• Katrine Bak
4. semester, Kommunikation, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
Abstract The aim of this thesis is to examine what happens with the users trust in the internet as the content is becoming user generated. This thesis is an empirical study in the user’s confidence in the internet. New technology is making it easier for individual user to disclose their opinions online. Consequently, the internet is being flooded with user generated content. Not many years ago the users were accustomed to expert opinions. However, the internet today is allowing everybody to be heard. The study has two goals – a theoretical one and an empirical one. Firstly I will discuss some theoretical aspects of both the modern society and the trust issue using Anthony Giddens. His theory will cast light upon our society in accordance to the phenomenon of trust and the internet. On the basis of a discussion of Andrew Keen’s book “The cult of the amateur” and James Surowiecki’s book “The wisdom of crowds” I will further accentuate both the negative and the positive aspects of user generated content within the context of the modern society. Focus is here on the dualism between expert and common user. Secondly, I seek to empirically understand how the users feel and think about the user generated content. I will collect empirical data as the basis of my analysis. As a direct consequence of the many types of user generated content online I chose a specific case, Wikipedia as I think the participants can relate to this medium and its functioning. Wikipedia is a free encyclopaedia written collaboratively by users. To examine what happens with the users trust in the internet as the content is becoming more user generated I make use of focus group interview which is the base of the analysis, but also a questionnaire investigation is brought into play. Here, the participants will answer questions about the user generated content, and their preference of either experts or user. On basis of the empirical data I will analyse the answers given by the participants and further relate this to the theoretical aspects of the thesis. I will discuss the abnormal and different results before concluding upon the thesis. In the analysis I found that the user generated content is simultaneously overwhelming and impressive. However, an unforeseen downside to the user generated content and the new, improved opportunities to express one self, is growing selv-centredness. Users publish themselves and their meanings as a personal development project which leaves the internet full of clutter. Concerning Wikipedia, the users are ambivalent towards the articles on this online encyclopaedia because the content is undesirable in professional connections; however, the content is acceptable for private issues. Consequently, I draw the conclusion that users distinguish between the knowledge they seek and on within this context I define three kinds of knowledge: • Correct knowledge • Fairly good knowledge • Incorrect knowledge. The participants seek and double check the result when looking for correct knowledge which is often used for professional purposes and the users trust in this knowledge is rather high. The fairly good knowledge is acceptable for private use where the demands are lower than in professional tasks. The users often have reservations towards this knowledge, because they know the knowledge might not be correct. The incorrect knowledge is not something the participants seek. However, this knowledge can be obtained if the users are uncritical or unlucky. The user is seldom aware of the knowledge being incorrect and as a result awkward situations can occur if the user spreads incorrect information’s. Not all articles are equally suitable for Wikipedia. In certain issues the users let their emotions get the better of them which can cause extreme vandalism in some articles. Religion and politics tend to promote these kinds of actions which have forced Wikipedia to introduce limitations to some articles. Thus Wikipedia is compromising its motto “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. Wikipedia gets a lot of poor publicity and Due et al. describes four points of criticism with which the online encyclopaedia is mostly slated – poor quality, the utopia of the “Neutral point of view”-rule, the internet’s self referring character and genre confusion. My analysis revealed that the users find Wikipedia guilty of all charges which interfere with the issue of trusting the content. Furthermore, the concept behind the project is causing Wikipedia to be untrustworthy since every time an article is close to perfect, the subsequent user can change the content to pure nonsense. Regarding the expert vs. amateur issue, the users agree that the amateurs cannot replace the expert in our modern society. The result would be a lack of scientific content and a need for new reliable information. The users in both the focus group interview and the questionnaire challenge the idiom expert. They find it tricky to see through the label because it is used at random. Furthermore, a user can be an expert in real life but any user can pretend to be an expert online which weakens the term. The participants rarely trust other users which prove that they are aware of the opportunities to hide and alter identities online. Thus Giddens would describe the users as being without “ontological security”. My thesis concludes that circa 90 % of the users are critical towards the user generated content. They tend to be aware of the fact that the content is not written by professionals. This leaves 10 % of the users with a blinding confidence in the user generated content. Hence, it is important to inform the public, that there is a need to be critical towards information on the internet.
Antal sider84
Udgivende institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 14702124