October 10, 2009

Misinformation and the Importance of Information Literacy

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you are aware of the movie 2012 hitting theaters next month. What you may not be aware of are the methods being used to promote the disaster flick. Of course Sony pictures is using the traditional method of film promotion, a trailer and a website, but they are also promoting the movie in a somewhat insidious manner using an alternative trailer and website. I didn't know about this until one morning when I was sitting on my couch drinking coffee and eating breakfast watching television before going to work and a commercial came on. The commercial discussed the coming apocalypse due to some type of catastrophe and that science has confirmed that rumors about the year 2012 are true. As a result, governments are holding a lottery to ensure human survival. Seriously? This is really happening? Science, the most reputable of all meta narratives? Really?

The commercial stunned me a little because it was so convincing. I immediately checked the website the commercial referred to: http://www.instituteforhumancontinuity.org/. Initially, I fell for it. I found myself making plans for an uncertain future. Should I just throw caution to the wind and pursue my real dream of joining a traveling circus? Or, should I continue on my current path of librarianship even though that scenario might never pan out? I'll probably pursue the latter in any event. Fortunately, I was only convinced for all of five minutes that the world was ending because shortly thereafter I used my information literacy skills to find out what's really up. What do we do with sources to determine their validity? Evaluate using the following: Reliability, accuracy and validity, authority, timeliness, and bias.

It didn't take too long for the site to fall apart. Although it looks polished and "scientific", the value of the information crumbles the second it is tested for reliability. There is no reliable information on the site; however, it is a little unsettling that to the untrained eye, finding out that this site is actually a promotional tool for a movie is difficult. It takes a lot of fishing around to discover this fact.

Accuracy and validity are my favorite evaluation tools. Can the information be verified elsewhere? Although you will find a number of sites dedicated to End Times, the majority of them are maintained by fanatics and they are hardly reliable, non-biased sources. Most are backed by vague and mysterious "scientists", otherwise unidentified and uncredentialed. At the moment, I am having trouble finding a reputable source regarding the 2012 Apocaplyse.

At this point, I don't find it necessary to run the gamut of evaluation criteria. I already know this is an advertising scheme for a disaster movie, but what about the people who are duped by the Human Continuity commercial? Associated Press verifies that although many people will do a little homework for some piece of mind, many will forgo research in favor of panic and fear. Although I cannot either confirm or deny the 2012 Apocalypse (although I'm leaning toward the no apocalypse side of the debate), or any other apocalypse for that matter, I can say with complete certainty that there is a world of misinformation and fear mongering on the topic. The thing that bothers me most is the misinformation, which might as well be fear mongering because I can't really think of any other reason to spread misinformation about the end of the world. What is most unsettling is the fact that this little issue is representative of a much larger problem; however, it reaffirms the idea that librarians serve an important function in the information society.

No comments:

Post a Comment