“In this I join two friends and colleagues who’ve made related calls. Siva Vaidhyanathan has coined the phrase “Critical Information Studies” to describe an emerging “transfield” concerned with (among other things) “the rights and abilities of users (or consumers or citizens) to alter the means and techniques through which cultural texts and information are rendered, displayed, and distributed.” Similarly, Eszter Hargittai has pointed to the inadequacy of the notion of the “digital divide” and has suggested that people instead talk about the uneven distribution of competencies in digital environments.”
As someone who dislikes unhelpful binaries like librarian versus archivist and scholarly versus not scholarly, I enthusiastically teach an exercise introduced to me by a Yale colleague that introduces students to the spectrum of scholarly resources. In this interactive device, I give students excerpts from a range of sources-social media, trade journals, popular media, and peer reviewed journals and then ask them to match the blind excerpts to the source type.
I explain to students that in the world of research, there are many types of sources beyond peer reviewed journals and not peer reviewed journals. I talk about how effective researchers reach for all of it and that there is more to evaluation than just making the peer reviewed and not peer reviewed distinction. It works well and always generates good class discussion.
This semester, I added a new category: the content farm. I wanted to make the distinction between news found on Yahoo.com or AOL and news found in the New York Times. I’ve also made an effort to talk about how Twitter is a useful source to engage with current events, provided students use the same skill set to evaluate tweets they do types of sources. It’s a work in progress, but with positive results.