Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)


A bit of philosophy this time. Sparked by an article in the Guardian last weekend I’ve been musing over the concept of truth in our Internet-centered lives. Arithmetical truth such as 2+2=4 can be said to still exist (unless you’re a quantum physicist) but truth and right and wrong have always been more fluid concepts. One person’s truth is not the same as another’s, so academic practice teaches that you should assess all possible interpretations and synthesize from these.  A core concept of information literacy is therefore that you shouldn’t always believe everything you read, and as librarians we teach cues which help users assess the quality of sources (is it peer-reviewed, from a trusted publisher, etc).  However information literacy often doesn’t get taught until people enter higher education.

Prior to the Internet most people’s exposure to the broader world would have been via newpapers, magazines, TV and radio as well as people they met in the course of their everyday lives. In turn they didn’t have much opportunity to pass on their views to other people. However this is changing. Now they are exposed via the Web to a wider choice of less regulated information sources, and in turn they can express their own opinions to a wider audience (indeed, I’m doing the same here). If you don’t have the skills to assess the information you hear, a simpler truth tends to appear: truth is whatever is shouted loudest (usually with a jabbing finger for emphasis I’ve noticed). This implies that more radical ideas are going to become  prevalent and that as a result society will become less cohesive. Far from being a declining career it looks like librarians (if they choose to accept it) are needed more than ever……..

April 8, 2011 Posted by | General, Universities | | Leave a comment