Since Week 5’s topic was on credibility and purpose, I want to look at this from the user’s point of view. The Internet does not come with a handbook with warnings and instructions. It is up to the user to learn (or be taught) how to navigate through the loads of information available and choose what to consume.
My stance: The more a person uses the Internet, the better she or he will become at judge a website’s credibility.
The evidence: A mail survey (1089 respondents) was conducted by Penn State University Professor S. Shyam Sundar and instructor Carmen Stavrositu to determine if this was the case.
Their results support my opinion. The findings show that if a person uses the Internet to search for information, they will develop a “self-efficacy with the medium”. This means that a person will believe she or he is capable of using the Internet, which the study says leads to more directed consumption of online sources, and that affects a person’s perceptions about the Internet’s credibility. In short, internet usage increases our abilities to judge what we read.
Interesting findings from the survey:
- The more people use a medium, the more credible they believe it to be.
- There’s a positive correlation between newspaper use and Internet use, leading them to state that the Internet is seen as a supplement-not a substitute to traditional news sources. This adds to the discussion on the complementarity of print and web that went on Lieu’s post.
- Heavy newspaper users rate Internet sources the same way they rate traditional media, probably due to the newspapers heavy marketing of their web pages.
- If the Internet is used as a source of entertainment, perceptions of credibility does not change much since you’re looking for amusement.
For further studies, check these two sites out:
- Stanford University Web Credibility Project on what increases credibility
- Consumer Report’s Web Watch interesting findings on how people SAY they evaluate websites credibility (privacy statements) vs how they actually evaluate it (design of the page).
Side note: People who have weak analysis skills will have a hard time judging sites despite amount of time spent online and may need outside help in determining the credibility of information online.