In my previous post, I outlined the crisis of credibility that has beset scholarly information. In this post I present the first in a series of posts explaining the GeSTE windows model for the critical evaluation of information (Lupton 2008, Lupton & Bruce 2010).
The GeSTE windows is a way of seeing information literacy as Generic, Situated, Transformative and Expressive (see Figure 1). The GeSTE windows form a hierarchy of increasing complexity with the Generic window at the base (i.e. simplistic) and the Transformative and Expressive windows as the top level (i.e. complex).
The Generic window for information literacy is the most simplistic as it deals with generic skills and processes (see Figure 2). Ways of working with information are seen as transferable and decontextualised. Information is seen as external (out there to be found), objective and codified. Information is found by using search strategies and following the stages of a research process.
Information is critically evaluated using surface signs such as currency, authority, bias and provenance. This approach is commonly seen in checklists such as:
- how to determine website credibility: author, date, citations and links, publisher, purpose, accuracy, comprehensiveness, design, quality, acknowledgment of intellectual property
- CRAP test (internet sources): currency, reliability, authority, purpose
- CARS test (internet sources): credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, support
- SMELL test (for mass media): source, motivation, evidence, logic, left out
- ‘6 critical questions to think about when someone has something to say ‘: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
- …and many more checklists from Kathy Schrock…
It was always intrigued me that these checklists became popular with the advent of the World Wide Web. It seems that suddenly people became worried about the trustworthiness of information when they no longer could rely on traditional publishing to filter their information for them. The trouble is, we should be actively evaluating all forms information, not just web-based information.
The checklists are an OK place to start, but they are overly simplistic. For instance, when researching the Australian drop bear, you might find this website from the Australian Museum. You might also find the article ‘Indirect tracking of drop bears using GNSS technology’, written by Dr Volker Janssen, an Honorary Research Associate from the University of Tasmania and published by Australian Geographer, a reputable journal. If you were to apply the basic internet sources checklist you might conclude that these sources contain accurate and reliable information. But you’d be wrong :-).