Information and Visual Literacy, Academic Rigor, and Professional Skepticism: some conference cogitationsPosted: August 15, 2014
This summer I had to cancel a job interview. (Sacrilege, I know!) It was especially unfortunate because the interview would’ve required a presentation and a web-tool showcase, which I was excited to perform — it’s nice to have a structured interview that you can prepare for practically. The presentation would have been on essential information-literacy skills for first-year college students, and I was planning on using a bit of humour and cultural reference as an attack plan.
Specifically, I think students (and web-users at large) would benefit from holding up Sherlock Holmes as their spirit animal: use a bit of skepticism and plenty of attention to detail, and work hard to connect all the dots, no matter how disparate things seem at first . Context is everything, and reading (everything — new stories, academic studies, and statistics-laden infographics) needs to be analytic and critical. I won’t offer any contemporary examples, for fear of digressing into those discussions, but let’s all be aware of the general state of misinformation and gullibility in the world (or, I dunno, trusting the “true story” claim at the beginning of Fargo?).
Lots of people have been discussing information literacy online lately, and I’ve been mulling on it as well. I missed the visual literacy session at ARLIS/NA this year, because I was at the information literacy MOOC session next door, where I brainstormed some alternative MOOC models (universal design, anyone?). Perhaps those of you who attended the visual-lit session can fill me in on which “real-world [library] examples of how ACRL’s visual literacy guidelines have been implemented” were shared, and whether any suggestions were made as to how to supplement the ACRL guidelines with library-specific instructions (is there a forthcoming ARLIS/NA occasional paper on this? There should be).
One question I’ve been pondering since then is how to incorporate research methods and scientific rigor lessons into information and visual literacy — how to make Sherlocks of us all. I’m sure we all took a (strenuous / boring) research methods class in the MLIS program; for me it was a repetition of the undergraduate research methods I learned as part of a psych minor. Every time you consult a data-collection study, you still have to ask: did they use a control group? Did they control for conflating variables? Are they making assumptions about causation, or drawing one of many possible conclusions? Was there a replicating study? Were the survey questions priming, or compound? Did they set their sights on statistical significance? My MLIS-level research course didn’t really enforce these obvious questions, although we all tried our hand at evaluating a study or two for rigor.
It’s being generally acknowledged that LIS / GLAM scholarly work has a relatively low standard of scientific rigor: we don’t replicate studies, we generally only survey an easily-accessible demographic (i.e. college students), and our studies are designed less to further intelligent work in our field and more to push academic librarians into tenure. We could point to a number of problems: peer reviewers with no skills in research analysis, the general left-hand/right-hand divide in LIS between practitioners and academics, and professional associations that don’t push hard enough for presentations and publications that span our full profession. If we’re no good at research methods, how will we impart these skills to our patrons?
The contemporary debate has scared me off using the word “rigor” at all, for fear of it being taken for the opposite of “diversity,” as it seems to have been co-opted lately. Rigor in a strict statistical sense transcends demographics; “rigor” used in reference to higher-education skill-sets could absolutely use some work, but that’s really more of a bad-teachers problem in my thinking. Universities have plenty of resources for academic writing, tutoring, disability accommodations, ESL upgrading, computer lessons, etc., if only students were being made aware of their shortfalls through teacher interaction and feedback.
Libraries are doing essential work in both supplementary education for students with shortfalls and in instructional design for teachers, which should include some basic lessons in how to assess students for these problems, and get them working up to speed before final marking. Is there space for librarians to provide supplementary instruction in not just information literacy and research rigor, but in visual and media literacy as well — and to target students who need that training most?
The number of high-school grads that go to post-secondary tends to hover around the 68% mark in recent years, meaning that, if we can educate every college student in basic info- or visual-literacy, we can put a huge dent into general gullibility and increase the knowledge of intelligent research methods. (I couldn’t begin to imagine how to insert this education into secondary school, but if you have suggestions or resources to share, I’m all ears.) And the sooner we plant the seeds of good scientific design, the sooner we’ll see a general improvement in scholarly output — or at least more articles admitting their limitations and mistakes from the get-go.
