1st Talk 2nd Talk
The main claim in Tobias Rose-Stockwell’s, article, “This is How Your Fear and Outrage are Being Sold for Profit”, is that social media and technology companies have deliberately altered society’s way of politics, media as a whole, and how humans view each other as fellow beings. The author states that most of the problems that humans face today are the result of decisions made by tech higher-ups, designers, and developers in the digital field. These problems are due to companies that we specifically receive news from now competing with millions of other media sources, and in order to gain the most views and revenue, these sources must provide more exciting information than accurate information. This competition can cause ‘fake news’ posts and websites to appear, and many viewers see and believe these forms of articles. Even well-respected companies, such as Facebook and Instagram, have algorithms for the news stories that you are most likely to read and that will cause a reaction in you. These companies “show you stories, track your responses, and filter out the ones that you are least likely to respond to. It is mapping your brain, seeking patterns of engagement.” (Stockwell). However, these currently used algorithms cannot determine the difference between factual information and information that only appears true at the surface level. Therefore, Facebook and Instagram can possibly recommend or show you ‘fake news’ stories through your feed. News outlets commonly exaggerate stories and titles in order to get their stories to the top of the feed and therefore get more likes and shares. These stories are commonly inaccurate and were mainly written to evoke an emotional response in the reader. As an example, many American news companies write a lot of stories about crime, and due to a large number of articles on this topic, Americans believe the national crime rate is increasing. However, in reality, it is decreasing. Social media and news companies have the ability to distort what is true and factual, in order to make themselves the most money. This form of corruption is a global problem because it disrupts humans’ actual perception of the world around us.
My plan for my third paper is to follow the prompt step by step, specifically making sure to draw connections between Boyd’s text and my outside sources’ texts. I will begin my paper by defining the term, “digital natives” and providing some background information on the topic as a whole. Then, I will provide further background information on the author, Danah Boyd, the entirety of the article, and some of its specific ideas. After that, I will state the three main claims that I will be addressing in my paper and provide an overview of my paper in the metadiscourse. In the first paragraph, I will discuss and analyze her claim that young people are lacking in the subject of digital literacy. Youth may be able to use new technology for texting, writing social media posts, and posting photos, but they are deficient in their ability to search the Internet for credible, truthful sources for utilizing in their writing for high school or college or even for personal curiosity as well. Next, in the second paragraph, I will address Boyd’s claim that Google is not as reliable as previously believed by students and educators, due to its questionable algorithm, in which they utilize personal information about the individual to attain the ‘best’ search results. Google is also a monetized search engine, where they are paid by companies to put their website at the top of the Google search query, which can greatly skew an individual’s results and affect the knowledgeable information one gains from their search. Lastly, the third claim that I will address is that Wikipedia is actually beneficial as an initial starting point for gaining information and finding credible sources. By utilizing a specific article’s list of sources that the contributors used, an individual can verify the credibility of that Wikipedia article and use the sources to go further in depth with the topic at hand. In each of these paragraph’s, I will utilize an outside source to extend or illustrate Boyd’s claims. One outside source that I will examine is titled, “Digital Literacy and Informal Learning Environments: An Introduction” by Meyers et al, and I will use this text to further illustrate how youth today are completely inept in the subject of digital literacy and should, therefore, be taught about informational literacy in an educational setting. Another outside source that I will discuss is “Algorithmic Accountability: A Primer” by Robyn Caplan, and I will utilize this source to extend my second claim about Google and its algorithm as the article discusses in great detail the negatives of Google’s algorithm and the effects it can have on society. My next body paragraph will evaluate the persuasiveness of each of these texts and how they all work to support Boyd’s as a whole. My conclusion is going to restate my main points in my paper and describe how my viewpoints may have changed after reading, analyzing and utilizing these articles from outside sources in my essay.
In Danah Boyd’s book, “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens”, it examines the influence that growing up in a world of technology, social media, and the Internet has caused on the younger generation. In Chapter 7, “Digital Literacy: Are Today’s Youth Digital Natives?” Boyd’s main argument is even though today’s youth has grown up constantly surrounded by technology, it does not mean that we are ‘digital natives’ or that we were born with the innate knowledge and skills to be successful in exploring the information that the online world has to offer.
One of Boyd’s main claims is that the term, ‘digital natives’ is far from useful as it is a distraction from the problems today’s youth encounter in a complex, technological world” (176). It is troublesome to assume that youth today were simply born with all the skills and information that they need to know about technology and how to use it. Through this assumption, it “obscures the uneven distribution of technological skills and media literacy across the youth population, presenting an inaccurate portrait of young people as uniformly prepared for the digital era and ignoring the assumed level of privilege required to be ‘native’” (179). As of today, there are still a large number of teenagers who do not have consistent access to a computer, the internet, social media, and even a phone, due to their socioeconomic class. However, there is, of course, an even larger amount of younger people who do have access to these various forms of technology, but they lack an understanding of the possibilities and as well as problems that can occur from using these devices and resources. The use of the term ‘digital natives’ is misleading and overall completely wrong. As Boyd states and strongly believes, understanding the language of the Internet and more specifically, digital literacy, demands hard work and extended practice, regardless of one’s age.
