I have already identified some key individuals whose work is very influential to my own studies, such as Bush, Nelson, Carr, Greenfield, Prensky and Clay. For the majority their work applies to the general sense of my project and so I will use it in context when establishing the historical background of my topic and when introducing my study to support the relevance and importance of my work.

So I will use the next 3 posts (this included) to briefly discuss each of the three arguments/issues that I have outlined. These will form the three sections to my outcomes and so these posts will give an insight into some of the work that already surrounds this and it will also be a good start to research that will help in my project. So the three sections are as follows (with this post focusing on the first).

Reliability issues of online content

  • The authority and trustworthiness of information.
  • The ability to look for credible information and skill to decipher what is relevant and reliable.
  • The democracy and widespread of blogs and Wiki’s.
  • The role of Social Media in altering the channel of distribution of content.

The practice of searching for information and reading texts.

  • The surge of video tutorials and entertainment platforms such as YouTube as a learning environment.
  • The changing habits of intercepting information, from chronologically reading a book to skipping between links.
  • Participatory culture and its effect on creativity, self-learning and autonomy.

The change from a physical to a digital medium.

  • The change in format, from typically written work to multimedia.
  • The physical vs virtual security of content (a book is constant, a web page can become unavailable and is forever gone).
  • The implications of developing our knowledge and collective intelligence and how effectively we are achieving this.
  • The effects of having immediate access to a huge wealth of information.



In reference to our ability to look for credible information and the skill to decipher what is relevant and reliable, David Nicholas et.al’s paper, ‘Google Generation II: web behaviour experiments with the BBC’ (above) provides a very insightful report on the behavioural patterns of the ‘Google generation’ on the Internet with a strong value of originality in terms of their findings. The article is embedded in well-developed experiments with the BBC which put forth trustworthy and reliable results where they found that despite an increase in accessibility to superior information technology, the information literacy of younger people (the Google generation) has failed to improve. Also the speed of searching resulted in less time spent evaluating and creating relevance with a lower regard to accuracy and reliability. One aspect of this issue can be discussed in relation to Social Media. Platforms such as Reddit and Facebook distribute through third party links a lot of information that is very badly represented and because of the infrastructure of social networking, individuals are likely to display passive behaviour. Furthermore, because of the social elements of peer networking within social media, individuals are a lot more prone to accept information that is presented by their friends.

The paper also found that younger people have a poorer understanding of their information needs and therefore struggle to develop effective approaches to research. Nicholas et.al also identified that they are prone to exhibit natural language as opposed to vocabulary that is more appropriate.

This article is significant in my study as it puts forth not just an argument but the methodology behind it; the specific behavioural patterns that they have identified also give their argument a very strong context. Moreover Nicholas et.al consider that it is dangerous to stereotype younger individuals as the ‘Google generation’ as in actual fact it could be argued we all fall into that category. The term is too simple and misleading; the fact that they acknowledge this also helps develop their own arguments. Having said this, they do categorise their findings to a whole generation and fail to have little regard for individuals who are an acceptance to their findings.

Figure 1. Cult of the Amateur (2010)

Figure 1. Cult of the Amateur (2010)

An author who I want to bring attention to is Andrew Keen. His book ‘Cult of the Amateur’ is a provocative polemic that provides a cynical view on user generated content, participatory culture and the unconstrained standards of online publishing. The Cult of the Amateur is an attack on the utopians of Web 2.0 and the activity that comes with it. Keen argues that the infinite content that fills up YouTube, social networking and blogs is just an endless digital forest of mediocrity which, unrestrained by professional standards or editorial filters, can alter public debate and manipulate public opinion. Although much of the book centres on user generated content, Keen gives a very strong account regarding Wikipedia, blogs and YouTube – all of which are very important to my study. For the sake of this post I will not discuss YouTube or the idea of participatory culture in a wider context as these will be more appropriate over the next two posts.

He uses web 2.0 as a prime definition for the state of the web, and as a catalyst to facilitate blogs, Twitter, forums, YouTube, Wikipedia and a host of other sites of which he blasts for the corruptive behaviour that they promote. He makes the following criticism of each platform.


Keen believes that blogs “collectively corrupt and confuse popular opinion about everything from politics to commerce, to arts and culture. (This is a bit cynical but to some degree true. However on the flip side, there are plenty of blogs which are very well researched, written and presented; ones which provide sharp, developed and trustworthy information with truthful and insightful opinion. Also it is important to highlight that blogs allow for very democratic and opinionated writing and so this factor should be taken into account. Of course this is not an excuse for unreliable data but it does mean that blogs should be contested and questioned. None the less they provide readers with new and fresh ideas, ones with diversity and in some respects, ideas that could not be provided elsewhere.

Blogs have become so infinite that they bring about a vague haze between what is right and wrong, true or false, real and imaginary. Keen goes onto argue that younger generations are unable to decipher credible and competent information. This is very much a generalisation and whilst it may be true to some degree (see David Nicholas et.al paper earlier in the post) there are large acceptances, and furthermore he provides no evidence to this claim that ironically sets this statement apart from being little more than his own shrill opinion. 


Keen is quick to condemn Wikipedia because of its infrastructure and the way it relies on “anyone with opposable thumbs and a fifth-grade education” (Keen 2010: 27) to create its network of connected entries that provide an abundance of information. He argues that the mass collaborated community is full of entries that are not edited for accuracy, reliability and validity.

He argues that Wikipedia has become the third most visited site for information, claiming it to be more of a trusted source than CNN or BBC websites, despite the formers lack of editorial professionalism. This is another example of Keen’s exaggerative tone – yes he can claim that it is the third most visited site, but that does not support the argument that it is more trusted than the BBC. These two statements do not coincide with each other like his writing would suggest; I use Wikipedia a lot – but I certainly do not trust what I read however. What is does do though, and this is of great importance; for my own research it gives me the opportunity to gain a very efficient overlook of the subject. Proficiency is provided elsewhere through further research. None the less it could be argued that Wikipedia is the most efficient source of information today, but according to Keen, Wikipedia is detrimental in its effect on information retrieval.

Furthermore it is important to acknowledge that at the bottom of Wikipedia in the footnotes, there is a list of material where the information has been found. Many of these links are books and journal papers and this is a great opportunity for me to see something which is of interest to me and then I can follow it up with thorough research. Without the Wikipedia entry though, I would have no prior information as to how that source could be of value to me. Figure 2 below shows this from an example of the ‘Participatory Culture’ page and it includes links to many notable figures in that field – some of which I’m familiar with and others I’m not.

Figure 2. The footnotes from a Wikipedia page

Figure 2. The footnotes from a Wikipedia page

I think it is fair to say that Keen is quite ignorant in his examination of Wikipedia and blogs; whilst he does provide some very valid points, his inability to give credit to their strengths really undermines the effectiveness of his argument. Although discussing Keen’s work is very beneficial as it does highlight significant flaws with these platforms when looking at the Internet as a learning tool.


Figure 1. Cult of the Amateur. Image available at: http://www.cascadetoconversation.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Cult-of-the-Amateur.jpg [Accessed on 08/04/15]

Figure 2. Image created from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_culture [Accessed on 08/04/15]

Keen, A. (2008) The Cult of the Amateur. United Kingdom: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Nicholas, D., Rowlands, I., Clark, D., Williams, P. (2011) Google Generation II: web behaviour experiments with the BBC. [online] 63(1), pp. 28 – 45. Emerald Insight. Available at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/00012531111103768 [Accessed on 08/04/15]