But this is all, literally, academic. How do we get information-literacy education out into the public, especially when most popular news outlets seem to benefit directly from a lack of critical thinking? More specifically, how do arts librarians working in visual literacy and media literacy help to educate both their patrons and the public at large — especially if visual literacy skills are universally important but we only get access to arts students?
If you haven’t read the ACRL Visual Literacy Standards, here they are (2011). ARLIS/NA has also put out standards and competencies for information literacy competencies (2007) and instruction (2002). As it stands, it’s our job to (not only teach basic info-lit, but also) hand out lessons on copyright and plagiarism, good design and accessibility, data visualization (and how it can mislead!), image-editing detective work (which invariably leads to an addiction to Photoshop Disasters), and everything from technical evaluation (“how true is the digital colour to the original?”) to art-education evaluation (“what period/genre is this from?”) and semiotics / semantics / cultural theory diversions. Skepticism and rigor in visual literacy could, I predict, lead to everything from a higher interest in art and design among the general populace, to better body image (“Nobody is that beautiful without airbrushing!”) and consumer ethics (“I’d better not buy this plagiarizing pillow“). And sometimes it’s just about getting the joke.
Information literacy might need a bit of a rebrand: like taking a technology class at your library, lots of people aren’t willing to admit they could use a refresher or don’t really get the underlying principles behind their daily use. As usual, the best policy seems to be “Get ’em while they’re young,” and making digital / media literacy and scientific rigor a base part of public education — a required seminar for all first-year college students, at least.
Can art librarians design a quick, fun, painless way to lay out the pitfalls and consequences of being design-dumb? Are the threats of bad website navigation, low-resolution printing, inadvertent copyright infringement, and lack of accessibility important enough to get bureaucratic and financial support? Or will the information-literacy MOOCs fall by the wayside, underused and unacknowledged?
[FYI: ARLIS/NA has an Academic Division (who worked with the ACRL VL Taskforce), a Visual Resources Committee, and a Teaching SIG, but no ongoing groups working on visual literacy specifically, or any published plans to update the 2007 info-lit guidelines. I have yet to hear about collaborations with the International Visual Literacy Assocation, or similar bodies, but if you know of any, post a comment! Maybe it’s time for a little ARLIS/NA visual literacy focus … ]
1: I have always been confused by Sherlock’s use of “deduction” — isn’t he using induction, to take the clues in front of his face and construct a narrative, rather than beginning from a premise and eliminating possible outcomes? If someone can give me a mnemonic or something, I would greatly appreciate it. Says he:
“Let me run over the principal steps. We approached the case, you remember, with an absolutely blank mind, which is always an advantage. We had formed no theories. We were simply there to observe and to draw inferences from our observations.”
– Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
As always, you can also see what’s coming up through the Educational Opportunities Calendar. Keep reading for details about all the great webinars, CFPs, and scholarship opportunities below!
Title: Communicating Through Infographics
Presenter: Dawne Tortorella
Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Start Time: 12 Noon Pacific
This webinar will last approximately one hour. Webinars are free of charge. Please note: we have changed hosting services fromWebEx to Adobe Connect, so we advise you to test your browser before the webinar: http://intesolv.adobeconnect.com/common/help/en/support/meeting_test.htm
For more webinar tips, see: http://infopeople.org/webinar/tips.
For more information and to participate in the Wednesday, November 14, 2012 webinar, go to http://infopeople.org/training/communicating-through-infographics.
· Have you noticed the growing trend of communicating through infographics?
· Do you wonder where the data comes from and how to verify information displayed in visual form?
· Would you rather read a 100 page report or look at a visual presentation that conveys the story in less than one minute?
· Would you like to tell a compelling story about your library through the medium of infographics?
Visual representation of information has existed for hundreds of years in various forms and formats. Infographics (information graphics) represent the latest visual form to gain popularity. Telling an effective story through infographics requires accurate data, compelling design, and visualization tools.
During this one-hour webinar, we will discuss and demonstrate:
· blogs and infographic search resources to find examples and track trends
· differences between infographics, poster art, and data visualization
· common data sources used in infographics (big data and local sources)
· suggest library-specific data and statistics appropriate for visual presentation
· visualization tools for experimentation
This webinar will be of interest to library staff at all levels and in all types of libraries who need to present information to customers, stakeholders, and management. Senior staff and directors responsible for board reporting are especially encouraged to attend. If you are unable to attend the live event, you can access the archived version the day following the webinar. Check our archive listing at: http://infopeople.org/training/view/webinar/archived.