Another one of Boyd’s main claims is that parents, teachers, librarians, and as well as government officials must work together in order to aide youth from various racial, wealth, cultural, and gender backgrounds to know how to find credible information in the Internet world. Boyd claims that my generation still needs to be taught and be given opportunities to expand their knowledge on how to use modern technology meaningfully. As an example, “many of the media literacy skills needed to be digitally savvy require a level of engagement that goes far beyond what the average teen picks up hanging out with friends on Facebook and Twitter,” (197). Specific examples of these abilities include coding, creating websites, editing videos, and evaluating the bias and credibility of an online source, and all of these skills must be directly studied. A large majority of the sites and apps that teenagers use on a regular basis are designed to be easy to use so that anyone could use it, no matter if they have never used any form of technology. Even though many may believe otherwise, the content of our social media and how many followers we possess on them does not represent our intelligence skills, in regards to digital literacy. Therefore, “both adults and youth need to develop media literacy and technological skills to be active participants in our information society. Learning is a lifelong process” (198). Overall, Boyd believes that it is necessary for today’s youth to be educated on how to use technology and the vast amount of information on the Internet in a successful way.
One of the interesting passages that I would like to use in my essay includes, “Beyond Digital Natives” because it would be an interesting rebuttal to evaluate and refute. Another section is “Youth Need New Literacies” because it provides good evidence for the claim mentioned earlier that youth need to be directly taught digital literacy skills. The section titled, “Digital Inequality” has good evidence that provides sufficient information to support the claim that the term ‘digital native’ is not accurate and overall useless. Lastly, I would like to reference information in the passage, “The Politics of Algorithms,” which is about how today’s younger generation automatically assumes that Google is always correct, and Wikipedia is forever bad and should never be used, especially in an education setting.
Tufekci utilizes rhetorical strategies to appeal to pathos throughout her writing, in order for her readers to support and better understand her main point. The author claims consistently throughout the article that YouTube continually and unethically recommends more radical videos, based on the past and present viewing and searching history of the individual viewers. This claim is not completely hidden from viewers and is partially known amongst society, and some may even view the way YouTube recommends videos as being helpful for the users. However, the verbiage that the author employs shows that this technique that YouTube utilizes should be viewed as ‘dangerous’, ‘outrageous’, and ‘unacceptable. The author asserts a helpful analogy in her text to support her claim by inciting an emotional response in her readers; she compares the way that viewers feed and consume these videos to the way that individuals commonly indulge in sugar, fat, and salt as a guilty pleasure. However, these forms of guilty pleasures can engulf people and take control of their lives as some individuals in our society are commonly suffering from addiction to social media and the internet, spending hours of the day watching videos and taking in information, and to food as well where many individuals are becoming obese and threatening their lives, due to their addiction and overconsumption of food. Due to the author’s use of rhetorical strategies to appeal to pathos, it would be extremely difficult for a reader to not feel emotionally charged by the author’s claim, especially due to her analogy that involves two forms of common addictions that affect many individuals. The author was clearly able to appeal to pathos by making her topic appear threatening and a danger to our society with her word choice and her strong analogy, engaging her readers’ emotions.
David Golumbia’s article, “Social Media Has Hijacked Our Brains and Threatens Global Democracy” is appealing and convincing through his use of rhetorical strategies. Golumbia states that the introduction of social media in today’s society has caused individuals to react more quickly and with more emotion than is necessary and useful for rational democracy. In my opinion, Golumbia is completely right in this claim because social media is more commonly than not a contest for who can get the most likes or retweets and a fighting ground for strong, emotionally-driven debates or personal arguments. In regards to the last Presidential election results, it is commonly believed that Donald Trump won, not because he was the more logical Presidential choice, but because he purposefully wrote tweets that would cause an emotional response in individuals without them researching or even thinking first. While reading this article, I found myself constantly engaged, which I believe is due to Golumbia’s consistent and outstanding use of evidence. Golumbia effectively persuaded me to truly think that social media alone could be the downfall of politics and democracy as a whole.
Golumbia continually uses logos as a rhetorical strategy, in order to persuade his readers that through the constant use of social media our psychological way of thinking is changing, so it is making true democracy virtually impossible. As an example, Golumbia quotes the founding president of Facebook, Sean Parker, stating, “the thought process that went into building these applications…was all about ‘how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” This specific, persuasive quote comes from one of the leading founders of the largest social media website in the world with over a billion users, and he is clearly stating that Facebook’s initial intention was to control as much of our lives as possible. The reasoning for using this quote is to showcase to the audience that social media companies know how to take hold of our attention and cause us to feel intense emotions, in order to benefit from these mental weaknesses in any way that they can. Golumbia also utilizes a quote from James Williams, a former Google advertising executive. The quote states that social media is “directly undermining the assumptions that democracy rests on” and that his key reasoning for constructing these technologies is for “hijacking our minds”. Golumbia used this persuasive quote because its direct source is someone who worked for Google and in a way turned on their own former company as well. Through Golumbia’s use of logos by quoting important former employees of popular social media companies, he ensured that his audience would be persuaded to believe that social media companies are purposefully influencing their users and therefore disrupting their daily lives for the company’s own individual gain. Golumbia’s usage of logos in “Social Media Has Hijacked Our Minds and Threatened Global Democracy” ensures that the readers trust him and are persuaded to fully accept his ideas.
