Friday, December 14, 2007

Article Note: On Blog Credibility and Politically Interested Users

Citation for the article (as provided in the article):

Johnson, T. J., Kaye, B. K., Bichard, S. L., & Wong, w. J. (2007). Every blog has its day: Politically-interested Internet users' perceptions of blog credibility. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 6.

I read it online.

This article is a bit on the long side, but the basic point is that it looks at how Internet users who have political interests view blogs. Specifically, it looks at how those users see the blogs' credibility. I am just going to highlight a few things I found interesting. Keep in mind, as I often do, I am just pulling some notes of interest. It may be good to go over and see the article.

  • The authors point out, in their literature review, that politically-interested users "relied more on blogs than on any other news source for news and information and that blogs were judged as more credible than online newspaper site, online cable television sites, and online broadcast news sites." And yet, one has to note that political bloggers, for the most part, which is the type of blog the demographic in the study would likely be following, for the most part are pulling stories and linking from the same mainstream media. Many of those blogs are pretty much link collections. Only a few would qualify as offering any analysis or depth, which interestingly enough, is what helps determine the perception of credibility for the blogs in the users' minds.
  • "Users may deem blogs to be credible because they are viewed as being independent from corporate-controlled media (Andrews, 2003; Regan, 2003; Singer, 2006)." I wonder if this can vary. I mean, many of the A-listers are either corporate or big enough to be corporate. On that last I am thinking of blog networks for instance. I guess I question if some of those voices are really as independent as they claim. And maybe this is where some of the significance comes in for me. It is in terms of information literacy and knowing where the information is coming from, the credibility, etc. As more students use more and more online sources, they are bound to find and use blogs for their research. How do those students see those blogs? Could this be another step, or a different step, to study?
  • "Political observers and researchers have identified four main reasons why individuals frequent blogs: community, convenience, to check information found in other media, and information seeking."
  • Then there was the notion of self-efficacy and how it was assessed. I just wondered how much of it was self-selected. Basically, who is going to admit that they are not well qualified to participate in politics or that they are less informed? I can certainly think of a few who probably should not participate in politics (or at least political blogging), but I am digressing. Then again, the authors do acknowledge the self-selected nature of their sample: "The respondents in this study were a self-selected group of politically-interested Internet users."
  • And guess who are the blog users: "The demographic profile of this study closely matches the characteristics of respondents in studies that have examined blog users; people who seek out information from blogs tend to be well-educated, white middle-class males (Consumer Reports Web Watch, 2005)." What does this say for diversity? Not to mention what it could say about issues of digital divide?
  • But there is some hope: "While Internet users are increasingly flocking to blogs as a source of political news and information, the moderate scores for credibility indicate that users also realize that blogs are not the final word."
  • "Inexperienced users, who are unfamiliar with the often opinionated and non-traditional format of blogs, may find them a less credible source of information. It takes more experience to truly engage with blogs, from navigating the Web to finding political sites with topics of shared interest." Now when I read this, I wondered: can some of this be taught as part of teaching web evaluation skills and information literacy?
  • "Perhaps blog content is perceived as more credible because it is considered more independent than news reported in corporate-controlled media."
  • Something that is pretty obvious: "It stands to reason that users would find their preferred media selection the most credible." Here is where that element of seeking validation comes into play too.
This is an example of the kind of article we should be looking at. We should be thinking, at least in my field, of the applications and possibilities for information literacy. Blogs are becoming a more prominent part of news reporting and discussions. And yet, their eclectic nature as well as their biases have to be considered. Students are going to find these resources eventually. I don't think we can really tell them to simply not use them. We should instead be educating them so they can evaluate merits and act accordingly.

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