The Future of Reading and Researching the Pacific Northwest tree octopus

Today’s New York Times has a front-page feature “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?,” by Motoko Rich.  “This is the first in a series of articles that will look at how the Internet and other technological and social forces are changing the way people read.”  The article contains numerous instances of using the internet for research and the resulting potential liabilities; for example:

Web readers are persistently weak at judging whether information is trustworthy.  In one study, Donald J. Leu, who researches literacy and technology at the University of Connecticut, asked 48 students to look at a spoof Web site ( about a mythical species known as the “Pacific Northwest tree octopus.” Nearly 90 percent of them missed the joke and deemed the site a reliable source.

The article also mentions Nicholas Carr’s article in The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” the subject of a post here, Jet Ski research” – Is Google Making Us Stoopid?  The New York Times article offers a good example of some “Jet Ski research” as performed by a 16-year old boy:

When researching the 19th-century Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for one class, he typed Taney’s name into Google and scanned the Wikipedia entry and other biographical sites.  Instead of reading an entire page, he would type in a search word like “college” to find Taney’s alma mater, assembling his information nugget by nugget.

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One Response to “The Future of Reading and Researching the Pacific Northwest tree octopus”

  1. Paul Lomio Says:

    A story in the New York Times SportsSunday section, “Records Indicate Chinese Gymnasts May Be Under Age,” includes this mention of Wikipedia:

    “. . . And there has been frequent editing of [He Kexin's] Wikipedia entry, although it could not be determined by whom. One paragraph that discusses the controversy of her age kept disappearing and reappearing on He’s entry. As of Friday, a different version of the paragraph had been restored to the page.”

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