Thompson’s article, “Public Thinking” is eye-opening, and throughout his article, he claims that social media and the Internet as a whole have changed how the public views writing. In the past, writing was done for one’s work alone or possibly to send letters to specific loved ones if the writer had the time, money, energy, and education. However, today, there are millions and millions of online blogs, fanfiction stories, tweets, and billions and billions of social media posts and comments as well. I never thought about the amount of writing I do every day, but after reading “Public Thinking,” I notice myself sending about a hundred texts and messages, posting many comments on social media posts, and writing at least a paragraph each day for homework. This amount of writing from one individual is astounding, and one can only imagine the vast total of writing done every day by the general population. Thompson also acknowledges the fact that most of our present written work is done for an audience. An individual’s blog or social media post can reach millions of people, depending on their number of followers, but in the past, it was rare to have a large number of people reading written works because communication was not as widespread as it is currently. Thompson claims that individuals must think about their written work more thoroughly than ever before, and he states, “it forces you to think more precisely, make deeper connections, and learn more.” This thorough thought process is due to the vast amount of people that could potentially read your work. For example, with myself, if I am writing something for more than one individual, such as this blog post, a social media post, or a comment, I try harder. I contemplate thoroughly what I am going to write, and when it is written, I read through it many times, trying to spot any punctuation, grammar, or structural issues before actually pressing ‘Send’ or ‘Publish’. I catch myself going through the same process when writing short posts or comments on social media. Overall, the combination of social media and the Internet has allowed for communication to be easier and reach more people and therefore, has caused an exponential increase in the amount of writing that society composes daily.
The main purpose for Thompson to write “Public Thinking”, was to argue that writing is more common in our society than ever before, which is also due to the accessibility and abundance of technology. It can be assumed that every individual with the ability to write online in today’s society writes at least once a day, whether that be as simple as a tweet, comment, or short written post, people are always writing. Thompson argues that writing benefits us cognitively as well. By writing, humans must condense our thought into written words, which strengthens our thought processing and as well as clears our minds and allows us to think freely. Writing has truly evolved from a tedious work task or something that was done rarely for pleasure or broad communication into an act that people enjoy incorporating into their everyday lives.
As mentioned previously, one of Thompson’s main claims that he uses to back up his overall argument is that writing benefits and improves our cognitive behavior. He states, “By putting half-formed thoughts on the page, we externalize them and are able to evaluate them much more objectively. This is why writers often find that it’s only when they start writing that they figure out what they want to say.” Also, as mentioned before, due to most of the writing being done online now for a potentially wide audience to see, a phenomenon occurs called the ‘audience effect’, which is the shift in our written performance when we know at least another person will be reading our work. The author claims that the ‘audience effect’ clears and frees the mind even further. One of Thompson’s final main claims is that the Internet has allowed and greatly encouraged the expansion of public thinking. As an example, he states that the Internet is currently “the world’s most powerful engine for putting heads together” and “before the Internet came along, most people rarely wrote anything at all for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college.”
Thompson acknowledges a couple rebuttals in his work, “Public Thinking” in order to strengthen his overall argument and support his main claims. For example, when he addresses the opposing argument that, “college students today cannot write as well as in the past,” by supplying evidence that college students are actually handing in longer, better-written papers than in previous years before the Internet became a main part of society. Another claim from the opposition that Thompson addresses is that some writers think having a larger audience can negatively impact one’s creativity as authors try to write for their audience as a whole. As a rebuttal, Thompson writes that “studies have found that particularly when it comes to analytic or critical thought, the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to think more precisely, make deeper connections.” Thompson addresses these rebuttals in order to strengthen his argument as a whole, which he does an excellent job at doing so.
December 19, 2018
Evaluating and Extending the Main Claims of Danah Boyd’s “Digital Literacy: Are Today’s Youth Digital Natives?”
