Workshop on Information Quality

On February 17, 2012, the Youth and Media (YaM) team hosted a workshop on “Youth and Information Quality Online”, as part of the DML Hub workshop series. We enjoyed having a diverse and passionate group of about 30 artists, makers, practitioners, and thinkers come together to discuss information quality in the youth context – namely, how young Internet users search, evaluate, create, and disseminate information online (and off) – and new opportunities for learning and collaboration.

To initiate the day, the YaM team overviewed the recent report, “Youth and Digital Media: From Credibility to Information Quality,” by presenting its narrative, framework, and key findings as illustrated in the accompanying info graphic. Following the insightful commentary of Denise Agosto and Rebekah Pure, we explored the dimensions of youth behavior online with regards to age and other demographic factors, in addition to information-related practices offline. Thinking through “problems” typically associated with young people’s information quality assessments, prompted discussion of schools’ rule-making and educational approaches.

The workshop’s second session highlighted info quality use cases from different contexts of youths’ online activity: the personal, social, and academic context. Elisa Kreisinger and Jonathan McIntosh shared their experiences teaching content creation and dissemination with regards to the personal context. Chris Altchek and Jordan Wolf (PolicyMic) and Lori Cullen (Millennial Youth Magazine) discussed the relationship of news(-making) and citizenship among young people in the context of their respective media ventures. Turning to the academic context, Mindy Faber (Open Youth Networks) explored how an info quality framework might bridge formal and informal learning; Maura Marx (DPLA) commented on how new intermediaries, such as libraries, can take learning about youths’ behaviors to heart when creating services and information environments.

The workshop concluded with reflections on policy considerations and potential system-level shifts. New trends in design and entrepreneurship may at once capitalize on youth behavior and foster new learning opportunities, as we learned from Hugo Van Vuuren; similarly, Claire McCarthy revealed how the changing landscape of health information invites new collaborations between doctors, content creators, and educators. Geanne Rosenberg and Urs Gasser culminated the conversation by addressing new prospects for innovative educational and legal policy, respectively.

We are grateful to all the participants for all the “quality information” generated during the workshop, and we look forward to continuing the conversation and taking our explorations of info quality to the next level.

Read the report, including workshop reflections, key themes, and open questions:

Youth and Media_Information Quality Workshop Summary_04242012


Listen to workshop participants reflect on what they learned:


The Remix:

Participants in the Information Quality workshop reflect on what they learned from the information quality report and the conversation with others from fields as diverse as journalism, education, health care, and the arts. Recurring themes include the importance of empowering youth to make informed information quality decisions, rather than adults acting as quality arbiters, and the myriad opportunities for collaboration, both across disciplines and fields and between youth and adults.


Claire McCarthy, MD:

Claire McCarthy, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, explains the risks and opportunities associated with young people going online for health information.


Geanne Rosenberg:

Geanne Rosenberg, Professor at Baruch College and CUNY and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center, finds the information quality idea very useful in her work with news literacy and citizenship. Her own work deals with empowering youth to find, assess, fact-check, and contribute high quality news information, and she finds that the workshop introduced her to practical interventions she can use toward these ends.

Report: From Credibility to Information Quality

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is pleased to share a substantial new report from the Youth and Media project:
Youth and Digital Media: From Credibility to Information Quality by Urs Gasser, Sandra Cortesi, Momin Malik, & Ashley Lee.

Building upon a process- and context-oriented information quality framework, this paper seeks to map and explore what we know about the ways in which young users of age 18 and under search for information online, how they evaluate information, and how their related practices of content creation, levels of new literacies, general digital media usage, and social patterns affect these activities. A review of selected literature at the intersection of digital media, youth, and information quality—primarily works from library and information science, sociology, education, and selected ethnographic studies—reveals patterns in youth’s information-seeking behavior, but also highlights the importance of contextual and demographic factors both for search and evaluation.To access the full report, please visit:

Key Findings:

1. Search shapes the quality of information that youth experience online.
2. Youth use cues and heuristics to evaluate quality, especially visual and interactive elements.
3. Content creation and dissemination foster digital fluencies that can feed back into search and evaluation behaviors.
4. Information skills acquired through personal and social activities can benefit learning in the academic context.

“Youth and Digital Media: From Credibility to Information Quality” lays the foundation and raises questions for further explorations in this area. The report also encourages a public policy discussion on youth, digital media, and information quality issues. We hope you will take the time to review the report, to build upon it, and to share it with interested colleagues and networks.

