Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm back and thinking about "accuracy"

Some people might trust what is on paper more than what is in electronic form. They would believe that the what has been produced on paper has been researched, proofed, and is accurate. But we know that isn't true. In accuracies abound and some are intentional (like directory publishers who add in a fake entry in order to catch people copying their publication).

Some people might trust what is in electronic form, yet it is easier to spread lies and inaccuracies electronically. An an error can easily be replicated. Even Microsoft makes errors in the information it delivers (thinking specifically of Microsoft's calendar for Outlook thinking that Election Day was on Nov. 1 instead of correctly on Nov. 8).

The bottom line? How do people know that the information you're presenting to them in your digital library is correct, accurate, authentic...? Do they trust you because of who you are (or your institution)? Must they already know enough in order to know that the information is right? Do they just need to blindly trust the accuracy? Should you include a "stamp" of approval?

Funny that after a week away, this is the topic that came to mind. Maybe its from watch a bunch of TV news programs and wondering if I can trust what they are telling me. Or maybe its from knowing that Microsoft applied the Election Day rule wrong. If they got that wrong, what about all the other information (e.g., holidays) that we trust them on?


Kelly said...

About a year ago my library surveyed 127 academics on various issues concerning digital library and primary source representation. One of the questions asked them to indicate whether or not they doubted the authenticity of digitized primary sources and would need to see the original item before citing the work. Very few felt that was necessary.

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

Kelly, thanks for the comment. I'm glad that your survey showed that people trusted the digitized materials. But why do they trust them? Is it because they trust the source of the materials or know enough about the subject to know that the materials are accurate?

Perhaps this will never become an issue with digitized materials, but there are instances with other electronic data being incorrect. And we do not of web site that expound unsupported viewpoints. And news photos that are altered (like a recent cover photo of Sec. of State Rice).