Transliteracy: Engaging Digital Citizens

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Final paper for my Foundations of Information Professions course.

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<p>Micah Vandegrift</p> <p>LIS5020 Foundations of Information Professions</p> <p>Final Culminating Paper</p> <p>12/2/10</p> <p>Transliteracy: Engaging Digital Citizens</p> <p>Transliteracy is defined as the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks (www.transliteracy.com, 2010). This emerging understanding of literacy includes many of the media and digital content that encompass so much of modern existence. As information professionals understand, there are many ways that traditional access to information can be hindered, and it is the goal of the profession to bridge that gap. Developing an understanding and encouragement of multiple literacies can offer a new form of the service that libraries excel at, that being the citizens right to information. </p> <p>Contemporary cultural trends are placing greater emphasis on consumers active participation in the media they consume. This is seen best in the proliferation of the Share button and the Add Comment field, practically begging for action. Additionally, new video game elements such as the Kinect system for Xbox are further intertwining the user and the technology. As the greater culture continues to introduce these advancements, it is the work of the information professional to offer context of these technologies as tools for learning, understanding the world through enhanced eyes, and ultimately amazing methods of creating a future full of potential. </p> <p>The LIS profession has a complex relationship with technology. Richard Rubin (2010) in his chapter titled Redefining the Library: The Impact and Implications of Technological Change states, All technological developments need to be evaluated objectively and critically, in the same manner that other new techniques, devices or practices are evaluated (pg. 225). Practically, this is the proper way to handle adaptation in an institution; however, this could put the institution months to years behind the curve of technology due to bureaucracy. As the ultimate goal of the institution is to provide citizens access to information, it must be careful to consider the digital world as essential in this process, and expedite decisions that could impact patrons knowledge, use and understanding of digital tools. Foremost, LIS professional must be educated, and in turn educate users, on developing literacy across platforms for the purpose of understanding how these platforms contextualize history, life and their role in it. </p> <p>Several recent journalistic articles have discussed the way in which technology is impacting the modern way of living. In a New York Times piece, author Matt Richtel explored attention span in high school students, and quoted several experts who agreed that due to daily use of new technologies Facebook or cell phones, it is quite possible that younger generations brains are developing in an entirely new way. Addressing this from the vantage point of the library, it would seem that some of the models of delivering information might need to adapt in order to ensure consistent (and relevant) access to users that ingest information differently. As is stated in the aforementioned article, even as some parents and educators express unease about students digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students technological territory (2010). The same will need to be for libraries and other information institutions. </p> <p>The issue at hand is an educational one, more so than accessibility. Fortunately, librarianship and other information professions are taking seriously the call to meet patrons where they are, on their terms. Services like digital reference, ebook catalogs and gaming centers are becoming more commonplace. As a new career librarian, I see this as a fundamental shift that must be encountered by thorough training in school and in the workplace. Essentially, I agree with the Library Bill of Rights Access to Digital Information Services and Networks section which states, Libraries empower users by offering opportunities both for accessing the broadest range of information created by others and for creating and sharing information. Digital resources enhance the ability of libraries to fulfill this responsibility Although digital information flows across boundaries and barriers despite attempts by individuals, governments, and private entities to channel or control it, many people lack access or capability to use or create digital information effectively (American Library Association [ALA] Council, 2009) [Emphasis my own]. The idea behind this is ambitious, and it would require generous support from administration. </p> <p>Instituting a training and education program on transliteracy would be my primary goal in order to ensure relevant access to patrons. Understanding that the financial situation for libraries is always tight, this is an area that will require advocacy at the professional organization level as well as at the governmental level. The library could easily be a leader in establishing an engaged digital citizenry, with excited and well trained staff available to assist patrons in creating a photo slide show, finding and downloading podcasts on their favorite topic, or adjusting the privacy settings on their Facebook page. As Buffy Hamilton puts it, More than ever, libraries (public, academic, school) must carrythe banner of these new literacies and be that influential and positive sponsor of literacy in the lives of American citizens, particularly for those who may not be part of mainstream culture and who will rely heavily on the services, educational opportunities, and access to information that libraries can provide (The Unquiet Librarian Blog, 2009). Addressing transliteracy in the information professions and institutions is in some ways a summation of many issues Library and Information Studies are concerned with generally, such as information need and use, the library in the life of the user, values and ethics, information advocacy and policy, and of course technological change and the adaptation of the profession. It is my firm belief that the foundation of information professions can no longer rest on the laurels of the way things were, and that active participation in cultural/technological shifts will be the only way to stay relevant in an economy of information. Access is no longer good enough; we must prioritize skills training and comprehension that will allow patrons to make sense and use of ever-greater access. Understanding context of technology and information is the key to an engaged digital citizenry. References</p> <p>American Library Association Library Bill of Rights: Access to Digital Information Services and Networks. (2009).An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2010, from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/accessdigital.cfm </p> <p>Hamilton, B. (2009, October 7). Digital and Media Literacies as Cultural Capital in a Democratic Society. Message posted to http://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com </p> <p>Richtel, M. (2010, Nov. 21). Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction.The New York Times, accessed online, Dec. 1, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.htmlRubin, R. (2010). Foundations of Library and Information Science. New York: Neil-Schuman Publishers. </p> <p>Other Resources:</p> <p>http://nlabnetworks.typepad.com/transliteracy/ </p> <p>http://librariesandtransliteracy.wordpress.com/ </p>