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Reliablity vs Authority, IAMCR Paper

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  • 1. 
 
 
 Paper
presented
at
the
IAMCR
Conference

 “Communication
and
Citizenship”,
Braga
2010
 
 Reliability
vs.
Authority
­
 Difficulties
Within
Practices
of
Credibility
Assessment
of
Information
by
 Highschool
Students
and
Teachers
in
Austria
 
 Axel
Maireder
&
Manuel
Nagl

 Department
of
Communication,
University
of
Vienna
 
 The
Internet,
social
media
in
particular,
has
become
an
integral
part
of
the
everyday
life
of
youth.
 According
to
a
recent
study
(GfK
2009)
nearly
a
hundred
percent
of
the
13
to
17
year
old
Austrians
 use
social
media
applications
like
Facebook.
A
lot
of
studies
researching
the
use
of
those
means
of
 communication
have
been
carried
out
in
the
last
years
(Gross
2004;
J.
Schmidt
u.
a.
2009;
Ito
u.
a.
 2008;
Wagner
u.
a.
2009).
‚Digital
natives’
(Prensky
2001)
hang
out,
mess
around
and
geek
out
(Ito
 u.
a.
2008)
in
the
web,
which
provides
communication
spaces
that
fulfil
functions
of
information,
 relationship
and
identity
management
(J.
Schmidt
2009).

 Another
communication
space
central
to
the
life
of
teenagers
is
school,
the
place
the
society
ensures
 that
children
get
prepared
for
the
challenges
and
requirements
of
life
within
this
society
(Fend
 2006).
This
increasingly
includes
competences
on
the
use
of
information
and
communication
 technologies,
which
are
and
will
be
central
to
social
communication
now
and
in
the
future.
One
of
 those
is
the
competency
to
reasonably
assess
the
credibility
of
information,
which
has
become
a
key
 literacy
in
the
knowledge
society.
Research
on
the
credibility
assessment
of
information
by
students
 has
been
carried
out
by
a
number
of
scholars
(Franke
&
Sundin
2009;
Rieh
&
Hilligoss
2007;
 Wathen
&
Burkell
2002;
Lorenzen
2001;
Nicholas
et.
al.
2008),
revealing
worrisome
knowledge
and
 competence
gaps.
However,
those
studies
have
primarily
focused
on
the
actual
assessment
of
 information
within
particular
settings,
leaving
aside
the
contexts
in
which
these
assessments
are
 made.
Our
study
tries
to
close
that
gap.
 
 Research
Focus
 Our
project
systematically
asked
for
the
terms,
forms
and
consequences
of
Internet
use
in
schools
 and
for
school‐related
tasks
as
well
as
the
impact
of
the
school
on
Internet
practices
of
teens,

  • 2. especially
the
development
of
competences
for
information
research
and
information
processing.
 The
initial
assumption
of
our
cultural
theory
based
project
(Schmidt
2005,
Bauer
2006),
was
that
 the
openness
and
universality
of
the
Internet
as
well
as
its
network
structure
are
contradicting
the
 the
hierarchical,
authoritarian
model
of
school
education,
its
performance‐orientation
and
its
 sequential
learning
culture.
The
aim
of
the
project
was
to
identify
the
communicative
and
cognitive
 practices
that
are
formed
by
students
and
teachers
in
the
context
of
the
Internet
and
school
and
to
 evaluate
those
practices
as
challenges
within
the
information
society.

 
 Method
 For
the
collection
of
our
data
we
carried
out
narrative
group
interviews
(Bohnsack
2004)
with
 students
and
teachers
in
thirteen
different
classes
from
ten
different
high
schools
in
six
(out
of
nine)
 Austrian
provinces.
The
students
were
aged
13
to
16.
Aiming
for
high
heterogeneity,
we
selected
 schools
/
classes
that
preferably
differed
in
demographics,
location
and
type
of
education:
Schools
in
 rural,
suburban
and
urban
areas,
with
high,
medium
and
low
percentage
of
immigrants
and
classes
 of
two
age
groups
(13/14
and
15/16
years
old)
emphasising
on
either
technical,
commercial
or
 general
education.
In
each
class
we
asked
the
students
to
gather
in
groups
of
five
people,
aiming
for
 groups
of
individuals
with
low
frictions.
We
chose
the
two
groups
that
gathered
fastest
in
each
class,
 assuming
that
those
are
the
groups
in
which
the
individuals
know
each
other
best.
We
also
tried
to
 keep
an
eye
on
the
allocation
of
boys
and
girls
in
the
groups.
As
most
of
the
groups
were
 homogeneous
in
terms
of
gender
anyway,
we
had
one
boy
and
one
girl
group
in
most
of
the
cases.
 Altogether,
117
students
took
part
in
26
group
interviews.
Additionally,
we
asked
teachers
in
each
 school
to
participate
in
group
discussions
separate
from
the
students’
ones.
We
conducted
ten
group
 interviews
with
47
teachers
altogether.