It is commonly believed throughout society that teenagers of this generation are ‘tech-savvy’ with our smartphones constantly at our fingertips, ready to send texts at lightning quick speed or post an Instagram photo that could receive upwards of thousands of likes. However, do these abilities relate to navigating the Internet and collecting sources, in order to provide factual and credible results? In It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, a 2014 book written by Danah Boyd, she discusses the overwhelming effects of the Internet and social media on teenagers’ daily lives, including and in regards to privacy, safety, addiction of the digital world, inequality of social divisions, their overall identity, and the main focus for my essay, their lack of Internet literacy skills. In Chapter 7, “Digital Literacy: Are Today’s Youth Digital Natives?” Boyd addresses her claims that today’s youth are not ‘digital natives’ and still need to be taught media literacy and source credibility skills. By referring to teenagers as ‘digital natives’, it seems implied that today’s youth are born with all of the understanding needed to be successful in using technology, and Boyd rejects this idea completely. She believes that we may have garnered some self-taught skills in regards to social media but believes that we are missing critical digital literacy skills. Boyd also claims that students should be aware of the quality of websites, specifically including Google and Wikipedia, that they use and understand how the information is gathered on Wikipedia or how the information becomes a result from your search query on Google. In order to better the youth’s digital literacy, students should be taught in an educational setting about how to analyze, utilize, and find credible sources using technology. Without this skill, Boyd worries that young people will fall to the information from fake news stories and be unable to contribute works of credible information in the future. Several other authors, including Eric Meyers, Robyn Caplan, and Chris O’Neal, have published works that operate in tandem with Boyd’s to showcase the lack of digital literacy in teenagers, the risk of solely relying on Google and it’s algorithms as a way to find the ‘best’ and ‘most credible’ source, and the benefits of utilizing Wikipedia as a starting point for gathering information for educational research or for merely out of pure curiosity. In my essay, I will analyze how several outside sources correlate, illustrate, and extend some of Boyd’s main claims.
In Danah Boyd’s chapter titled “Digital Literacy: Are Today’s Youth Digital Natives?” the author claims that the majority of young people lack critical digital literacy. Even though the younger generation is constantly surrounded by technology, they are unable to leverage it to the best of their ability and to make the most of their online experiences. Digital literacy refers to a person’s ability to find, analyze, utilize, and construct information, using various digital devices. However, it needs to be made clear that digital literacy can be significantly influenced by wealth that affords individuals with more access to technology and therefore, potentially greater knowledge of it. Boyd acknowledges throughout her work that a digitally literate individual is someone who evaluates the credibility and construction of their sources, yet this ability remains unattained by today’s youth as a whole. If young individuals were able to learn this skill, the spreading of purposeful misinformation through so-called ‘fake news’ would diminish greatly, alleviating the drama that ensues from actions of those who deliberately spread false information to accomplish an ill-intended purpose. If individuals were able to develop this specific skill set, it would undoubtedly aid them in accessing verified information. Boyd firmly believes that many young people, far from being digitally savvy, are technologically naive and only learn the very basics of internet usage, barely skimming the surface of the wealth of knowledge and possibilities that are provided by the internet. The author supports this claim by sharing a personal experience about a young woman who used her Android phone as her main source of technology but seemed to neglect the search browser and the immense amount of information that it can access. Boyd states, “She told me that it was possible to surf the web on her phone, but it was time-consuming and frustrating, so she rarely bothered. She preferred to look things up on the computer at school, but she rarely had that type of access. If she really needed something, she texted her friends to see if anyone knew the answer or had access to a “real” computer” (Boyd, 194). This young woman embodies Boyd’s idea of today’s youth; she lacks the skill set needed to find reliable information, even though, at first glance, she appears to have no problem using a digital device. Boyd discusses the findings by Eszter Hargittai who surveyed internet users, including those of the younger generation, about their internet usage. Hargittai’s survey data suggested that media literacy is not merely a generational phenomenon but that it relies on a number of different factors. For example, Hargittai found that teens’ access to technology is greatly correlated to the quality of the hardware and software they have at their disposal, and this accessibility of higher quality technology, as claimed by Boyd, is mainly based on an individual’s socioeconomic status. From Hargittai’s findings, it is clear that critical digital literacy is not only a generational issue because there are large variations even within each age group. In general, Boyd makes a strong claim that, contrary to popular beliefs, today’s younger generation is lacking in technology-related skill sets necessary to be sophisticated consumers of digital information and active participants in information exchange and creation.
The arguments presented by Meyers et al in “Digital Literacy and Informal Learning Environments: An Introduction” support Boyd’s claim. The authors agree overall with the idea of deficiency of younger individuals’ current behavior with technology. They stress that even what is understood by the term ‘digital literacy’ presents a wide range: from simply being ‘fluent’ in the use of gadgets to ability to apply information literacy skills including managing, evaluating, and presenting extracted information, to much more complex skills that involve being a ‘maker’ in the digital domain, i.e., creating content within current shared understandings, norms, and practices. Simply being fluent in basic navigation of technological devices that are frequently mistaken for digital literacy makes little sense in the ever-changing technological landscape with new tools and applications continuously being developed. For this reason, Meyers, Erickson, and Boyd stress that any definition of digital literacy “must be fluid and organic in nature” (356). Echoing Boyd’s assertion that digital literacy varies greatly among young people based on individual traits, Meyers et al point out that some young people appear to lack motivation to develop computer skills or “they think that they are digitally literate when they are not” (359), i.e., they may not be aware that skills beyond theirs even exist or may be necessary. The latter finding may be partially explained by the fact that young people do not comprehend what digital illiteracy involves and do not see the need for a formal learning approach due to being self-taught in such areas of the digital world as social media, gaming, fan accounts, or everyday blogging. For example, in the personal interaction mentioned in Boyd’s work, the young female assumedly uses her Android phone fairly consistently, sending texts and using various social media accounts, because these are the skills with which she is comfortable and has taught herself to perform. However, her continued lack of motivation to go beyond these basic routines mirrors Meyer’s perception of today’s youth. Meyers et al point out that, in addition to socioeconomic status that results in differentiated access and use of technology, one’s social group, specifically its members’ aspirations, degree of involvement with technology, and use patterns, undoubtedly also affect how individuals interact with their devices. Only some young people possess a so-called ‘hacker orientation’ where it is important for them to be able to dissect how exactly things work in the digital domain and to be able to reshape them or even create their own code (Meyers et al, 362). The narrow-minded approach of the majority, however, only allows for ‘good enough’ solutions to be found for problems in the digital realm. These partial solutions continue to cause a deficiency in digital literacy and, therefore, perpetuate the need for precise instructions from educators, such as librarians or other information teachers, in how to carry out various information-gathering tasks (Boyd, 359). This skill instruction can barely keep up with the rapid changes in digital technologies, furthering the decline of youth’s knowledge in the area of digital literacy.
