A Wikipedia fact-checking hub for college-level Media Literacy, the Digital Polarization Initiative (Digipo), has been in the works for several months. The project wiki is structured to inform students of the “online ecosystems” that produced the claims and ways students can investigate and verify them. Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University Vancouver, is in charge of the initiative, part of the American Association of State Colleges and University’s (AASCU) American Democracy Project.

Digital polarization: what it is

Caulfield told Nieman Lab that the idea you’ll get to the truth by, for instance, just reading Breitbart and then Truthout, and somehow will come to the truth, is “kind of a bizarre one.” He defined “truth” as something believed by people who are in the position to know and who are likely, to tell the truth.

Digipo’s website describes digital polarization as a catch-all term for some trends that are evident across the web. These trends are not all positive. They include the rise and normalization of “fake news” that provide separate factual seemingly new universes for their readers, the spread of harassing, mob-like behavior that are part of the call-out culture, as well as state-sponsored hacking campaigns.

A curriculum of ‘questions.'

For the American Democracy Project, which started right after the U.S election last year, only members of the AASCU network can register with the Digipo. The wiki links with Hypothesis, a tool for annotation. Writers and editors either get into the dashboard to work on a page, or they write on Google Doc.

It runs on a DokuWiki software, which Caulfield said was a temporary solution. In the long term, he wanted to work with other people who are not necessarily students to build the framework, so that students can focus on their part—group investigations and verifying claims. A college-level curriculum is relying on questions, not answers, guide these students in the process of obtaining a deeper understanding of how the technologies used to build their web are also shaping their social and political environments.

Claims and analysis

Visitors to the website can immediately spot two ways for students to engage with the platform, other than browsing: picking a claim to investigate or analyzing the news. News analysis project is how students work together with their classes to look for news stories that have found their ways into their social media and popular websites.

They can work on questions that can be settled and leave questions that are to be left open, add context to the claims, and decide on a status for the claim.

These college-level students are provided with a list of question-based guideline that can help with source investigation and to learn more about how to check a site. Selecting a claim is as easy as browsing through an open application list—organized into popular categories—and then following the prompts. The Digipo will be launched to a wider audience in June.

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