Thursday, February 25, 2010

Source criticism criticism

A few weeks ago the site went live, with the aim to publish a number of videos to enhance the Internet knowledge and competence among school kids in Sweden.

A good initiative, which fills a need.

But, last week published the second video about internet source evaluation (källkritik). Obviously an important topic in the context. However, the video has a major flaw.

"How to validate a search result..?"
About two minutes into the film a search is made to find out which city is the capital of Brazil. The first search result is from Wikipedia, and suggests that the capital is Brasilia. So far so good, but as the topic of the video is how to evaluate information found on Internet the film goes on. Next follows a discussion on that you can't trust a search result as such, but then..

" on the search result and read the page!"
About three minutes into the video we are ready to verify that Brasilia indeed is the capital city of Brazil. And the best way to do that is to click on the search result and read on the site that Brasilia is the capital. Right... (Not, of course...)

This small lapse hurts the overall impression in a number of ways.

  • It makes you look for other weaknesses in the video
    And there are some to be found...
    The most critical one is the lack of any discussion on the type of source (ie that Wikipedia is editable by anyone) or the need to identify the publisher and the intention of the publisher.
  • It makes you wonder about the overall project
    Will the other films have similar flaws? What's the intention and target group? And who is really behind the site (source criticism...)?
    Have a look at the first and third movie as well. And look for the upcoming ones.
  • It might be the takeaway for the target group
    "I have done my "källkritik", I clicked in the search result and read it" (Not the sole message from the video, but an easy one to catch...)
The video discusses the need to provide references for information, and to get as close as the original source as possible. But it doesn't come anywhere near discussing "källkritik" as an academic/scientific method. (Or actually, the films shows this, but I feel the reference is misplaced in the overall context provided by the video).

I originally found it a bit humorous, and a nice touch, that the presenter of this specific topic is a PR consultant, who furthermore uses the alias "Doktor Spinn" (what is a spin doctor?). But with this major flaw it puts a (probably unintended) flavour to the overall video.

(Note: I have used the Swedish word "källkritik" in several places, instead of the term "source criticism", because I am not sure about the best translation.)

And here is the video:

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the coming videos. And tomorrow I plan to be at the Stockholm Social Media Lunch Club, where both @annika and @doktorspinn will attend. Let's see if they have read this by then...

But again, for the second video my suggestion is, as we say in Sweden - "Gör om, gör rätt".

(Minor update to the text 100305 - rewrote and moved the paragraph on spin doctors further down)


Anonymous Johan Lagerlöf said...

Ha ha! I just watched the film and it’s really amateurish. And the problem you mention at about three minutes into the film (verifying that Brasilia is the capital) is just hilarious! Is he aware of what he’s saying? Did they watch it afterwards before deciding to include that part in the film? It looks as if he actually claims that we should be concerned about the accuracy of something we read in the very first lines of a Wikipedia article (so that we can see it already in the Google search window), but if we read the actual article and in particular if we look in the right-hand-side table, then we can trust the information without any problem. I can’t imagine that he actually means that, but he said it and that’s what they put in the film. Clowns!

Apart from that the film is quite vague on what they recommend the pupils to do. At 4.20 they suggest that one can check other sources and compare and at 6.30 they say one should go to the original source, but in neither case it’s not really explained how a pupil could do that. In the very end at 8.30 they summarize their points and this is the only good part of the film. But why didn’t they use the ten minutes of the film to show concrete examples of how to do these things? The only example shown is, if I’m not mistaken, the Brasilia example we are discussing – and there they screw it up completely! The failure to show and explain the main points using concrete examples is, in my opinion, the main weakness with the film, apart from the Brasilia flaw.

On a serious note: I wouldn’t show this film to the kids. The flaw you identified might make them start to reason in the way that the presenter in the film does (if the kids pay attention to what he says). And the other parts of the film are not really useful. The teacher should be able to explain these things him-/herself, and that sounds like a better option to me.

February 26, 2010 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for pointing the "Brasilia flaw" out - you are right of course! I honestly don't mean that it is enough to just click in on the Wikipedia article!

I will make sure to add this point to the text on As a production, it is all done in one take, and I guess that's the main problem here.

I also agree that we should have done this clip longer and with more depth, since it is such an important subject.

March 1, 2010 at 1:32 AM  
Blogger Johan Myrberger said...

@DoktorSpinn - thanks for the comment. I have looked at the page at, put I still don't see any update in the text.

And I still suggest a remake of this video. When I met @Annika last Friday we chatted briefly on the topic.

I understand that the intention isn't to provide an academic/scientific view of "källkritik", but I do believe that the topic merits some more practical common sense reasoning.

(And for some reason this post doesn't show up as a trackback in the comments section on

March 5, 2010 at 3:52 PM  

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