Boyd argues that Google is commonly used in society as being a respected source for educational purposes. Therefore, it is commonly understood by students that everything that appears on the top of the Google search page is true and trustworthy. As a specific personal narrative example, Boyd references thirteen-year-old Corrinne who, when asked why she would not use a different informational website, simply explained that, whenever she wanted something, she would “usually go on Google.” It is noteworthy that Google is a for-profit search engine company that relies on monetization through advertising (Boyd, 184). Google does little to no confirmation of the veracity or quality of the content, relying on its system of indexing websites, with its main focus being on providing articles on topics that are relevant in regard to the query and most frequently cited or linked to by other sites. Moreover, Google relies on man-made algorithms to create personalized search results for its users based on what it believes the specific users will find relevant, and according to Boyd, “the specifics of corporate algorithms, like Google’s, are considered trade secrets” (185). Boyd explains that designers of algorithms capable of self-refinement cannot account for all of the decisions that the algorithms will make as these algorithms evolve when receiving new input due to their machine learning capabilities. In “Algorithmic Accountability: A Primer”, Robyn Caplan illustrates Boyd’s ideas further by discussing that algorithms can possibly negatively affect the user’s search results by hindering opportunities, hiding services, and causing ‘technological redlining,’ based on protected attributes like race, income, or gender, even when not explicitly referenced (3). Redlining is defined as “an unethical practice that puts services (financial and otherwise) out of reach for residents of certain areas based on race or ethnicity. It can be seen in the systematic denial of mortgages, insurance, loans and other financial services based on location rather than an individual’s qualifications and creditworthiness” (Kenton). Generally, redlining has been outlawed for some time but is still prevalent online as a form of digital data discrimination, utilizing individuals’ personal information and search history. While members of the public generally tend to believe that algorithms are unbiased, they are overlooking the fact that algorithms are trained to make decisions on the so-called ‘training data’ that contain data points about individuals as well as decisions previously made by other humans based on these data points. The algorithms are, therefore, trained to make decisions using the same criteria or logic that humans used, sometimes in matters affecting the individuals’ livelihood and opportunities. Therefore, if human decisions were biased against a specific group, the algorithm will exacerbate and perpetuate the bias (Caplan et al, 3). The negative effects of such algorithms violate expectations of fairness and can affect people drastically without their awareness. In Boyd’s work, a political activist and technology creator, Eli Pariser, argues that man-made personalized algorithms (i.e., those that tailor their output based on who the user is) produce social divisions that cause an inability to inform the public equally (186). Caplan warns that algorithms with built-in biases hurt already marginalized groups in society the most, and independent auditing of algorithms and their output can be an extremely challenging task due to high technical complexity, the fact that they function as ‘black boxes,’ and lack of government regulation for this new field (10). As a whole, algorithms should not be trusted heavily as they are programmed to change on their own with even their creators incapable of retaining control. Because of its sole reliance on algorithms, Google is not as dependable with its information as was previously believed by society and especially by educational institutions.
