Geert Lovink on Thu, 11 Jul 96 16:52 MDT

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nettime: information poor

>                          The Information Poor
>          (Excerpted from the PACS-L Discussion List, 6/13/96)
> =

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> =

>      Karen Coyle raises what might be the central issue for
>      libraries in the public domain as debate about personal or
>      "emerging libraries" continues. It is recognized that
>      current discussions about the "information poor"center
>      largely around not having the technology to access to
>      growing quantity and diversity of information being made
>      available over the networks. This can be noticed in some of
>      the literature being generated out of the EU Information
>      Society Project and through such reports as the one put
>      forth by the Panos Institute "The Internet and the South:
>      Super Highway or Dirt Track?". An intriguing twist which was
>      recently suggested in The Economist et al. is the notion of
>      "leapfrogging" whereby lesser developed countries bypass
>      certain stages of socio-technological development to embrace
>      today's technologies, thus arriving more rapidly into the
>      information age than many had earlier thought.
> =

>      For many of us in the library field, we know such
>      definitions of the information poor, while understandable
>      given the current preoccupation with information technology,
>      are incomplete.
> =

>      In a seminar held hear last winter I submitted a paper
>      entitled "Defining the Information Poor" whereby I proposed
>      the following criteria to better define what we should mean
>      in this context:
> =

>        1. Illiteracy
>        2. Inability to determine one's information needs
>        3. Inability to discern information value or relevance to
>           one's needs
>        4. Inability to develop information seeking strategy to
>           satisfy one's information needs
>        5. Inability to afford access to information whether this
>           is defined in mobility, technology, or acquisition
>           terms
>        6. Inability to access information due to cultural or
>           physical barriers
>        7. Inability of societal or governmental organizations to
>           provide information resources
>        8. Computer or technological illiteracy
> =

>      While these points, I will concede, may be incomplete and
>      perhaps the language can be improved, they nonetheless
>      clearly argue certain inabilities which, as Karen suggests,
>      would remain so without some greater awareness generation.
> =

>      The conservative view, which she states as Dr. Miksa is
>      postulating, indeed would be challenged by point 7 above.
>      With some librarians are looking for new roles in the
>      burgeoning IT arena, many are suggesting such titles as
>      navigators, enablers, "beyond BI" and so on. This issue
>      becomes one of education and social responsibility. It would
>      be difficult to fathom that market forces alone would decide
>      the fate of the information poor, let alone the future of
>      the public libraries. Moreover, in a public library context,
>      such proactive social consciousness would serve the
>      community well. The challenge as suggested in an earlier
>      post, becomes one of integration and innovation, with the
>      retention of traditional values and motives. In this
>      context, outreach oriented lay education publicly supported
>      for a more productive society. And no, this is not
>      socialism. What better place than a library if the aim is
>      toward greater 'information' literacy in society. And yes,
>      many may say this is what they have been trying to do from
>      the getgo.
> =

>      Consider the contradiction raised by:
> =

>           D'Elia, George. The Roles of the Public Library in
>           Society: The Results of a National Survey.
>           Washington, DC : Office of Educational Research
>           and Improvement, c1993. (available through ERIC
>           ordering)
> =

>      While popular reading dominates patron use, an educational
>      support center for all ages is deemed the most important
>      role for a public library by a sample of the population.
>      consider also:
> =

>           Chatman, Elfreda A. and Victoria E.M. Pendleton.
>           "Knowledge Gap: Information seeking and the poor."
>           Reference Librarian no. 49-50, 1995, pp. 135-145.
> =

>      All this said, Dr. Miksa's piece should not be dismissed
>      outright, nor should anything you hear or read which is
>      speculative in nature, be taken as strictly deterministic.
> =

>      Robert w. Bauchspies, Jr.
>      <>
>      G=F6teborg, Sweden
> =

>      >----------------------------Original
>      message----------------------------<
> =

>      I followed some of the links in Craig Summerhill's long
>      posting of June 6, and read (skimmed) the paper by Dr.
>      Francis Miksa. From the beginning it was evident that the
>      writer's viewpoint was what I believe can be called
>      "conservative." I found this statement particularly
>      interesting:
> =

>           "Some people are information poor because they do
>           not know how to be information rich. They are, as
>           our own field would say, information illiterate
>           and their information illiteracy is the case
>           despite the presence of public space libraries and
>           despite formal education they have had. The
>           solution to their information poverty is not first
>           of all simply or even to make large collections of
>           information-bearing entities available. It is for
>           them to learn the value of information in their
>           lives. Only after that, if they remain destitute
>           of any connection to information products in the
>           coming age, would I foresee some agency for
>           connecting them to the net. Even then, however, I
>           do not see that this will necessarily require a
>           full-blown social organization called the modern
>           library."
> =

>      I wonder where he thinks these information illiterates are
>      going to get an idea of the value of information if none is
>      available to them, and there are no institutions to promote
>      the idea.
> =

>      His piece makes me think that we might have a classic
>      liberal/conservative split going on here. The liberal view
>      point would be that if information is necessary for peoples'
>      well-being, then there should be social institutions that
>      make information available. The conservative point of view
>      would be that each of us has an individual responsibility to
>      provide ourselves with information. The liberal view prefers
>      libraries; the conservative view supports the home Internet
>      connection.
> =

>      OK, it's an oversimplification, but it cuts through a lot of
>      ... you know.
>      Karen Coyle
>      <>
>      University of California Library Automation

>            ------------------------------------------------

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