Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Did Media Literacy Backfire?

This is the title of a blog post by danah boyd earlier this month. The nub of it, that she highlights at the end is that "Media literacy asks people to raise questions and be wary of information that they’re receiving. People are. Unfortunately, that’s exactly why we’re talking past one another." Before that she talks, specifically in the context of the USA, of people having decreasing trust in doctors, the media, politicians, and experts, and preferring to believe friends, family and the "research" (usually a quick google) that they do themselves. Therefore "Addressing so-called fake news is going to require a lot more than labeling. It’s going to require a cultural change about how we make sense of information, whom we trust, and how we understand our own role in grappling with information."
She's talking about "media literacy" (and now I know more media literacy people I know it's not exactly the same as information literacy). However, I think on this topic, points she makes about media literacy education could also apply to some ways in which information literacy is taught. Indeed you still see librarians proposing labelling of sources as a counter to the "fake news" problem. I think that is in fact where a more holistic information literacy approach is more helpful, in that it should not be just focused on "media" sources but getting people to reflect on the full range of information that they use in their lives. "Other people" always emerge as key sources and informants in studies of everyday information behaviour and information literacy, and I think it's important to acknowledge this and bring them into the information literacy discussion. However, as boyd says, there are deeper cultural (and political, religious and social) issues at play. Engaging with these issues is challenging even for people who have more power over the whole curriculum than (normally) do librarians.

boyd, d. (2017, January 5). Did Media Literacy Backfire?
By the way, the site, Points, says it is "an experimental collection of pieces from the Data & Society community: occasional extracts and essays — provocations — to manifest, complicate, and re-frame the relations between data, technology, and society" and is worth bookmarking.
Photo by Sheila webber: bags of lego at the iSchool's awayday yesterday

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Very thought provoking article. I still think it was very one-sided and unfortunately proved the author was subject to the very concept they were trying to argue against, that individuals only trust their favorite sources, since the author made a great point of saying their sources were the only ones to trust. I don't think it's so much people denying truth ie. the example of people thinking they have to be 16 to get pregnant so much as only trusting information from friends or literally getting the answer from the first search result Google gives. As much as I taught media literacy, students still always gave the first answer Google provided no matter where it came from. In that instance, the search terms very much affect the answers you get. Perhaps we need to teach how to ask questions better. And if the culture keeps saying we are in a 'post truth era', what are students to believe? Truth needs to be able to be separated from every side's views. I'm not sure we are in that place now.