Why Study Credibility Today?
With the explosion of digital media content and access devices in the last generation, there is now more information available to more people from more sources than at any time in human history. People currently have ready access to almost inconceivably vast information repositories that are increasingly portable, accessible, and interactive in both delivery and formation. Basic human activities have changed as a result, and new possibilities have emerged. For example, there now exist incredible new opportunities for learning, social connection, and individual entertainment and enhancement in a wide variety of forms.
However, the wide scale access and multiplicity of sources that ensure vast information availability also make assessing the credibility of information extremely complex. The origin of information, its quality, and its veracity are now in many cases less clear than ever before, resulting in an unparalleled burden on individuals to locate appropriate information and assess its meaning and relevance accurately. Doing so is highly consequential: Assessing credibility inaccurately can have serious social, personal, educational, relational, health, and financial consequences. As a result, determining trust, believability, and information bias - key elements of credibility - become critical as individuals process the information in their lives gleaned from digital media.
For the last decade we have been researching these issues, and much of that work is represented and described here. Most recently, we have undertaken a large-scale research project designed to assess people's understandings of credibility across the wide range of digital information resources available today, including new and emerging forms. Through this work our goal is to learn more about how people find and use online information that they believe to be credible, and to refine and develop appropriate theories of credibility assessment in the contemporary media environment. What we learn in this research will help to advance social science, improve how we educate people to think critically, and contribute to discussions of public policy development.