 The
group
interviews
conducted
were
openly
structured,
aiming
for
lively
discussions
between
the
 participants
rather
than
responses
to
specific
questions.
Respectively,
the
moderation
was
low‐key,
 questions
mostly
unspecific.
The
discussions
lasted
between
60
and
90
minutes
and
were
recorded
 on
tape.
The
qualitative
analysis
of
the
data
was
undertaken
according
to
the
strategies
provided
by
 Grounded
Theory
(Strauss
u.
a.
1996;
Glaser
u.
a.
2005;
Krotz
2005):
open
coding,
recoding,
 development
of
hypothesis,
testing
and
adapting
hypothesis
in
a
circular
process.


 
 Results
 The
analysis
of
our
data
showed
phenomena
within
three
categories:
The
use
of
the
internet
as
a
 tool
for
and
an
object
of
educational
instruction,
as
a
medium
for
communication
between
students
 about
school
and
as
a
tool
for
the
accomplishment
of
school
tasks.
For
this
paper,
only
the
third

  • 3. category
will
be
further
addressed.
 Austrian
students
use
the
Internet
intensively
for
work
on
school
tasks
like
homework,
the
drafting
 of
essays
or
the
preparation
of
class
presentations.
The
usage
of
the
Internet
for
those
tasks
is
 mostly
neither
guided
by
teachers
nor
subject
to
any
guidelines
issued
by
teachers
or
school
 authorities.
The
use
of
the
Internet
is
rather
implicitly
taken
for
granted
by
both
students
and
 teachers,
mostly
without
addressing
the
respective
practices.
Most
of
the
time,
the
Internet
is
the
 only
information
source
used
by
the
students.
Books,
magazines,
journals
are
widely
ignored
by
the
 students,
even
if
the
teachers
encourage
them
to
make
use
of
printed
media.
Even
if
the
actual
task
 is
to
read
a
book
and
to
write
a
summary
or
to
interpret
it,
students
prefer
to
find
related
secondary
 and
tertiary
literature
on
the
Internet
and
use
them
as
basis
for
their
work
rather
than
to
actually
 read
the
book
itself.
 Research
for
information
for
school
tasks
starts
almost
always
at
one
of
two
websites.
One
is
Google,
 which
is
researched
using
mostly
one
simple
keyword
without
combinations
with
additional
words.
 Google’s
results
are
scanned
very
quickly
according
to
the
list
provided
and
Links
that
are
assumed
 to
be
relevant
are
clicked.
In
this
process
the
students
assess
Google’s
ranking
as
a
very
meaningful
 indicator
of
the
respective
Websites’
relevance
and
quality.
Thus,
they
hardly
ever
scan
more
than
 the
first
page
of
results
and
they
go
back
to
Google
every
time
after
they
have
scanned
a
website
it
 had
linked
to.
If
the
results
of
the
first
query
are
somewhat
reasonable,
only
one
is
undertaken.
The
 choice
of
Google
as
the
initial
as
well
as
central
reference
point
in
information
research
practices
is
 not
surprising.
Our
findings
support
other
studies
in
that
point
(Rieh
&
Hilligoss
2008;
Lorenzen
 2001;
for
Austria
Mager
2009).
 The
second
website
students
use
as
their
starting
and
reference
point
for
research
is
Wikipedia.
It’s
 importance
for
students’
information
gathering
practices
can
hardly
be
underestimated.
The
more
 so
as
the
results
showing
up
in
Google
queries
often
list
articles
from
Wikipedia
at
a
high
position.
 To
both
Websites,
Google
and
Wikipedia,
students
assign
very
high
levels
of
credibility.
They
are
 credible
both
on
a
conceptional
and
an
operative
level.
The
former
refers
to
the
assessment
of
 truthfulness
based
on
certain
concepts,
the
latter
“to
the
extent
to
which
users
think
that
the
 information
is
useful,
good,
current,
and
accurate.“
(ibid,
146)
 On
a
conceptional
level,
the
students
put
trust
into
a
quite
vague
concept
of

‘Wisdom
of
the
Crowds’
 (Surowiecki
2005),
assessing
information
more
credible
the
more
people
were
involved
in
 producing
and
evaluating
it
or
the
more
sources
state
the
same
particular
information.
The
former
 refers
to
Wikipedia’s
concept
of
the
collaboration
of
a
multitude
of
authors
and
the
respective
 check‐and‐recheck
mechanisms,
the
latter
to
Google
under
the
students’
(wrong)
assumption
that
it
 ranks
a
page
higher
the
more
people
consult
it.


  • 4. These
assumptions
starkly
conflict
with
the
teachers’
assessments
of
these
applications.
They
are
 very
sceptical
towards
Google
and
in
particular
Wikipedia.
From
their
perspective,
Wikipedia’s
 quality
is
doubtful
because
the
content
can
be
edited
by
everyone
and
there
is
no
control
on
who
is
 writing.
Google
is
assessed
likewise.

