Slowness, Silence, Plants, and why I took Facebook off of my Iphone

In this hyper-modern age of real-time always-on location-based info-overload, perhaps a moment of true peace and quiet is the greatest gift one can receive.

This coming from a link found over at a tech blog. I think this is a recurring theme that I keep coming across: that everything is too fast and we are too distracted. I don’t think we need to go into panic mode as Nick Carr indicates, that we are permanently messing ourselves up by being plugged in and always on. The above author, doesn’t disavow his tech industry background and doesn’t sound terrible alarms. But he does have a subtle appreciation for thinks that take time and force you to do things properly, recognizing that not everything will go as expected.

It’s that thing about breathing, and allowing some silence. As a little article over at interactions magazine pointed out:

When we stroll in urban environments, much of our attention remains directed toward stimuli such as avoiding traffic and advertising—yet it’s less restorative. Nature, filled with interesting stimuli (e.g., sunsets), allows for directed-attention mechanisms that encourage us to replenish.

Okay, sorry about the links. Come back! I’ve only got one more to share before I stop my slow bombardment. I was getting anxious about not having posted here for a little, but it seems like all of this really hit me today, and coalesced my feelings over the last couple of months, beginning with my deletion of the Facebook app from my Iphone. I was totally overwhelmed and couldn’t focus. I couldn’t sit still and read a book. It really took effort and finally it’s coming back to me, even if it took Nick Carr to partially scare the bejesus out of me.

That being said, I believe there’s something to all of this, and I can’t claim much credit, but it reeks of old-schoolness. That fast is not always good, that real value comes from taking the time to understand something and your relation to it (this is central to critical information literacy and librarianship), that you have to listen (reference interviews, anyone?). So when I came across this link from the same post as my lead-line, my now new humanities-drenched, recently Kerouac-steeped soul nearly exploded in half-time:

Slow Media are not about fast consumption but about choosing the ingredients mindfully and preparing them in a concentrated manner. Slow Media are welcoming and hospitable. They like to share.

Yes. Please.

Critical and Information Literacy

After a short time in the profession, I quickly put myself into the reference/instruction camp of librarians. Near and dear to my heart is the concept of information literacy, which has its’ roots in authors like Shapiro and Hughes, who had “critical literacy” as a key component of information literacy. Like Shapiro and Hughes the American Association of School Librarians and Association of College and Research Libraries standards are process- and tool oriented, the emphasis is on the structure of information resources.

I think that anyone in reference understands that this is the backwards approach, so after a few months of slugging it out with the heavyweights of critical literacy, I dropped a search into EBSCO’s LISTA database and got this little gem from James Elmborg:

“Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice,” Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 32, Number 2, pages 192-199.

Libraries and the other “Digital Divide”

Snarkmarket blogger and all around internet-wise-guy cum intellectual made an excellent point about a whole other “digital divide”:

“…it’s a battle within digital culture itself: the self-styled “punk” culture of hackers, pirates, coders, and bloggers against the office suite, the management database, the IT purchaser. Twitter vs. Raisers’ Edge. These are also reductions, but potentially instructive ones.”

As the library’s role is increasingly tied to providing information in formats other than books, and in being one of the largest providers of free internet in the United States, it begs the question: whose side are we on? We’ve always provided an environment that promotes literacy, and now that those literacies are context-related and ever-changing, it becomes harder and harder to define our role. We play out this conflict on a daily basis. Libraries have classes in using productivity software and in blogging or using digital cameras. On the floor, I will answer questions about applying for jobs online one second, and then teach someone about social networking on Facebook the next.

In the forward to the newest issue of “Digital Culture and Education,” Dana Wilber describes new literacies surrounding our interaction with new information technologies as being “deictic, or dependent on the context on which they are used at the moment they are used.” What context are we providing? Libraries are generally “conservative” institutions in the broadest sense of the word in two ways: we keep things for people, and we also tend to be slow moving in oder to do so. But as our role further includes helping people navigate the web, we go further afield into the hacker-pirate-blogger-remixer-of-participatory-culture territory. What context are we providing?