Never mind the quality, feel the control

Posted on July 23rd, 2009 by Bernie Russell

From one of our Getting started guides for new students:

There is a general problem with the Internet which you need to be aware of, namely that it is not subject to any kind of quality control.

Problem? Isn’t that the whole point of the internet?

Good tips
The practical tips in the guide are reasonable and relevant. They urge students to ask the right questions about the provenance and source of the information, and of the author, how topical it is, etc.

It’s the tone of the intro that bothers me.

As a general rule, I’d say that when it come to information, quality control is usually heavier on the control than on the quality.

And, to rework an old saying, the net interprets control as damage and routes around it.

3 Responses to “Never mind the quality, feel the control”

  1. Nick Jackson says:

    One of the reasons I looked forward to coming to university was that we had internet access which nobody had tried to control for us. In all other cases where I’d used institution-provided access I’d been subjected to filtering and monitoring throughout.

  2. Paul S. says:

    Hi Bernie – is this one of our (i.e. the library’s) guides? If so, and you can point me at a copy, I’ll look at it and see if we could rewrite.

    The notion that “control = damage” I love more than anything else I’ve read all week.

    I’m very interested in the mental map that students have of the Internet when they come to us. I’ve been left open-mouthed several times by students in journalism, computing, science – (all the disciplines you’d expect to have a higher-than-average information literacy) when they’ve come out with comments like (my personal favourite:

    “Why would they put it on Google if it wasn’t true?”


  3. Profile photo of Sue Watling Sue Watling says:

    Paul – it’s from Snapshot’s critical thinking on the Getting Started site.
    Preparatory materials sometimes take short cuts when there isn’t space for wider deeper issues but in doing so can then appear misleading. I take the point; the ‘problem’ is for the student; in particular those new to academic study and referencing. The Internet itself – like any educational technology – is the tool; it’s how we use it that’s important. I’ll send a link to this page to the author.
    It would be useful to collate some of the student comments for the Getting Started area…..or for a wider audience. This is the new digital divide, less about access to computers but more about the ways in which they are used.

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