I had written about the problem of creating our own little worlds via our own little sources of information yesterday. Now, here’s a related observation…may be a problem too.

Let me start with an example.

You read the technology section of your newspaper and notice a piece on smartphones. You like it and get good nuggets of information from it. You also notice the journalist/columnist who has written it. A week later, you see the same guy writing another piece on anti-virus software – you like that too. What would be your perception about that journalist/columnist? That he’s well-versed in assorted technology…like smartphones and anti-virus, among others?

Hold on to that thought.

I wrote my review for a new Tamil/Sinhala rap/R&B/hip-hop album earlier this week in my music review blog and had referred to a Maldivian singer too in that. She has sung 3 songs in it in collaboration with a Sri Lankan composer. One of the mails that came to me as a response was an ecstatic reader from Maldives and she said, ‘Oh…I didn’t know you listen to music from Maldives too!’.

Hold on to that thought too. Please persist…I’m coming to the point after the next paragraph.

You go out for a walk along with your friend. Your friend starts talking about how cellphones are proving to be a health risk. You don’t know much about this topic, but you listen to your friend expand on the topic…about how the bee population has been wiped out in the US dramatically thanks to cellphone networks…about how they affect our brains and what not. You listen to all of it wide-eyed and think highly about your friend’s knowledge!

No more holding on to thoughts – now, think about it.

Who among the 3 examples above would you categorize as an ‘expert’ – the journalist/columnist? Me? The friend?

Chances are that all 3 may not be experts in the strict sense, but merely giving the perception on deeper knowledge about a subject…or a set of subjects.

So, the question – in this internet age, where information is available so easily and instantly, is it easier to create a perception about being knowledgeable? If I were to continue the line of thought from yesterday’s post, are we using limited sources to judge if someone is knowledgeable?

To give you a better picture, in my case, before writing that music review, I searched for background information on each artist working on that album. I read up a bit on music from Maldives and a bit more on the particular singer in question. But I really cannot claim to be even knowledgeable about music from that country – I barely know a few things, that too gathered over an internet search. So, I wrote back to that reader about this and asked her to share more information on music from Maldives…so that I could learn at least some basics, first-hand from someone who lives there.

What goes on in your mind when you find someone writing good, interesting stuff on the net or in the media? If someone is adept in using language, isn’t it far easy to fake knowledge using information available online? Can that be called ‘fake’ knowledge at all, considering some amount of research has indeed gone into it? But is that basic level knowledge indeed knowledge? I’d love to know what you think!

Photo by Lars Plougmann via Flickr.