Multimedia Sources: Accuracy and Purpose

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information

Establishing the accuracy of multimedia sources can be challenging because they often represent a combination of facts, opinions, and perspectives from different individuals. The more the content of a multimedia source varies from the generally accepted point of view on a particular topic, the more scrutiny it warrants. It may be completely accurate, but corroborating it is both more necessary and more difficult. An important aspect of accuracy is the intellectual integrity of the item.

  • Does the source refer to other sources? Are those other sources credible?
  • Are there exaggerations, omissions, or errors? These are difficulty to identify if you use only one source of information. Always use several different sources of information on your topic. Analyzing what different sources say about a topic is one way to understand that topic.
  • Are there public reactions, reviews, or other content contextualizing the source?

In addition to errors of fact and integrity, you need to watch for errors of logic. Errors of logic occur primarily in the presentation of conclusions, opinions, interpretations, editorials, ideas, etc. Some indications that information is accurate are:

  • the same information can be found in other reliable sources
  • the presentation is free from logical fallacies or errors
  • the production value (video, audio, editing) of the source is high
  • quotations are “in context”-the meaning of the original work is kept in the work which quotes the original

Some indications that information may not be accurate are:

  • facts cannot be verified or are contradicted in other sources
  • sources used are known to be unreliable or highly biased
  • quotations are taken out of context and given a different meaning
  • presence of one or more logical fallacies
  • authority cited is another part of the same organization
  • Low production value
  • Highly controversial or negative ratings

Joe Smith’s video about conserving paper towels is probably accurate. If you apply the standards above to this video, or any TEDx video, you will find that most of these are valid sources of accurate information. Because of Smith’s questionable authority, though, you would want to independently verify his claims and locate other sources that provide evidential support.

Purpose: The reason the information exists

Identifying the intended audience of a multimedia source may be easier that for other kinds of sources. Typically, sources like videos, podcasts, or interactive photo essays do a good job of stating up front why they exist. These sources are almost always contextualized in some way, whether they are published by an organization, shared on a YouTube channel, or released in a podcast series. You can use this context to define the purpose of the source.

Joe Smith’s video is a part of the TEDx series. How does TED explain the purpose of these talks?

The TEDx Program is designed to help communities, organizations and individuals to spark conversation and connection through local TED-like experiences. At TEDx events, a screening of TED Talks videos — or a combination of live presenters and TED Talks videos — sparks deep conversation and connections at the local level. TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently, under a free license granted by TED.

Whether or not Joe Smith lives up to that stated purpose is something that you as the researcher have to assess. However, the stated purpose of TEDx videos is a good baseline. Quality multimedia sources often have this kind of baseline for comparison.


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