Symposium 04 – True or False

This week’s symposium addressed a number of questions raised by one of the tutorial’s cohort:

  1. How can you judge the validity of things on the Internet?
  2. What are the limitations of network literacy? How does it differ from print literacy?
  3. Should network literacy be focused on in earlier education? (I have a minor problem in understanding this question – what is definitively “earlier education”?)

The first question most interested me. It’s a particularly prevalent issue that I encounter almost every day on social media – there are a number of Internet hoaxes that float around Facebook. It seems as if you can take any photo and add purportedly factual text to it and most people will believe what they read is true. It reminded me of one YouTube video in particular, where viewer’s were shown how they could charge their apple devices using an onion and electrolytes:

Rumors spread rapidly across the internet and I distinctly remember friends arguing over whether or not this was plausible. Obviously, the whole premise of the idea is absurd – but it’s the way in which this video incorporates legitimate scientific concepts that really makes it seem believable. Of course you only need to try it yourself to find out, but who wants to try sticking a USB charger into an onion that’s been soaked in Gatorade for thirty minutes.

Essentially this video and other Internet hoaxes prove our predisposition to a certain style or format of factual presentation. When joke websites emulate these typical scientific presentations our initial reaction is to believe whatever it is we are being told, whether it be that a Gatorade-soaked onion can get your iPhone through the rest of the afternoon or that Bigfoot’s body has been found and is currently being thawed in an appropriately sized freezer.


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