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Participatory Web Users’ Information Activities and Credibility Assessment

  • Rieh, Soo-Young (School of Information, University of Michigan)
  • Received : 2010.09.13
  • Accepted : 2010.10.06
  • Published : 2010.11.30

Abstract

Assessment of information credibility is a ubiquitous human activity given that people constantly make decisions and selections based on the value of information in a variety of information seeking and use contexts. Today, people are increasingly engaging in diverse online activities beyond searching for and reading information, including activities such as creating, tagging and rating content, shopping, and listening to and watching multimedia content. The Web 2.0 environment presents new challenges for people because the burden of information evaluation is shifted from professional gatekeepers to individual information consumers. At the same time, however, it also provides unprecedented opportunities for people to use tools and features that help them to make informed credibility judgments by relying on other people's ratings and recommendations. This paper introduces fundamental notions and dimensions of credibility, and contends that credibility assessment can be best understood with respect to human information behavior because it encompasses both the level of effort people exert as well as the heuristics they employ to evaluate information. The paper reports on a survey study investigating people's credibility judgments with respect to online information, focusing on the constructs, heuristics, and interactions involved in people's credibility assessment processes within the context of their everyday life information activities. Using an online activity diary method, empirical data about people's online activities and their associated credibility assessments were collected at multiple points throughout the day for three days. The results indicate that distinct credibility assessment heuristics are emerging as people engage in diverse online activities involving more user-generated and multimedia content. A heuristic approach suggests that people apply mental shortcuts or rules of thumb in order to minimize the amount of cognitive effort and time required to make credibility judgments. The paper discusses why a heuristic approach is key to reaching a more comprehensive understanding of people's credibility assessments within the information-abundant online environment.

Keywords

Information Credibility;Credibility Assessment;Web 2.0;Information Behavior;Diary Study Method

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