As
it’s
ranking
is
rather
based
on
quantitative
than
qualitative
 criteria,
sources
get
more
credit
the
more
other
pages
link
to
it,
ignoring
the
quality
of
the
 information
provided.
While
the
youth
values
the
openness
of
information
systems
as
well
as
the
 quantitative
measurements
they
are
based
on
as
a
guarantee
for
the
quality
of
information,
the
 adults
are
sceptical
for
the
same
considerations.
 This
corresponds
to
the
change
from
an
authorative
credibility
to
a
credibility
by
reliability,
which
 was
described
by
Lankes
(2007).
The
credibility
of
information,
traditionally
assessed
due
to
the
 rather
stable
authority
of
a
certain
source
is
increasingly
a
question
of
credibility
conversations,
a
 consideration
on
the
basis
of
a
multitude
of
sources.
 Correspondingly,
the
students
interviewed
in
our
study
report
that
they
relate
information
from
 different
sources
(from
the
Google
results)
to
assess
the
quality
of
a
certain
information
on
a
regular
 bases.
The
problem
is,
that
the
students
often
do
not
sufficiently
understand
the
concepts
and
 backgrounds
of
the
sources
and
information
systems
they
get
their
information
from,
resulting
in
 misinterpretations.
The
critical
attitude
towards
Google
and
Wikipedia
of
the
teachers
can
neither
 be
understood
nor
agreed
upon
out
of
two
reasons:
First,
the
teachers
critique
conflicts
with
their
 practices.
Despite
their
critique,
they
use
both
Google
and
Wikipedia
on
a
regular
basis
for
both
 private
and
school
purposes.
The
students
notice
that
sharp
contrast
between
theory
and
practice.
 Second,
students
and
teachers
talk
at
cross
purposes
because
of
their
different
interpretations
of
the
 same
basic
assumptions.

 
 On
the
operative
level
‐
the
usefulness
of
information
‐
the
points
of
view
of
students
and
teachers
 accord:
Sources
that
proved
their
value,
information
that
proved
relevant,
reasonable,
coherent,
 applicable
for
the
task
it
was
researched
for
are
considered
credible.
Accordingly,
both
Google
and
 Wikipedia
are
sources
or
information
systems
respectively,
teachers
and
students
trust
on
an
 operative
level,
resulting
in
an
extensive
use.
 Unfortunately,
and
that
turns
out
to
be
a
major
problem,
teachers
often
do
not
evaluate
the
quality
 of
information
when
grading
student’s
assignments.
They
may
evaluate
the
quality
of
the
 presentation
or
the
language
used,
but
rarely
the
content
‐
the
actual
data
and
facts
presented
 within
a
paper
or
oral
presentation.
There
are
two
major
reasons
for
that:
One
is
the
workload
 associated
with
fact
checking
and
the
other
is
their
uncertainness
related
to
information
not
 explicitly
part
of
the
curriculum.

  • 5. However,
as
grading
is
the
major
feedback
students
need
to
get
aware
of
what
is
good
and
what
is
 bad
within
their
work,
they
are
not
getting
aware
of
inaccurate
or
even
wrong
information
within
 their
papers
or
–
putting
it
the
other
way
around
‐
accordingly,
little
by
little,
‘learn’
that
the
quality
 of
information
is
less
relevant
than
the
form
it
is
presented
in.
Concurrently,
they
turn
only
sparse
 attention
to
the
accuracy
of
the
information
they
process,
putting
little
effort
into
information
 research.
Respectively
they
adjust
their
focus
to
the
features
of
the
work
the
teachers
evaluate,
 putting
a
lot
of
effort
into
the
right
composition,
style
and
design
of
their
papers
and
oral
 presentations.

 The
practices
the
students
mostly
show
when
working
on
papers
based
on
information
from
the
 Internet
range
are
simple
copy‐and‐paste
of
website
content
into
their
drafts
and
some
minor
 adjusting
of
language
style
and
design.
They
rarely
read
the
information
they
process
intensively
 and
writing
text
mostly
based
on
their
own
reasoning
is
a
very
seldom
practice.
Again,
however,
the
 choice
for
a
certain
procedure
is
linked
to
the
assumption
of
how
the
work
will
be
evaluated
by
the
 teacher,
based
on
prior
experiences.

 
 Conclusion
 The
results
of
our
project
provide
new
and
detailed
insights
into
the
changing
nature
of
credibility
 assessment
from
an
authorative
credibility
to
credibility
by
reliability.
Even
if
the
results
can
not
be
 generalized
as
the
culture
of
schooling
is
different
in
other
countries,
the
results
from
Austria
can
 make
researchers
and
practitioners
aware
that
certain
problems
in
making
today’s
youth
digitally
 literate
may
also
lie
in
problematic
processes
of
interaction
among
teachers
and
students.
 
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T.A.,
2006.
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Lernen
und
Lernen
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&
Unterricht,
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MacArthur
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Digital
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and
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 http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/report


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F.,
2005.
Neue
Theorien
Entwickeln:
eine
Einführung
in
die
Grounded
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die
Heuristische
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 die
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anhand
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John
D.
and
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T.
MacArthur
Foundation
Series
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 Media
and
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MIT
Press,
2008.
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High
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the
World
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 Contact:

 Mag.
Axel
Maireder
 Department
of
Communication,
University
of
Vienna
 Schopenhauerstr.32,
1180
Vienna,
Austria
 axel.maireder
(at)
univie.ac.at


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