Friday, April 06, 2018

David White @daveowhite keynote #lilac18

My first liveblog (this is Sheila blogging) from the LILAC Information Literacy conference in Liverpool, and today’s keynote was from David White, University of Arts, London. His talk was entitled Posthuman literacies: reframing relationships between information, technology and identity. He started by saying that at his university “we like uncertainty” as it consisted of “20,000 students where there is no correct answer”. Thus he had a position of thinking that uncertainty was a good thing, not something to be avoided. He mentioned the *technoself*, caring for the digital tools we use to interact, since he felt that the relationship with technology was important for information literacy. For example, people didn’t want to be parted from their phone because it was part of their being. Therefore for those who identified with technology, when you tried to change their behaviour with tech, you were asking them to change something about themselves.
The next keyword White flashed on the screen was *dataself* and he played what he felt was the “most disturbing advert on TV” (which is the Experian advert). It signalled that large companies think it is ok to mention the “hidden” data self created by our online transactions etc., that you need to make friends with it. This phenomenon should be part of infolit education. He proposed the Dave White ignorance cycle (see above) in that the uncritical reception of tailored “truth” might lead to your data self being even more likely to attract more posts etc. with the same tailored perspective.
White referred to Rand Organisation’s proposed drivers of “truth decay” e.g. cognitive biases, political and social polarization. However, he also troubled the way in which it assumed that there were “facts” that could always be distinguished from “opinions”. He also mentioned dinah boyd’s concern that if media literacy is saying that its goal is to help people find “the truth” it can reinforce the idea that there is a right/wrong approach. A fact checking drive can just polarise people more, and also – there are many areas of life where things are not a matter of right and wrong. White emphasised the importance of contextualising the information literate person, or the infolit model or definition.
He summed up his perspective on this as “Questioning why you agree with something is more valuable than bolstering your views on what you disagree with”. This could counter “truthiness” (Stephen Colbert) where truth is about what YOU think and feel. At this point he played a true/false/it depends game with the audience (including “it is a truth universally acknowledged....”).
White moved on to talk about the almost creepy amount of data that education is now mining from its students (giving the example of his young son being asked to give a fingerprint to get school dinner quickly and quoting the poem The data have landed by Michael Rosen). Is was up to all of us to be careful in this area, and it was a tricky balanace to strike. White gave the example of assessment at the University of Arts, and displayed its attribute framework. He and his colleagues have also added a digital layer to the framework, and they also highlight that technology is not neutral, but has a social and political context.
He felt it was important to make sure your were assessing learning and not person/ality (which is a danger of setting out graduate attributes). This meant trying to avoid the “entrepreneurship of the self” with students too quick to frame themselves as a product to market.
Returning to the “Dave White Ignorance Cycle”, White felt it was important for information literacy education to encourage that critical engagement with information and with why/how we had acquired that information. He put up 3 exhortations: engender optimistic criticality; raise consciousness; increase agency. This included critically framing “the person at the centre”. A further exhortation was “don’t fear complexity” (I liked this as I was just positioning IL as a complex concept, in the previous session, though obviously I also engaged critically with things I agreed with, given the nature of the talk ;-)
Questions addressed issues of the digital as a civic space, in which you had to take responsibility; the issue of how you developed this awareness etc. in environments (e.g. schools) where mobile devices had been banned; the question of "facts".

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