Technology and the Politics of Choice: Information Literacy, Critical Thinking, and Intellectual FreedomReport as inadecuate

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school libraries, Web awareness, schools, Internet access, library access, electronic book banning, Internet safety, intellectual freedom, censorship, filtering, censorware, Internet filters, Internet content, education

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Subject-Keyword: school libraries Web awareness schools Internet access library access electronic book banning Internet safety intellectual freedom censorship filtering censorware Internet filters Internet content education

Type of item: Conference-workshop Presentation

Language: English



Description: 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.\-

Date created: 2002-03-15

DOI: doi:10.7939-R3RF05

License information: Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0 Unported


Author: Alvin M Schrader



Technology and the Politics of Choice: Information Literacy, Critical Thinking, and Intellectual Freedom Alvin M.
Schrader, PhD School of Library and Information Studies University of Alberta a presentation to ODYSSEY 2002 - Bending the Light: Powerful Learning A Conference for K-12 Educators and Administrators Kananaskis, Alberta March 15, 2002 Preface Text of remarks prepared for keynote speech (some passages omitted from speech due to time constraints; opening disclaimer not reproduced below reassuring conference delegates that neither my appearance at the conference nor my remarks should be construed as collusion or incitement in present circumstances).
This text is informal; for a more extensive analysis with fully documented references, please refer to articles listed at the end. Introductory Remarks I am delighted to be here to talk about issues of Internet access and the politics of choice in the context of public education.
I am also very interested to see a number of related and complementary sessions in the conference program -- Web Awareness, Internet safety and cybercrime, critical examinations of technology, and an overview of the ATA position paper “Technology and Education”; and in the conference packages, the Canadian government booklet -Illegal and Offensive Content on the Internet: The Canadian Strategy to Promote Safe, Wise and Responsible Internet Use-, published by Industry Canada. Social and Political Response to New Technology When we look back over the past 500 years, or more, every new communications technology -- from the printed book, to motion pictures and song recordings, video games, and now the World Wide Web -- has initially inspired a period of exaggerated reaction, ranging from euphoria to fear. At the one end extreme, some people take for granted that -If its technology it must be good and it must be done-! -- believing that whatever it is will lead quickly and smoothly to world peace, prosperity...


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