Monthly Archives: April 2012

Project Information Literacy interview

David Weinberger, senior researcher and co-director of the Harvard Law School Library Innovation Lab and the author of the book Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room  was interviewed recently by Project Information Literacy (PIL) regarding knowledge, education and the contradictory nature of the Internet. (Read the interview here.) He was questioned on how the way we used to think about knowledge has lost some of its gloss, utility, and meaning. His answer? “We have ratcheted up what we count as knowledge to the point where little beyond axiomatic truths have counted.” Knowledge used to be a firm foundation on which new “bricks” were laid, and without which it was impossible to formulate new thoughts. Now, however, knowledge is a series of inter-connected links in a wide network that is the world wide web. Not everything is as pat as it once was; in the past, books were vetted and knowledge imparted with the thought being that the printed word held weight and stability. The new web of knowledge, though, “has a very different shape than a book. It is vast, complexly ordered, non-sequential, un-curated, vetted after being made public, and intimately tied to its intellectual context. It has no boundaries, no stable shape, and no edges.” What this means, to me, is that libraries are more than ever an important resource in teaching its clientele how to sift through this new web, assessing and evaluating what purports to be knowledge from that which truly is reliable and verifiable. “Students need help in gaining the skill to discern what’s worth believing and what’s hucksterism and wish fulfillment.” And lastly, “given the human temptation to hang out with ideas that are familiar and unchallenging, librarians have a special role to play as guides to sources that also disturb us, challenge our hidden assumptions that celebrate difference and disagreement.” Some heavy food for thought, indeed.

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