Information Fluency and imagining the Internet

Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project

Apologizes for speaking fast. Librarians are “way cooler” than other people.

Encourages librarians to use superlatives to describe him.  Asks that people not tweckle him (heckle via Twitter.)

In 2000: 46% of adults use internet, 5% with broadband at home, 50% own a cell phone, 0% connect to internet wirelessly. 10% use “cloud.”

In 2010: 75 % of adults use internet, 62% with broadband at home, 80% own a cell phone, 53% connect to internet wirelessly.  Two third use “cloud.”

25% of people still not using the internet. Less likely to use if you’re disabled. Use also tied to language proficiency. Digital divide issues are still out there. Still populations that need help.

Primary reason people give for not using is that they “don’t need to.” Uncomfortable with the technology. Suggests that librarians are the teachers of this technology.

Environment now very different from 10 years ago – the cloud allows access to our information from different devices.

Networked creator universe: 57% are social networking users (freaking out the kids because they think we’re invading their space.) 37% share pictures online. 30% share personal creations. 30% contribute rankings and ratings. 28% create content tags. 26% post comments on sites and blogs. 19% use Twitter. 15% have a personal website.  14% are bloggers.

Creators of online culture:

1 – techno-elites. Scientific method enshrined – came from the world of hard science. Rooted in scholarly tradition of peer review.

2 – hackers. Worker bees that feel that freedom ought to dominate the online environment. Freedom to create, appropriate, redistribute.

3 – virtual communities. Early Usenet groups.

4 – entrepreneurs.

5 – networked creators. Democratized the voices in the media. Challenged traditional media gatekeepers.  Inserted themselves in “expert” affairs.  Enhanced their civic and community roles. Once you become a participator, you’re more connected.  37% of internet users contributed to news. 20% contributed to health content. 19% contributed to civic and political issues.

New community building activities that online content creation enables:

1 – Produce content that helps them expand their social standing and increase their social standing.  Advantages to creators – conclusions of MacArthur Foundation team: negotiating friendships, status, identity; creating spaces for building social networks among friends and those that share their interests;  creating learning opportunities; gaining reputational capital.

2 – Produce content to create social posses to help solve problems or address needs.  Story of a theft of car bumpers that the car owner posted on an online site; posse formed to track down the culprit. While he wasn’t arrested, the activity has stopped. Advantages to creators in posse situations: fact checking and transparency; crowdsourcing wisdom, especialy among strangers who share a common purpose.

3 – Produce the construction of just in time supporters. Story of a librarian that developed lung cancer who turned to an online support group for help.  Just-in-time-like-me communities: just in time support and information – ac hoc and on the fly; communities of rare species “birds of a feather”; communities of practice that are “space-less.”

4 – Produce content until traditional news organizations. Social media-sphere is the “5th estate.”  70% of information on social media not on traditional media.  5th estate publishing tastes: technology developments, especially activities in the social media environments; off-beat stories, especially those with quirky humor; American exceptionalism; cultural cleavages and social issues.

Implications for libraries:

Libraries ought to think of themselves as nodes in people’s social networks as they seek information to help them solve problems and meet their needs.

Libraries can teach new literacies: screen literacy, navigation literacy, connections and context literacy, skepticism, value of contemplative time, how to create content, ethical behavior in the new world.

Libraries need to re-vision their role in a world where much has changed. Access to information, value of information. Curating information means more than collections. Creating media.

Librarians are central to all this. “Amen” from Lee.


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