attracted his attention, either a flash of light, or maybe smoke, from the knoll, leading him to believe "something out of the ordinary" had occurred there. Bowers told Lane he heard three shots, the last two in quick succession. Bowers opined that they could not have come from the same rifle.
William and Gayle Newman were standing at the curb on the north side of Elm St. with their two children. Mr. Newman said that a shot was fired from behind him (from the knoll) and that it was the shot that hit Kennedy in the head.
Jesse Price was the building engineer for the Terminal Annex Building, located across from the Texas School Book Depository on the opposite side of Dealey Plaza. On November 22, 1963, Price viewed the presidential motorcade from the Terminal Annex Building's roof. In an interview with Mark Lane, Price said that he believed the shots came from "just behind the picket fence where it joins the underpass”. "He claimed to have seen a "...man run towards the passenger cars on the railroad siding after the volley of shots."
Numerous witnesses reported hearing gunfire coming from the Dal-Tex Building, which is located across the street from the Texas School Book Depository and in alignment with Elm Street in Dealey Plaza.
Eyewitness Task: How credible are eyewitness accounts in the above article?
7. Corroborative Evidence
Corroborative evidence can be broadly defined as any evidence that further supports some evidence that already exists in a case. The evidence that is already there can be called the primary evidence, and the evidence that supports it can be called the secondary evidence. What is meant when it is said that the secondary evidence supports the primary evidence is that the secondary evidence increases the probative weight of the primary evidence. Let’s take an example where a witness testified that she saw the defendant drive his car into a red car. Subsequent to that a second witness testified that he saw red paint on the fender of the defendant’s car on the day after the accident. In this case both kinds of evidence are based on testimony. The primary evidence is the testimony of the first witness that she saw the defendant drive his car into the red car. The secondary, or corroborating evidence, is the testimony of the second witness that he saw red paint on the fender of the defendant's car.
In other cases, corroborating evidence can combine different types of evidence. For example, a witness might testify that she saw the defendant at the crime scene on the day the crime was committed. This would be the primary evidence. The secondary evidence might be DNA evidence taken from blood samples found at the crime scene matching the defendant’s DNA. In this case, the secondary evidence is not testimonial evidence, but it might appear in a trial in that form, as expert scientific testimony would be required to prove that the DNA found at the crime scene matched that of the defendant.
Corroboration may also be taken to refer to the requirement in countries like Scotland where the testimony of a single witness is required to be supported by some additional evidence before it is admissible. In Scottish law corroboration requires that two or more sources are needed in order for witness testimony to count as evidence.
Continue to cross-check all sources of information, claims made etc. by providing corroborating evidence.
8. Images as Evidence
You will often see images offered as concrete proof that a claim is true. However, despite the cliché, the camera can lie. To evaluate the support that an image lends to a claim, there are three criteria that you need to bear in mind: relevance, significance, and selectivity.
The first criterion is relevance. For an image to support a claim, it must depict all of the key ideas contained in the claim. If it doesn’t relate to any part of a claim, then it can’t prove the claim. Obviously, relevance is a matter of degree, but the more relevant an image is to a claim, the better the evidence that it provides.
The second criterion is significance. This concerns how much interpretation of the image is necessary; does the image speak for itself, or must we make assumptions about it in order for it to support the claim?
The third criterion is selectivity, which is to do with how representative the image is. If a general claim is supported by an image of a specific example, then we have to ask whether the example in the image is typical. It may be that it has been carefully selected to support a point, when actually most examples would go against it.
Images as Evidence Case Study
This image was selected as picture of the day on Wikimedia Commons for 15 April 2009. It was captioned as follows:
Apollo 15 Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin salutes the U.S. flag. Astronaut James B. Irwin, lunar module pilot, gives a military salute while standing beside the deployed U.S. flag during the Apollo 15 lunar surface extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Hadley-Apennine landing site. The flag was deployed toward the end of EVA-2. The Lunar Module "Falcon" is partially visible on the right. Hadley Delta in the background rises approximately 4,000 meters (about 13,124 feet) above the plain. The base of the mountain is approximately 5 kilometers (about 3 statute miles) away. This photograph was taken by Astronaut David R. Scott, Apollo 15 commander.
A researcher is trying to find out what people think about a new government policy to reduce the amount of tax couples with children need to pay. He decides to ask the same set of questions to randomly selected members of the public in a shopping mall over a seven day period.
What are the potential problems with this method of data collection?
How might he improve his research?
