Just because it’s on the Internet…

Tim Berners-LeeBy way of Stephen Downes, I learned this morning about an interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee [Image ((Basterra, Jonan. “Campus Party 2008 – Tim Berners-Lee.” Pixel y Dixel’s Photostream. 29 July 2008. 15 Sep 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/pixelydixel/2712988953/>. ))] on the coming launch of the World Wide Web Foundation.  The BBC reporter (Warning Sounded on Web’s Future) honed in on some comments that Berners-Lee made about the web’s use for spreading misinformation.  The mission of the new organization, which has been seeded with a $5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is to,

..work to produce a technology that is good for humanity, which will be good for democracy, which will be good for science. ((Young, Jeffrey R.. “Web’s Creator Starts Foundation to Apply Networking Technology to Social Problems.” The Chronical of Higher Education 15 Sep 2008 15 Sep 2008 <http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/3317/webs-creator-starts-foundation-to-apply-networking-technology-to-social-problems>. ))

But Sir Tim commented about the reliability of the web, mostly stemming from this week’s switch on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, where he and associates did their pioneering work on the Web.  The Internet was the vehicle for the spreading of..

..fears that flicking the switch on the LHC could create a Black Hole that could swallow up the Earth particularly concerned him. In a similar vein was the spread of rumours that the MMR vaccine given to children in Britain was harmful. ((Ghosh, Pallab. “Warning Sounded on Web’s Future.” BBC News 15 Sep 2008 15 Sep 2008 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7613201.stm>. ))

He said that they were exploring systems for labeling web sites based on their trustworthiness, but he indicated that he was not in favor of giving web sites a, “..number like an IQ rating because like peole they can vary in all kinds of different ways.”

Of course my long standing answer is literacy — that we expand our notions of what it means to be literate, to include skills and frames of reference that enable us to wisely judge the value of an information product.  The job of the librarian has become a personal skill.

That said, there are people out there who are much smarter and more creative than I am, and I have to wonder if there may be some way(s) to establish library-type features to the World Wide Web.

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