Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ethics of Professional Information Literacy #ecil2015

Matthias Rath is speaking next, at the European Conference on Information Literacy 2015. His topic is Ethics of Professional Information Literacy. In particular his focus was on the information literacy of professional journalists. He felt that communicating "many to many" with Web 2.0 (defined as a participative web) was the problem for journalists. He defined user created content as being content created "outside professional routines and practices". He also used the concept of the "public sphere" (professional, non-private, one to many, and associated with bourgeois society in the 17-19th centuries). Ordinary citizens did not have opportunities to communicate within this public sphere in its traditional form. The speaker presented a model in which journalists were positioned as representatives of the public, but also a bottleneck intermediary (between citizens and politicians, for example). However, this situation changed with Web 2.0. Axel Bruns had identified the "produser" (user and producer). Not only citizens, but also companies, politicians etc. also participated in Web 2.0 "many to many" interactions.
Turning to positives and risks of this situation. Positives were: Negotiation (different perspectives); Collective intelligence; Judgement (helping people to evaluate reliability). Risks included lack of orientation about truth; no control over truthfulness.
The speaker proposed journalists as "managers of attention" helping citizens to decide where they could most usefully direct their attention on the web. Turning explicitly to ethics, Rath identified general journalistic ethics (being balanced, not publishing news that causes harm, giving citizens information they need for self-government). To enact these ethics, journalists needed to be information literate, particularly in the Web 2.0 world. Individuals haave to earn their own individual reputation and credibility, including journalists. Also (I think) this might help non-journalists develop a sense of what it meant to be a reputable, reliable producer/produser in the Web 2.0 environment.
A delegate raised afterwards the issue of journalists who are told what to do by a government or powerful figure (which was acknowledged as a problem), and the speaker also mentioned that there is an issue of journalists who are working online, and often working/publishing in different countries. The problems of a press controlled by vested interests even in a democracy (the UK) were also raised.

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