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How Content Contributors Assess and Establish Credibility on the Web

Beth St. Jean, Soo Young Rieh, Ji Yeon Yang and Yong-Mi Kim

ASIST 2011 Annual Meeting 
New Orleans, LA, October 9-12, 2011


Summary

The proliferation of user-generated content (UGC) is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Web 2.0. Internet users contribute content online through platforms such as blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, and sites that allow user feedback. Yet little is known of the credibility practices of these content contributors. Through phone interviews conducted with 29 online content contributors, this study investigates how content contributors assess credibility when gathering information for their online content creation and mediation activities, as well as the strategies they use to establish the credibility of the content they create. These contributors reported that they engaged in content creation activities such as posting or commenting on blogs or online forums, rating or voting on online content, and uploading photos, music, or video. We found that credibility judgments made when gathering information for online content creation and mediation activities could be grouped into three levels: intuitive, heuristic, and strategy-based. We identified three distinctive ways of establishing credibility that are applied during different phases of content contribution: ensuring credibility during the content creation phase; signaling credibility during the content presentation phase; and reinforcing credibility during the post-production phase. We also discovered that content contributors tend to carry over the strategies they used for assessing credibility during information gathering to their strategies for establishing the credibility of their own content. Theoretical implications for credibility research and practical implications for developing information literacy programs are discussed.


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