We’re developing a seven-week course that we came up with after a history teacher urged the library to teach a fake news course that everyone should be forced to take. We don’t use the heavy phrase “fake news” and we don’t intend to force it on anyone, but this is a great opportunity to reflect on what we mean by “mastery”. some information “. Students think librarians know things about libraries, this is where you will find information for school. In fact, we know things about information systems that are not publicized by libraries, and information literacy is about more than finding sources for missions. This course will focus on what information we encounter through various channels, how those channels work, how to quickly verify a questionable claim, and (to use Peter Elbow’s phrase) how to play the belief game as well. As Mike Caulfield demonstrated, students don’t need to learn skepticism as much as they need to learn when to trust. We’ll see how it goes.
I’m starting to think we’re entering a third wave of information literacy. The first was to allow students to ask questions using information available in libraries, and we called it bibliographic instruction. The second was to rethink what students needed to know because the internet had happened and it was changing the way we seek and share information. Now it feels like we are entering another era. We are just beginning to respond to the commercialization and portability of networked information. Perhaps the negotiation among university librarians to reformulate the information literacy standards first adopted in 2000 marked the swelling of this new wave. It wasn’t that we had done it wrong before; the world of information was changing again, profoundly, and we needed new ways of talking about it.
What’s new is not only that we are constantly connected to the Internet, thanks to the computer-formerly-called-telephone that we carry around in our pockets, but our lives are in the pockets of a few. very large companies that have colonized the Internet and a number of industries. They made the internet and what we do there the engine of a new form of capital (something that Shoshona Zuboff explores in her new book which is currently near the top of the mountain to read). This new form of economic exchange influences our relationships with information institutions – book publishing, the information industry, entertainment, interpersonal communication, political communication, etc. This new form of capital is all about keeping ourselves engaged (and at times enraged) to serve advertisements online while scanning immense volumes of granular information about almost everything two billion human beings do, because they consume and generate information.
And we thought getting on the information superhighway was big business. It is manner more complicated.
A friend pointed out to me a new report from the Knight Commission on Confidence, Media and Democracy. I haven’t read its 150+ pages yet. All I have achieved so far is the table of contents and the summary, which is so short that I wonder if the runtime should be measured in nanoseconds. Either way, the report raises big and thorny questions about democracy, epistemology, media, technology and citizenship. The problem is, each of these arenas is a big ball of complexity and all of them are interrelated. If we are to fix journalism, we must also change the technology that delivers it. We’ll have to agree on what a good story is, and that means dealing with disagreements about how we know what’s true. We have to talk about governance if we are to mend our broken political relationships, but they are broken because people don’t trust government. We need to think about the economics that underlie both the distrust of institutions and those new institutions of capital that depend on collecting and analyzing the details of our lives for predictive and persuasive purposes, and whether we don’t like what these companies are doing, we need regulation which means we need trust in the government and some agreement between us on what is true. We turn arround.
This is partly why I have a hard time understanding the Third Wave of Information Literacy. If we think it matters, we have a lot to do, and everything is so tangled and complex that it’s hard to know the best way to approach teaching students about how information works in the world we are in. live today. Students don’t have time for the equivalent of a 200-page report analyzing the entanglements and complexity of information they encounter on a daily basis as this third wave hits us all. I don’t blame them for wanting to get right to the point if what they need to do now is find five peer-reviewed articles. Determining what is important to their survival this semester is their goal, and understandably so.
But being educated is more than a successful course, and information is not always found in library databases. For decades, librarians have said information literacy is important. I hope we and our campus colleagues find a way to meet the challenge.
Meanwhile, I channel some of my confusion into co-designing a course. There is comfort in that.