Monday, October 10, 2016

3D Librarian: Information Literacy in an Accelerated Age #ecil2016

I'm liveblogging at the European Conference on Information Literacy 2016, in Prague, Czech Republic. The first speaker is keynote speaker, Tara Brabazon (Flinders University, Australia) talking on 3D Librarian: Information Literacy in an Accelerated Age.
You can listen to her ideas directly at Given her criticism of fast information, I'm not sure how keen she'd be on this liveblog, so feel free to go there instead ;-) Brabazon shoots out her ideas with a flourish, and I certainly haven't captured all her nuances, but hopefully this gives you a flavour. These are my interpretations of what she was saying - i may comment in another post.
She recalled her early days at university, where deep reading was encouraged, computers were in the background and just emerging, and she found the librarians really helpful. Fast forward, and she was engaging with an online course "a coke machine for research" where the teacher and librarians were invisible behind the virtual learning envirnoments and information and knowledge was served in gobbets.
She described as information literacy in an inclusive society "the most important topic of our time". She made it clear that she was "not confusing digitization with social justice" nor technology with democracy. This involved hard engagement with information, and librarians as custodians of culture.
So, she explained her concept of the 3D librarian. Ideas move over time and space, more swiftly because of technology. However, there is a problem that - that which fast tends to get consumed before that which is slow (though the slow might be more important). Brabazon mentioned her book Digital Dieting. Many people might gain from life on the screen (citing Turkle's work) however, there are also problems. Conversations and people get "deanchored in time on space" - our position is decentred in the physical world, as it becomes more flexible in the digital worls. She felt that the physical identity was separated from the digital identity - she asked the question of how these identities differed. Brabazon used the term deterritorialization. She defined it in this article thus "Deterritorialization refers to a two stage process: The disconnection from physical geography, place, and location. The reimagining of new spaces, places, and allegiances."

The new relationships that can be fostered on screen mean new communities are opened up to librarians, and Brabazon wanted librarians to at the centre of these communities. It was then important to make conscious choices between the asynchronous and synchronous (I think, in terms of enagagement and identity)
Brabazon moved on to the issue of disintermediation - are librarians rubbed out of the "supply" chain of information, or is there an increased role for librarians? Disintermediation has potential for empowering, cutting out the useless middlepeople. However, it can lose this power when the process is owened/ undermined by corporate interests. Also the flattening out can lead to confusion between valuable and rubbish information. Popularity, relevance and imporatnce can get confused together when faced by search engines like Google. Corporate interests are re-intermediating (I think she meant by filtering etc. by Apple, Google etc.) which is problematic. Librarians need to be active in this landscape, to seize new opportunities for dissemination.
Brabazon addressed a question "are we all librarians now"? She talked about the nature of the information market, publishers packaging their information, companies making money out of content that we create. She felt that user-created content was being harnessed by corporates (e.g. user comments becoming part of a consumer platform like Amazon).
This brought Brabazon to the value of information literacy and that "Librarians are the reintermediating force in this field". She identified noise and cultural nonsense, and the challenge of "moving information through time" whilst enabling reflection.
Brabazon felt that the literature of information literacy had moved from being confident about the role of the librarian in the budding information age, but that uncertainty about this role had moved in: in particular that the rise of digital information led to a discourse about disintermediation and saying that librarians are not needed and not up to the new job. Brabazon obviously disagreed with this: disintermediation had led to low level engagement with information, and librarians were needed more than ever.
Brabazon celebrated open access material, but emphasised on people stretching themselves, learning to discriminate (supported by librarians). Librarians were also key in helping academics disseminate their work so that "the expert" was not "lost in a cacophony of nonsense". Additionally the local collection is growing in value and publishers' collections of journals and ebooks are the same globally.
As mentioned earlier, Brabazon felt that librarians have become less visible, and they need to become more visible and visibly active to learners, reintermediating. She mentioned the University of Wollongong's Startsmart programme as an example of taking the librarians intervention seriously.
Brabazon slammed decline in standards, quality and rigour, with too little expected ofstudents and a lack of metacognition. She felt that whilst librarians didn't cause the problem, they could fix it.
The photo shows yummy things in a nearby cafe - for some reason the internet kept refusing to upload my photo of the lecture hall (probably because of its poor quality)

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