Teach Information Architecture If You Care About Trust

Today’s activity revolves around a tweet that National Geographic (through the Society) has recognized a fifth ocean. I use this tweet here as a jumping off point, but if you want to run it in in another platform you can find examples anywhere.

Today Show’s tweet making claim.

Like over half the prompts we use with SIFT, this is a true prompt, and shows how SIFT works well. If you know the Today Show, you can INVESTIGATE the source through hovering and take into account the blue check, and that’s good to go. If you don’t trust the show or don’t know them, you could TRACE this back to the source, in this case National Geographic, and make sure this is a correct summary of what was said. If you’re just interested in this claim that there are five, not four, oceans, you can FIND better coverage and learn about the larger case for five oceans — which is not a new thing at all, even if the boundaries are under dispute.

Wikipedia index of the Southern Ocean page showing long history of term.

I walk through the process here, beginning to end. Give it a play!

One thing I’ll point out here — when you do activities like this you introduce students to our current knowledge infrastructure. As shown in the video, they learn about NOAA, they learn about the IHO. And I can’t stress how important this is. Oftentimes the first time a student will hear about NOAA, for instance, is in the context of a divisive issue like climate change. Getting students familiar with various agencies and professional organizations, what they do well and what they do poorly, is important as students come to future debates where the nature of these agencies is often misrepresented.

We spend all this time asking “Why don’t people trust agency X on issue Y?” and sometimes there’s good reasons for that! But a lot of the time the question we should be asking is “Why should someone trust Agency X if the only time they ever hear about it is when it is mired in political controversy?” We spend so much time teaching students either facts or methods or concepts in a domain like science, and very little time introducing students to the knowledge producing organizations and social processes in those fields, which is arguably more important info to the average citizen.

I don’t go deeply into this in the video, but as your students click around through the search results on this task, you should get them to look up NOAA, by using the About this Result function in Google, but go the extra step and pull up the Wikipedia page. Talk about the various things that NOAA does, the role of these sorts of agencies in producing knowledge, the vast array of equipment and sensors. The data produced that even when not used by NOAA directly makes the work of many other scientists possible.

Then, maybe when your students do come across NOAA in a politicized context they’ll have some background. But if we don’t teach them, how would they know?