VRA Travel Award:
VRA Travel Awards are available for attendance at the 2013 VRA conference “Capitalizing on Creativity” in Providence, Rhode Island April 3-6. The deadline for receipt of applications will be Monday, November 26, 10 am EST. The list of recipients will be announced on the VRA listserv the third week of December.
A preliminary conference schedule with a listing of workshops and sessions has already been posted at: http://vra2013annualconference.sched.org and information about costs is posted here:http://www.vraweb.org/conferences/vra31/?page_id=8 and here: http://www.vraweb.org/conferences/vra31/?page_id=11
Before you apply, PLEASE READ “Travel Award Rules and Guidelines”, “Tips for VRA Travel Awards Applicants”, and “Types of Travel Awards”, all linked here as PDFs: http://www.vraweb.org/about/awards/index.html#travel
HERE’S THE LINK TO THE APPLICATION:
The form is also linked from the What’s New on the VRA homepage.
You do not need to be a member of the VRA to apply for a travel award, but please note that upon winning an award an applicant who is not a member of VRA must purchase a membership, with the option to use funding from the travel award to do this. This year by removing the membership requirement for all applicants, we hope to draw more interest and expand membership.
In order to allow funding to go further, Tansey awards will be distributed according to financial need i.e. full awards (up to $850) may be given to some, whilst lower amounts may be awarded to others with partial institutional/ other support.
For 2013, we are fortunate to have generous financial support from sponsors and funds provided by the membership:
* The Kathe Hicks Albrecht award of $850 for a first-time conference attendee
* Two New Horizons awards of $850 each. These awards are aimed at members in the following categories: solo VR professionals, part-time VR professionals, geographically isolated VR professionals, VR professionals in smaller institutions, and/or first-time attendees
* The Joseph C. Taormina Memorial award of $250 for an applicant with partial funding
* A New Horizons student award of $300, for a full-time student enrolled in an accredited degree program and considering a career in visual resources
* $4800 in Tansey fund awards ranging from $250 to $850 each
More awards may become available and will be announced on this listserv. Also, stay tuned and watch VRA-L and the VRA website for further details about the conference. Please email if you have any questions not answered by the documents noted above.
So don’t delay – apply today!
We look forward to receiving your applications,
Heidi Eyestone & Vicky Brown
Co-Chairs, VRA Travel Awards Committee
Visual Resources Collection
Art and Art History
One North College Street
Northfield, MN 55057
507 222-7042 fax
Vicky Brown, Visual Resources Curator
History of Art Department, University of Oxford
Suite 9, Littlegate House
Oxford OX1 1PT
+44 (0)1865 286839
Call for Book Chapters: Collecting the Contemporary (Book to be published by MuseumsEtc in 2013)
COLLECTING THE CONTEMPORARY
Edited by Owain Rhys and Zelda Baveystock
We invite international submissions to be included in this forthcoming book, to be published by MuseumsEtc in 2013.
The book will be edited by Owain Rhys, Curator of Contemporary Life at St Fagans: National History Museum, Wales and Zelda Baveystock, Lecturer in Arts Management and Museum Studies at Manchester University.
Why and how should social history museums engage with contemporary collecting? To fill gaps in the collection? To record modern urban life? To engage with minority communities? To link past and present? There are many possible responses… And many museums collect contemporary objects, stories, images and sounds – consciously or unconsciously. But reasoned policies and procedures are very often lacking. And – given the uniquely detailed record of contemporary life recorded by ubiquitous media – how best are museums to record and present contemporary life in their collections?
An overview of contemporary collecting in a social historical context is well overdue. Original source material, ideas, developments and research has never before been brought together in a single volume. This book will bring together practitioners from around the world to provide a contemporary and convenient reader which aims to lay the foundations for future initiatives.
We welcome submissions – of between 3000 and 5000 words – on the practice, theory and history of contemporary collecting in social history museums, based on – but not confined to – the following issues and themes. We are particularly interested in new and pioneering initiatives and innovative thinking in this field.