Examples of problems of representativeness can be found on: http://www.aapor.org/Bad_Samples1.htm
Types of statistical misuse can be found on:
This is the setting or situation in which evidence is produced. This includes things like ability to see and observing what happened, motives in misrepresenting the truth and the difficulties of judging what is true. We need to be aware of the context in order to see how it may have shaped the evidence. The context includes where the event happened, how many people were there, what year the evidence was written in, the political and economical views. Journalistic reports often depend on the context they get their information from and who or what they are biased towards. If evidence comes from questions and answers, these answers are given in a certain social context, i.e. a relationship with the interviewer. Social desirability can mean people want to present themselves in the best possible light so will emphasis their positive features and down play their negative ones. Interviewer effects can mean that people may respond to questions in terms of the way they are presented with it. The linguistic content can influence the answers people give by asking leading questions…
Context Case Study:
The Leveson Inquiry
The Leveson Inquiry is an ongoing public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal. On 6 July 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron announced to Parliament that an inquiry would be established under the Inquiries Act 2005 to further investigate the affair. On 13 July, Cameron appointed Lord Justice Leveson as Chairman of the inquiry, with a remit to look into the specific claims about phone hacking at the News of the World, the initial police inquiry and allegations of illicit payments to police by the press, and a second inquiry to review the general culture and ethics of the British media.
The inquiry throws up many questionable contextually based issues. Study the website and its reports. Can you point out where people have lied to the inquiry committee and if so, what do you suggest their motives were?
11. Sources and Types of Evidence
Classification of evidence
Primary and Secondary sources: The distinction between primary and secondary sources varies in different areas. For historians, primary material consists of evidence from the period they are studying and secondary material is writings by historians which may include selected analyzed and interpreted evidence. In sociology, primary evidence is new material produced as part of their research and all other evidence not gained personally is secondary.
First hand and second hand evidence: First hand evidence is the same as an eyewitness account, meaning an event has been directly observed. Second hand evidence is hearsay or a report from some one who has the heard of the event from some one else. First hand evidence is usually seen as more credible as often when information is passed on details may be missed out or altered.
Direct and Circumstantial evidence: These are legal terms used in courts of law. Direct evidence refers to eyewitness testimony and circumstantial evidence is non direct evidence which has been inferred or suggested.
It is often hard to assess whether historical evidence is genuine. It is often worth a lot of money so people tend to fake it. History has been rewritten through doctoring of evidence such as forging documents and tampering with photos.
Time and evidence: Generally, the further back we go in time, the less evidence there is available and most of it is written from the viewpoint of the powerful so it is not representative of the whole population. Historians have to therefore construct the history of many people from no direct evidence therefore there credibility should be questioned.
Social scientists often use statistical data which can lead to problems as the data may not have been gathered in a fair way so may be unreliable. It is uncertain whether statistics measure what they claim to measure. Participant observation is one way of collecting information, however this can cause problems as people act differently when they are being watched. Interviews can also be shaped by investigator effects or social desirability and the samples are often not representative. Questionnaire results can also be difficult to trust as credible as the sample may not be representative, the questions may be ambiguous and unreflective of real life and may not measure what they are designed to measure. Experiments often cause problems as they are seen as artificial.
Assessing the credibility on internet sources is crucial as any one can set up a website airing their views, containing false information or being a reliable source. Reputation and neutrality will aid to credibility of websites. If a company is known for producing balanced reports it is likely they won’t report a hoax as they don’t want their reputation ruined. The writers of the article will affect the credibility, if they are experts we are more likely to believe them. Some government internet sites have a vested interest in bias in promoting a particular policy. Pressure groups will usually only present one side of an issue.
Quick Check: The Credibility of Web Sourced Information
Below is a summary of the features we would consider when judging the credibility of a website:
Task: Use the above as a check list when assessing the credibility of the information on the following websites:
Report back on the credibility of the material and the reporting styles of the organisations. Give a summary of the viewpoints expressed.
12. Making a Reasoned Judgement
Argument = Reason + Conclusion
Types of Reasoning
Causal explanations – Cause and effect (Smoking causes cancer).
An analogy is a comparison between two things which are seen to be similar.
Inductive and deductive arguments
An inductive argument is the process by which the premises of an argument are believed to support the conclusion but do not ensure or guarantee it:
e.g. All observed crows are black.
All crows are black.
A deductive argument is an argument in which it is thought that the premises do provide an absolute guarantee of the truth of the conclusion. In a deductive argument, the premises are intended to provide support for the conclusion that is so strong that, if the premises are true, it would be impossible for the conclusion to be false.
e.g. There are 32 books on the top-shelf of the bookcase and 12 on the lower shelf of the bookcase. There are no books anywhere else in my bookcase. Therefore, there are 44 books in the bookcase.
Are the following statements inductive or deductive and why?
1. The members of the Williams family are Susan, Nathan and Alexander.
Susan wears glasses.
Nathan wears glasses.
Alexander wears glasses.
Therefore, all members of the Williams family wear glasses.
2. It has snowed in Glasgow every December in recorded history.
Therefore, it will snow in Glasgow this coming December.
3. Bergen is either in Norway or Sweden. If Bergen is in Norway, then Bergen is in Scandinavia. If Bergen is in Sweden, then Bergen is in Scandinavia. Therefore, Bergen is in Scandinavia.
4. Either Elizabeth owns a VW Beetle or she owns a Ford Ka.
Elizabeth does not own a VW Beetle.
Therefore, Elizabeth owns a Ford Ka.
5. All basketballs are round.
The Earth is round.
Therefore, the Earth is a basketball.
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