We wish to thank all of our wonderful collaborators at the Berkman Center, our friends at the Havard Law School Library, and the participants of a workshop on information quality for valuable contributions and their important work in the field. The report builds upon research enabled by generous grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Available Material:

One Page Summary [PDF]: [YaM] From Credibility to Information Quality_1 Page Summary_02202012_FINAL

Executive Summary [PDF]: [YaM] From Credibility to Information Quality_Executive Summary_02202012_FINAL

Full Report [PDF]:

Podcast: [YaM] From Credibility to Information Quality_02222012_FINAL

Information Quality Infographic: Full Size Image

“Coached to Poach” Infographic: Full Size Image

“Use it or lose it” Blogpost: Link

Information Quality

The Internet has led to structural changes in the information environment, such as the replacement of traditional gatekeepers like editorial boards or the increased diversity of speakers online. In the academic context, youth navigate this fluid and diverse digital information environment to receive homework help, gather resources, or solidify their understanding of concepts taught in school. They have the task of distinguishing facts from opinions and filtering trustworthy sources from the countless websites they encounter. In the social context, youth connect with their friends, relatives, and others over online platforms to share pictures, articles and comments about a wide range of topics including news events, relationships, and family issues. In the personal context, many youth use the Internet as a main resource for entertainment, informal ways of learning, or seeking advice about health or other information they may not feel comfortable discussing with teachers, family, or friends.

In our report “Youth and Digital Media: From Credibility to Information Quality”, we review the state of research on youths’ information-seeking, evaluation, creation, and sharing behaviors and how these behaviors are acquired in personal, social, and academic contexts. For example, our review of ethnographic studies revealed that in addition to the importance of search engines, “fortuitous searching”, a form of searching that involves browsing from link to link in an undirected manner, is widely employed by youth. Further studies show that news videos, YouTube, and social networking sites are playing increasingly important roles as information resources for youth in academic, social, and private contexts. Our own focus group interviews further suggest that these contexts are often blurring.

In the report, which was presented at a workshop for scholars, practitioners, and young Internet users, the Youth and Media team put forward a new conceptual model – the information quality framework – that guides our research and policy discussions of information and news/information literacy. This framework is both process- and context-oriented; that is, it accounts for the fact that information seekers don’t make information quality decisions only at the point of evaluating a source. Rather, it considers how youths’ levels of digital literacies, social patterns, practices of online content creation, and general digital media usage affect how they search for, evaluate, and interact with information on the Internet.

In the next phase of our information quality research, the Youth and Media team seeks to apply the new framework to two types of information that have remained underexplored from a qualitative information search, evaluation, and creation perspective: online news and health information.

With regard to news, the  research team seeks to close an important knowledge gap about youths’ online behavior–including news gathering activities, evaluation practices, and creative re-use of news. While earlier research suggests that youth (not unlike adults) prefer online news that is visual in presentation, relevant in topic, and manageable in size, additional research is needed to explore the social and creative elements of online news and, based on this understanding, to optimize curricular and tool development programs. In particular, we need a deeper understanding of the variables that affect youth behaviors related to online news. For example, what demographic factors lead to differences in young people’s online news behaviors? Understanding such factors is critical to the design of curricula and tools that accommodate variations in skills and habits among diverse populations of youth.

The Youth and Media team also wants to better understand how youth search for, evaluate, and share health information online. Research shows that young people are increasingly turning to the Internet as a primary source for health information (Ettel et al, 2012). This presents a critical topic of investigation, because the consequences of misinformation or other forms of low-quality information can be serious. Yet, this space also presents opportunities for informing youth about health issues that they might have felt hesitant about scoping out elsewhere.

In addition to these two areas where we conduct deep dives, our information quality research agenda encompasses a variety of sub-questions:

  • Youth are creating a wide range of online content such as videos, blogposts, Facebook messages and music. How do these shape their ideas of information quality and how can these activities be leveraged for the academic context?
  • How do variables such as socio-economic status, gender, peer influences, and prior experience affect youth’s search, evaluation, and content creation practices?
  • How can educators, parents, and researchers best test, measure, and improve educational interventions that teach young people how to search and evaluate information online?
  • How do youth tell whether the answers they find about their personal health questions are valid?
  • How are youth obtaining, evaluating, and interpreting (via mash-ups, online discussions, etc.) information about world events and local news?