On the other hand, Wikipedia, by its very design, is a crowdsourced encyclopedia with many authors and reviewers. Ironically, for this reason, it is commonly shunned by teachers who view the site as being filled with personal opinions and misinformation. Boyd repeatedly states that students are frequently not allowed to use Wikipedia in school due to it being “full of inaccuracies because anyone could edit it” (183). Boyd immediately discredits this public erroneous belief by explaining that Wikipedia is a place where “an active community of volunteer moderators shapes the content, regulating it through a set of collectively determined social and technical protocols that provide a framework for appropriate user edits” (183). The site has a team of moderators who are in charge of the content and always add more useful information from contributors who, in turn, have different specific knowledge to offer from their own areas of expertise. Chris O’Neal, author of “Using Wikipedia in the Classroom: A Good Starting Point” extends Boyd’s claim regarding the potential benefits of Wikipedia in education by suggesting that it can be utilized as an “immediate fact-gathering base” which allows individuals to have a good starting point for learning about a topic. As mentioned previously in Boyd, because of the site being constantly edited and monitored, Wikipedia contains fairly credible information supported and verified by multiple users, rather than opinions of single individuals. Boyd laments that “Wikipedia can be a phenomenal educational tool, but few educators I met knew how to use it constructively…” (188). Additionally, educators who are critical of Wikipedia as a source of information typically overlook its important benefits that go far beyond presenting a collection of facts. Boyd points out that Wikipedia “isn’t simply a product of knowledge; it’s also a record of the process by which people share and demonstrate knowledge (189). Thus, it models very important processes of collaboration in knowledge, construction, and verification. Additionally, in Boyd’s words, “Wikipedia is, by both its nature and its commitments, a work in progress” (191). Its transparent processes can thus be used to demonstrate the non-finite nature of knowledge and continued process of discovery. Finally, Wikipedia models utilization and referencing of external sources based on which the information is compiled. Despite these attractive features of Wikipedia, O’Neal quotes the site’s own published FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to advise that “students should never use information in Wikipedia for formal purposes (such as a school essay) until they have checked those external sources.” Due to Wikipedia being a ‘work in progress’ and the large number of contributors involved, it is important to look at the sources used for each article to check for credibility and possibly more useful information as well. Contrary to popular belief, Wikipedia is an extremely trustworthy site that contains useful information for education that can be far more beneficial than merely clicking the first website link listed on Google.
The assertions made by Boyd and the other authors were well argued. The concept of digital literacy goes far beyond being able to quickly press the right keys when using a popular app. Not many young users of technology question why things work the way they do and consider implications of over-reliance of algorithms programmed by others and improved upon by machines. Older users, while lacking the intuitiveness in the use of gadgets, may have an advantage over the young generation in terms of perseverance to get the right information or to solve a problem in the digital domain. Overall, the view that technological progress can provide solutions to all our problems and automate all our needs without unintended consequences is naive. The older generation who may have developed stronger critical thinking and reasoning skills may be in a better position to understand these consequences than young people who may have an advantage in the speed on typing on the keyboard. Older, more educated users may also have an advantage in utilizing technology for systematic research, especially when the young generation is not taught digital research skills appropriately in school. Among the persuasive tools used by different authors, I found narratives about individual users, perhaps, the least persuasive, especially Boyd quoting the interviewee who was merely thirteen years old. However, when survey data or technical information were shared, I found myself more interested and more convinced. In this regard, Caplan et al and Meyers et al. both stood out as more informative and targeting a more sophisticated audience. For example, Caplan et al offered a ‘primer’ on algorithms to make his point. However, even in Boyd’s work, I enjoyed a more nuanced discussion of what it means to be a ‘digital native.’ When constructing an argument, it is important to define what is being discussed; in this case, what exactly being a digital native entails. O’Neal’s article, while short in length, provided straightforward, factual evidence about the benefits of using Wikipedia in an educational setting, using direct quotes from the website’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) section. By O’Neal doing so, I was more persuaded, due to his use of concrete information. Boyd, Caplan et al, and Meyers et al. managed to demonstrate that there are levels of understanding of digital literacy, which contributed greatly to the authors being able to make their points. Caplan et al discussed societal impact of putting blind faith in algorithms with potentially grave consequences that, if we are not vigilant, can undo what society has been able to achieve so far in terms of equal treatment of everyone. All of the authors addressed, in one way or another, the implications for education: digital literacy should never be assumed but should be systematically taught because there are many aspects of it of which young people are not even aware, despite the ‘digital native’ label that they have been given. Digital literacy is not an innate characteristic for younger individuals: it is a skill set that involves a lengthy process of learning for a person to fully master and that must be constantly reviewed, in order for one to be informed on the newest technology used for finding credible and helpful sources.
Boyd, Danah. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Yale University Press, 2015.
Caplan, Robyn et al. “Algorithmic Accountability: A Primer.” Data & Society, Data & Society, 18 Apr. 18AD, datasociety.net/output/algorithmic-accountability-a-primer/.
Kenton, Will. “Redlining.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 13 Dec. 2018, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/redlining.asp.
O’Neal, Chris. “Using Wikipedia in the Classroom: A Good Starting Point.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 20 Nov. 2006, http://www.edutopia.org/using-wikipedia-classroom.
Meyers, Eric M., et al. “Digital Literacy and Informal Learning Environments: an Introduction.” Taylor and Francis Online, Taylor and Francis Online, 25 Apr. 2013, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439884.2013.783597.
Polina A. Cobb
30 October 2018
Analysis of “YouTube the Great Radicalizer” by Zeynep Tufekci
Is YouTube addictive on purpose? YouTube is an extremely popular website with almost 2 billion users each month, and the site is flooded with videos about various topics, some being extreme (Gilbert). Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist who researches the social impact of technology and the author of “Youtube the Great Radicalizer”, claims that YouTube’s algorithm recommends increasingly-intense videos to its viewers based off of previously watched videos, which continually keeps users watching YouTube. Tufekci employs countless rhetorical strategies to appeal to pathos, logos, and ethos; therefore, the author better persuades her audience to agree with her claim. In this paper, I will be specifically analyzing the credibility of the author, use of description, verbiage, analogies, “big names”, personal anecdotes, statistics and one specific source for analysis in order to better understand the strength of Tufekci’s argument and level of persuasion.
