Fear Factor

Allan’ provocative post got me thinking more about a few topics:

1. the progressivist/regressivist narrative re: the internet and social media

2. the tool/task-centric narrative approach of much library 2.0 literature

3. the transliteracy model and the current redefining of librarians’ relevance/professional mandate

These all seem to be interconnected to me in a space many librarians find downright scary, where fear is a prime motivator. How many of us are adopting these tools and moving our services into this space because we are afraid of being left behind, of becoming irrelevant, of losing ground in the areas where our clients congregate? Are we becoming cheeleaders for new media without understanding what our actual message is? How many librarians are adopting social media and spending more professional time online, while simultaneously harbouring fears of the long-term change that new media is creating not only in our work and our society, but inside our own skulls?

A few days ago, The Guardian published a fairly balanced, yet ultimately alarmist, article by John Harris entitled, “How the internet is altering your mind.” The impetus behind the piece is the UK publication of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, and Harris admirably provides a forum for both supporting and critical voices (as does the Globe and Mail in their review of the book here). However, Carr’s message – that scientific evidence is showing that these tools are not just making us less creative but dumber – and his own behaviour patterns seem to have spooked Harris enough that his article has a distinctly pessimistic tone. Harris’ reaction is an altogether human one – and one which can be found in latent or blatent form in many ‘stories’ of library 2.0, be they tales told in numbers or words.

Transliteracy – defined on transliteracy.com as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” – provides shape to an opposing, positive narrative outlook to search for in library 2.0 literature. Whether termed “transliteracy” or not, this vision of librarians using social media to be active agents in the creation a multi-literate society is a powerful one, and definitely one I will keep in my own mind as I design applications for 2.0 tools in my own library.


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