Aaron A. Delwiche
Builds familiarity with computer-mediated information networks. Introduces and compares network search engines, agents, browsing/viewing tools and retrieval/transfer software for use by reporters and other media workers. Instruction and practice with searching/acquiring information, its analysis and interpretation, illustration, and write-up. No prior computer or network experience assumed.
In less than a decade, the Internet has evolved from a fringe medium into a vital fixture of contemporary life. One out of five Americans say that the Internet is the most essential medium in their lives. Two-thirds of all citizens rely on the net as their primary source of information about health care, government services, and current events.
A staggering array of information is available to anyone who has an Internet connection. When accessed through a standard search engine such as Google or Lycos, the world-wide web encompasses an estimated five billion pages. Yet, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Most people do not know that there is also a "deep web" composed of pages that are not indexed by search engines. This invisible body of information is approximately five hundred times larger than the web indexed by major search engines. Thus, one could argue that the world-wide web encompasses more than 2.5 trillion pages, with the number increasing exponentially each day.
The widespread availability of digital information is both a blessing and a curse. We have the wisdom of the ages at our fingertips, but the sheer volume of data outstrips our ability to process it. Researchers have linked this phenomenon of "information overload" to stress, anxiety, irritability, and depression. In a world characterized by a flood of disconnected facts, there is a growing need for symbolic analysts who can locate information, sift through multiple viewpoints, and communicate salient details in a meaningful way.
This course provides a solid introduction to research, critical analysis and the on-line presentation of information. During the first few weeks, we will develop concrete research strategies that can be applied to the world-wide web, electronic databases, and traditional library materials such as microform, microfilm, and books. We will next turn to the critical analysis of on-line information, discussing techniques for establishing source credibility. During this unit, we will pay particular attention to the way that on-line networks fuel the dissemination of propaganda, urban myths, rumors, and conspiracy theories. Finally, in the last third of the quarter, we focus on strategies for effectively communicating on-line information
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