One of the first strategies utilized in the text, “YouTube the Great Radicalizer” is the credibility of the writer in order to support the appeal of ethos to the readers. The article immediately states that the author, Zeynep Tufekci, is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of “Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest.” The fact that she is an educated scholar at a well-respected, public research university and as well as a common ‘battleground’ for protests about the Confederate monument called “Silent Sam” displays her intelligence as a scholar and her understanding of the main topic in her article (Bacon). Tufekci is the author of an article about protests on social media, specifically Twitter, that includes research and data in regards to the subject at hand and as well as a thorough analysis about the effects that it has on individuals’ daily lives. The author also utilizes description to support ethos by discussing the personal investigation that she conducted in regards to seeing the extremism of YouTube’s recommended videos first hand. For example, she describes her exploration of main stream right-wing videos that immediately led her to a recommended list of videos about white supremacy and denial of the Holocaust. While opposingly, searches of left-wing videos directed her to videos about the possibility of secret government agencies and that the attacks of September 11 were done by the US government (Zeynep, 1). By utilizing her background, personal research, and description, the author was able to not only support her claim but also the integrity of herself as an author, and due to this, there is fairly little room for the audience to question Tufekci’s main claim as she fully supports all of her ideas. The author’s application of the writing strategy ethos showcases her knowledgeable background that further supports her reliability as an author and her main claim that YouTube’s algorithm is immoral.
Tufekci utilizes rhetorical strategies to appeal to pathos throughout her writing in order for her readers to support and better understand her main point. The author claims consistently throughout the article that YouTube continually and unethically recommends more radical videos based on the past and present viewing and searching history of the individual viewers. This claim is not completely hidden from viewers and is partially known amongst society, and some may even view the way YouTube recommends videos as being helpful for the users. However, the verbiage that the author employs shows that this technique that YouTube utilizes should be viewed as ‘dangerous’, ‘outrageous’, and ‘unacceptable. The author asserts a helpful analogy in her text to support her claim by inciting an emotional response in her readers; she compares the way that viewers feed and consume these videos to the way that individuals commonly indulge in sugar, fat, and salt as a guilty pleasure. However, these forms of guilty pleasures can engulf people and take control of their lives as some individuals in our society are commonly suffering from addiction to social media and the internet, spending hours of the day watching videos and taking in information, and to food as well where many individuals are becoming obese and threatening their lives due to their addiction and overconsumption of food. Due to the author’s use of rhetorical strategies to appeal to pathos, it would be extremely difficult for a reader to not feel emotional supportive to the author’s claim, especially due to her analogy that involves two forms of common addictions that affect many individuals. The author was clearly able to appeal to pathos by making her topic appear threatening and a danger to our society with her word choice and her strong analogy, engaging the readers’ emotions.
The author utilizes many ‘big names’ in her article in order to support her claims and appeal to logos. Tufekci utilizes the findings of a past Google engineer, Guillaume Chaslot, in order to support her main claim that YouTube is one of the most powerful radicalizing influences of this century. Chaslot supports her claim by stating that based on the first search of the user, the algorithm put into service by YouTube will then start constantly recommending the viewer pro-left or pro-right videos, which will be more intense and radical, and as the viewer continues to click on these videos, they become more left and right winged and therefore become more extreme and extensive as well. By utilizing the statements of an intelligent and credible professional in the field of interest, Tufekci supports her claims using the personal anecdotes of Chaslot and the statistics and data he found while working at Google. Tufekci also describes a specific investigation that was conducted by the Wall Street Journal and assisted by Chaslot as well, and the research found supported the idea that YouTube did commonly ‘feed’ viewers far-right or far-left videos to viewers who watched news from standard sources. Due to an uproar caused by YouTube recommending videos that promote the conspiracy theory that the survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting are nothing more than ‘crisis actors’, Jonathan Albright, a researcher at the famous university, Columbia, discovered that by typing ‘crisis actor’ into the search bar, thousands of videos promoting conspiracy theories appear about various shootings, including the one in Newtown, Connecticut (Zeynep, 2). Due to the large amount of strong evidence from many verified sources and institutions, it is hard for a reader to not be persuaded partially or fully to side with the author’s claim. The author purely utilizes sources that aide their main claims but does not apply any material from authors who have differing viewpoints, and by doing this, Tufekci assumes that her audience already mostly or partially agrees with her as she feels no need to address the other side’s stance. The usage of knowledgeable sources with many from educational institutions solidifies Tufekci’s claim that YouTube’s recommended video algorithm is extreme and assisting in the radicalization of many debated topics, due to the high popularity of the website and app.
