Wednesday, October 25, 2006

JCLC Conference Notes, Day One: Session on "Deconstructing Information Literacy"

Title of session: "Deconstructing Information Literacy: A Tool for Domination and Resistance."

This was a panel presentation. On a side note, the actual conference program proved to be somewhat unreliable in terms of who is actually listed as speaker. There were various changes that did not match. If I make any comments, it will be in parenthesis; otherwise, these are notes.
  • Information Literacy is constructed by the society one is in.
Presentation on Information Literacy, a Socio-Historical Perspective.
  • The framework is provided from Thomas Kunh's work, Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Based on this, "objective" practice is heavily influenced by societal factors.
  • The spheres of influence include:
    1. BI/Library Instruction (as we traditionally know it).
    2. Lifelong learning and the notion of empowering the individual.
    3. Literacy(-ies), the Information Age and notions of information overload with technology heavily in how we get information.
    4. Educational reform, for instance, the Nation at Risk report.
  • Results from this process then,
    1. Teaching is immediate with narrow skill sets. This helps maintain narrow workplaces.
    2. Information literacy then is primarily academic.
    3. There is a preoccupation with technology.
Presentation on information literacy as problematized/oppressive.
  • Refer to basic ACRL definition of Information Literacy.
  • There is an implication that knowing that definition will overcome economic and social class obstacles. Literacy is seen as educational, not political. However, it is political. It needs to be connected to the political and the social.
  • Oppression. Example of the Church keeping its own literacy and Luther as a literacy reformer. See also various public education campaigns aimed at civilizing certain groups, which are often the result of racist and anti-immigrant feelings.
    1. See Gramsci on literacy, the double-edged sword of empowerment or a tool for oppression. (This I actually have to look up at some point, as I am a bit rusty on this; it has been a while since I took Postcolonial Studies where they studied this. Just when I thought I left this behind in my previous life, "they pull me back in.")
  • So, there is a need to challenge the notion of literacy as value neutral.
    1. Refer to the works of Paulo Freire. (I have a note on a reader of his works here, which may be useful for readers wanting an overview of his works.)
Presentation on classification as privilege in the (bibliographic) universe.
  • "One does not have to exercise a choice to perpetuate a racist act. The organization's rules and procedures have already prestructured the choices against people of color" --Elizabeth Martinez, quoted in American Libraries 18.4 (1987).
  • Dominance and proliferation of standards. No recognition that information and/or literacy are not value neutral.
  • We should ask: who's interests do we serve by the work we do? Who is not served?
  • In terms of access, note the biases in our cataloguing and access practices. Use of certain terms and the effort to remove certain offensive terms. The White heterosexual Christian male sees all different ones as the Other, which gets reflected in the catalogs. For example, see the Dewey Decimal System for religion and note the refinement of terms for items under Christianity when compared to other religions.
  • Is the question of access one for information literacy instructors? How can this inform our practice and what we do with students?
Presentation on Information Literacy, a Multicultural Approach.
  • The presentation was opened with a look at this fake website: Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. (I may have to use that one in future BI sessions).
  • Information Literacy as an act of knowing which needs to be examined and critiqued as a socially-constructed act.
  • Critical concepts.
    1. Literacy begins with orality.
    2. Ideology of power. White privilege and other forms of power.
    3. Positionality. Social and color consciousness.
    4. Social action for freedom.
  • See website: Other Worlds Education Project.
  • In open spaces, everything is open to question.
  • See website for Multicultural Literacy as a reference.
  • Tagging as a form to make some progress.

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