Communities and Collections

Technology and the Politics of Choice: Information Literacy, Critical Thinking, and Intellectual Freedom

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • This presentation addresses the prescriptive technology of Internet filtering software, also known to its critics as \"censorware\", \"electronic book banning\" and even e-book burning. My lens is library and information studies, and my theme is that the attempt to regulate and control Internet access through filtering products leads to unintended consequences for education and learning. Among these consequences are young people's understandings and practices of personal responsibility and choice, information and media literacy, critical thinking, and intellectual freedom. Uncritical reliance on technological solutions such as filtering can put educational goals at risk. There is also a strong possiblity that filtering puts schools and school boards at greater risk -- rather than minimizing their burden. Contrary to the overly cautious legal advice that officials might receive, filters may actually increase the institutional burden, because the resort to filtering as a solution could be construed as an admission of institutional responsibility, thus shifting the burden away from students and parents. The weaknesses of filtering technology are found in human language, and come from three areas of foundational knowledge in library and information studies: intellectual freedom, indexing theory for information retrieval, and reader response theory. In a nutshell, what these bodies of thought reveal is a whole set of intractable barriers that render perfect control over expressive content in any communications medium an impossible idea and ideal. These barriers issue from the unsolvable problems of ambiguity in language, indexing, and reading. The reality is that the locus of the problems associated with Internet content is social and political, not \"technological.\"

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  • Type of Item
    Conference/Workshop Presentation
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  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International