One of the most helpful sources in aiding Tufekci’s argument is the Wall Street Journal. As mentioned previously, Tufekci discusses an investigation that was done by the Wall Street Journal and former Google engineer, Guillaume Chaslot about the content of YouTube’s recommended videos. Tufekci quotes that the Wall Street Journal discovered that YouTube commonly “fed far-right or far-left videos to users who watched relatively mainstream new sources” (Zeynep, 1). It is important and helpful that Tufekci included this specific quote from the source because it provides factual confirmation of her claim, and the quote is clearly articulated, strong in regards to supporting the claim, and overall related to the main idea of her article. When viewing the original article by the Wall Street Journal, it was evident that a quote on a main point was omitted, which discussed how YouTube’s algorithm may affect the recommended video list for the viewer but has no effect on the recommended videos on YouTube’s homepage. Tufekci understandably did not include this quote in her article as it goes against her main claim, and instead, she utilized a quote that would better support and further her claim. Through her use of picking specific quotes to put into effect or avoid, she can better persuade the audience to agree with her claim about the extremism of YouTube’s recommended videos.
Tufekci as a whole has an extremely compelling argument. However, there are two weaknesses in her argument that she could have utilized to make it stronger. Tufekci’s tone and verbiage throughout the entire article makes it clear that she is under the assumption that her readers already agree partially with her claim. Because of this, she does not address any main opposing viewpoints or cites sources that disagree with her claim and therefore, provides very little to no rebuttals. The usage of a moderate amount of rebuttals in her work would have strengthened her argument as a whole by showing that she considered the issue from various angles and understands both sides to a certain degree. The second weakness in Tufekci’s argument is that there was no clear solution presented for the issues presented in her writing. At the very end of the article, it states, “there is no reason to let a company make so much money while potentially helping to radicalize billions of people, reaping the financial benefits while asking society to bear so many of the costs.” This last line is true, but because no answers for the issues were provided, her readers have no way to utilize the information they learned and are left with a sense of hopelessness and that nothing can be done to fix the problem. If Tufekci fixed both of these weaknesses, her argument would have been more solidified and therefore, more persuasive for the readers overall.
Tufekci’s argument that YouTube recommends increasingly extreme videos to its users, in order to keep them continuously glued to YouTube videos, is dangerous as these videos can cause addiction to the internet and social media and possibly change people’s perceptions as well. Through writing this paper, my belief on the topic has greatly changed; I was aware of an algorithm that was used to recommend videos to me and other viewers, but I had no idea that the videos became more radicalized over time. Because of this, I want to hinder the amount of YouTube that I watch and let others know about this algorithm that causes individuals to be purposefully addicted to the video website. Tufekci’s article was effective in showcasing her message through her employment of rhetorical strategies that supported her appeals to pathos, logos, and ethos.
Bacon, John. “Confederate Statue, Known as ‘Silent Sam,’ Toppled by Protesters on UNC Campus.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 21 Aug. 2018, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/08/21/confederate-statue-silent-sam-university-north-carolina-chapel-hill/1049796002/.
Gilbert, Ben. “YouTube Now Has over 1.8 Billion Users Every Month, within Spitting Distance of Facebook’s 2 Billion.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 4 May 2018, http://www.businessinsider.com/youtube-user-statistics-2018-5.
Tufekci, Zeynep. “YouTube, the Great Radicalizer.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Mar. 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/opinion/sunday/youtube-politics-radical.html
Zeynep Tufecki utilizes pathos throughout her writing in her article, Youtube, the Great Radicalizer as a way to appear to the audience’s emotions in order for them to support and better understand her claim. The author claims consistently throughout the article that Youtube continually recommends videos based on the past and present viewing and searching history of the individual viewers. This claim is not hidden from Youtube viewers and is fairly well known amongst society, and some may even see the way Youtube recommends videos as being helpful for the users. However, the wording that the author uses shows that this technique that Youtube utilizes should be viewed as ‘dangerous’, and the author compares the way that viewers feed and consume these videos to the way that individuals commonly indulge in sugar, fat, and salt as a guilty pleasure. However, these form of guilty pleasures can engulf people and take grips of their lives as some individuals in our society are commonly suffering from addiction to social media and the internet, spending hours of the day watching videos and taking in information, and to food as well where many individuals are becoming obese and risking their lives for their addiction to food. The author was clearly able to make her topic appear threatening and a danger to our society with her use of words and verbiage, engaging the readers’ emotions.
Tufekci utilizes the strategy of ethos in her article as well. She utilizes the findings of a past Google engineer, Guillaume Chaslot, in order to support her main claim that initially appears difficult to be true, and her main claim for the entirety of her article is that YouTube is one of the most powerful radicalizing influences of this century. Chaslot supported her main claim by stating that based on the first search of the user, the algorithm used for Youtube will then start constantly recommending the viewer pro-left or pro-right videos, which may be fairly intense and radical, and as the user continues to click on these videos, the videos become more left and right winged and therefore become more extreme and extensive as well. By utilizing the statements of an intelligent and credible professional in the field of interest, Tufekci supports her claims using the personal anecdotes of Chaslot and the statistics and data he found while working at Google.