Non-Science “Information Literacy”

“I just wanted to find out where the boundaries were. I’ve found out there aren’t any. I wanted to be stopped but no one will stop me.”

Transliteracy, riddled with oddities and intellectually locked down still leaves me with information literacy, which looks more like librarian training lite and less like teaching people to navigate their own paths, at least on rough days.

Being visual art, the work, in Saltz’s view, shouldn’t need to be read–only seen– and its sociological bent suggests that the artists no longer feel compelled to “meet the objective demands” of the artistic field. (This might have been true for some time now, but Younger than Jesus appears to have proven it definitively.) Trading its self-referentiality for referential- ity–to life, to the world–this work has supposedly thrown off the yoke of, well, art. (Saltz would say art theory.)

In general, this looks to be a pretty good thing, and a model for libraries to consider, stop creating services for libraries, start making them for people. I don’t think this needs to be as revolutionary as what many make it out to be. Libraries have done and will continue to do good things for people, so it’s important to remember that there are probably things libraries did better in the past than they do now, and there are things we’ll do in the future better than what we did in the past. The whole “progress” thing is kind of passe, isn’t it?

On the other hand, I find often operative-very widely, for instance, in the conduct of the behavioral sciences
– -a very human and very understandable tendency (but no less objectionable for being understood) to do the things that we already know how to do. We tend to formulate our problems in such a way as to make it seem that the solutions to those problems demand precisely what we already happen to have at hand. -Abraham Kaplan, The Age of the Symbol, p.304

Kaplan’s right and wrong about this. He’s married to the idea that in order to move forward, we need to solve problems, but we only apply what we have on hand to do so. I think the real potential for expansion is to look  for interesting things before they become our problems, otherwise we fall into the trap that Kaplan sees. This is an opportunity to stop reacting to the forces that influence the profession and start working on librarianship on it’s own terms. No longer trying to solve problems allows us to practice humanistically, and move quicker than the dictates of the scientific method as applied to librarianship. Saltz thinks art has done this by working with a “sociological bent” and I’d like to propose that we do so using a humanistic bent.

This is what I take Ranciere to mean when he says, “[C]ontemporary art is, quintessentially, art defined by the erasure of medium specificity, indeed by the erasure of the visibility of art as a distinct practice.”39 He can still refer to “contemporary art” even as he denies its “visibility”– that is, he doesn’t distinguish it as a figure against the ground of what he calls the “distribution of the visible” or the “distribution of the sensible.”40 -Mary Leclere, The Question of (e)quality: Art in the Age of Facebook

Information literacy, for lack of a better term can no longer sustain itself as a practice where it makes itself a visible, five-step program. Traditional, goal-oriented information literacy is important to the library, but an ongoing obsession with the visible aspects of it undermine creative and critical use of information. Maybe it is just our business to provide know-how to get the stuff, but if we want to move beyond information literacy,  and into a more diverse practice, it is necessary to erase or reconfigure or  the strict structure on which we perform.

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3 thoughts on “Non-Science “Information Literacy”

  1. I think Kaplan’s discussion of the Law of the Instrument is especially important, thanks for pointing it out. I particularly like a few lines later where Kaplan adds another relevant insight: “people very often allow their attitudes toward the use of various kinds of automated systems and devices to be determined, not by a realistic assessment of needs and the ways those needs can be met most effectively with the means available, but rather by the determination that it has to be these means (p. 303). Hop aboard the iPad and ebook train! Why solve problems when we can just create new ones!

  2. I’m not much of an authority on Object-Oriented Philosophy, so I’ll have to get back to you. I took a cursory glance at some OOP blogs and I like that a continental philosophy is trying to break from the radical subjectivism of post-modernism. But, I’m a little hesitant about their interpretation of Kant and their reading of Latour. To quote Professor Byrne, “Some good points, some bad points, I’m checking ’em out”, .

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