Last Thurs­day was S.U.R.E. Day, an event held at the NLB to high­light a cam­paign for infor­ma­tion literacy.

The key speaker, Dr Carl Schoonover (author of ‘Por­traits of the Mind’), gave an enlight­en­ing talk about neu­ro­science, per­cep­tion and eval­u­a­tion. There was also sam­bal fish­ball, mee goreng, curry puffs catered.

What mrbrown and myself were quite deathly afraid of was that we had been engaged by a cam­paign whose objec­tive was to tell peo­ple what the cor­rect sources of infor­ma­tion were. Thank­fully, that was not the case.

S.U.R.E. stands for Source, Under­stand, Research, Eval­u­ate. And as much as I dis­like the forced forg­ing of acronyms, the ele­ments listed in the name sum up quite well what any­one would have to do to get rea­son­ably informed about what­ever issue it is they come across.

This is timely because of the flux the media land­scape is cur­rently in, espe­cially in Sin­ga­pore. Peo­ple are no longer cap­tive to the hege­mony of autho­rized print and online media, and are a lot more sus­pi­cious these days of what­ever gah­men say.

But with all man­ner of mon­keys (includ­ing mrbrown and myself) being able to pub­lish any­thing we feel like, you need fig­ure out what’s worth read­ing, what’s worth inves­ti­gat­ing fur­ther and what is merely Ter­ri­bly Rub­bishy S**t.

Take a look at the S.U.R.E. site to learn more. There is also a nice exam­ple I will now use to illus­trate a point:


Well-loved meh?

Well-loved meh?


So, Steven Chia was one of the speak­ers on the panel at S.U.R.E. Day, and his byline reads “well-loved Chan­nel NewsA­sia pro­ducer and presenter”.

You need to ques­tion the con­tent at this point: Who is Steven well-loved by?

I mean, he’s a nice guy, I like him a lot. But I can’t say I loooove  him. I’m S.U.R.E. they prob­a­bly mean he’s well loved by his wife and kids, and I have noth­ing against that.

But how many of you can tell me right now, that you really love Steven Chia to the point where you can write a byline that says “well-loved Chan­nel NewsA­sia pro­ducer and pre­sen­ter” and use it to mean that many mem­bers of the pub­lic love him?

I too, have been guilty of not prac­tic­ing the ele­ments of S.U.R.E. — do you know how hard it is to type cap­i­tal­ized and punc­tu­ated acronyms? — and I have on more than one occa­sion, clicked the share or retweet but­ton with­out actu­ally read­ing the linked arti­cle thoroughly.

Some­times, a sen­sa­tion­al­ist head­line can make one trigger/button-happy, and that’s not good if you end up dis­sem­i­nat­ing false, inac­cu­rate infor­ma­tion. In much the same way tra­di­tional papers try to ramp up cir­cu­la­tion with tan­ta­liz­ing head­lines, online pub­lish­ers try to do the same, know­ing you’ll be more likely to take a look at what’s been produced.

I remem­ber a New Paper front page head­line (writ­ten by a friend of mine) from 20 years ago that read “Mon­ster from Deep Beneath The Earth” with scant details except a blurry pic­ture of dug up mud. It was only if you snuck a peek inside or if you bought a copy that you’d find out that it was a story about a farmer’s world record potato.

With the advent of “social” shar­ing — had it been an online arti­cle — you’d have been tempted to click “like” or click through, mak­ing the potato story more vis­i­ble and passed through the time­lines of your friends and per­haps the pub­lic who are your audience.

If you live by pub­lish­ing con­tent, like mrbrown and myself, there’s this thing called cred­i­bil­ity that we’re always con­cerned with despite the fact that we also write a lot of non­sense for a liv­ing. The more inac­cu­rate or biased infor­ma­tion we dis­sem­i­nate, the less cred­i­ble we’ll be, and the fewer fol­low­ers we’ll end up having.

I think that’s a pretty good rea­son for hav­ing declin­ing viewership/readership of main­stream media too.

One of the points Dr Schoonover raised was that as a sci­en­tist, you ques­tion every­thing, and over time you become good at fig­ur­ing out what’s more right and less likely wrong. A bit like peel­ing off the lay­ers of a kueh lapis to get at the truth, hor?

Find out more about infor­ma­tion lit­er­acy and S.U.R.E. here: Face­book & S.U.R.E. Site

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  • figgy

    TV, Radio, News Papers all are happy to claim they are the best. Who is tgere to refute this… who cares really … crow about your selves, pat your self on the backs, give eact other nice sound­ing awards and make your­selves happy. To hell with the other side of the coin. Any­thing more shamless ??

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