Projects (including community outreach, externally funded collection programmes, projects with specific goals)
Exhibitions (including popular culture, contemporary political issues, under-represented groups
Networks – including SAMDOK and other initiatives
Fieldwork and contemporary collecting
Adopting a scientific approach to contemporary collecting
The influence of the internet, how to collect, and associated museological issues
Contemporary collecting and contemporary issues
Access, storage and conservation issues
What to collect?
How to collect?
Who should collect?
Community involvement – advantages and disadvantages
Contemporary collecting – key priority or passing fad?
Definitions of contemporary collecting
Should contemporary collecting be object or people based?
Alternatives to the accepted norms
The case for nationally or regionally co-ordinated policies
The impact of social and digital media for the future of contemporary collecting
Origins and development of contemporary collecting
Differences between institutions and countries (e.g. Sweden’s ethnological approach v. Britain’s social history approach)
Owain Rhys has recently published Contemporary Collecting: Theory and Practice with MuseumsEtc. This book gathered together disparate strands of contemporary collecting theory and history, and provided an insight into current practices at St Fagans: National History Museum. Owain is interested in formalising definitions and procedures, and in strengthening the bonds between those museums involved in contemporary collecting. Zelda Baveystock has a longstanding interest in contemporary collecting. As the first Keeper of Contemporary Collecting at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, she established a subject specialist network of urban history museums actively involved in the field in 2004. She has lectured and taught on the subject in the UK, and in Sweden.
If you are interested in being considered as a contributor, please send an abstract (up to 250 words) and a short biography to both the editors and the publishers at the following addresses: email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 10 December 2012. Enquiries should also be sent to these addresses. Contributors will receive a complimentary copy of the publication and a discount on more.
The book will be published in print and digital editions by MuseumsEtc in 2013.
ABSTRACTS: 10 DECEMBER 2012
CONTRIBUTORS NOTIFIED: 11 JANUARY 2013
COMPLETED PAPERS: 2 APRIL 2013
Blended Librarians Webcast:
Collaborating With Faculty on Information Literacy Instruction: Using Visual Methods to Enhance Student Learning
Steven Bell and John Shank, co-founders of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community and their guests, Laurel Cornell and Carrie Donovan, invite you to join them for the live webcast, “Collaborating With Faculty on Information Literacy Instruction: Using Visual Methods to Enhance Student Learning” which will take place on Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 3 pm. EDT.
Students’ ability to create visual work is important in their understanding and learning of complex concepts. While visual literacy is a growing phenomenon of interest amongst librarians in a variety of settings, visual methods for teaching are centered around the learner’s ability to take in new knowledge and express it in an original, visual form. In this session, two members of Indiana University’s Visual Methods Research Group will explain their research in exploring visual teaching methods, as well as their collaborative efforts to integrate information literacy into an undergraduate course using visual methods.
Guest Presenter Bios:
Laurel Cornell, Professor of Sociology, Indiana University, spent the first two-thirds of her research career working in demography, gender and Japanese studies. She used quantitative historical data from villages in early modern Japan (1600-1868) to examine a variety of comparative questions relating to household structure, marriage, divorce, gender roles, aging, and mortality. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Social Relations, Johns Hopkins University. Professor Cornell returned to graduate school and received a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Virginia in 2003. She is interested in large public projects — especially those involving disused industrial sites — and in public art. In her teaching Professor Cornell emphasizes visual methods of learning and student involvement in the community (service-learning).
Carrie Donovan, Instructional Services Librarian, Indiana University, is the librarian for Gender Studies and the Head of Teaching & Learning for the Indiana University Libraries, where she works with students, faculty, and instructors to connect the libraries to student learning. An instruction librarian for ten years, Carrie has explored a variety of methods and strategies for helping undergraduates understand information-seeking and their role in it. Her research areas of interest include visual teaching methods, discipline-focused information literacy, first year experience initiatives, and teacher development/training for librarians and future librarians.
Although this event is free, advance registration is required to reserve a virtual seat. If you are already a member of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community here is a link into the Learning Times Network that will get you to our Community and the registration page:
If you need to join the Blended Librarians Online Community in order to register (no fee to join):
Go to the Blended Librarian website at http://blendedlibrarian.org ,click on the “Join” button on the home page of Blendedlibrarian.org and follow the instructions.
My good friends at Derivative Image have a short overview of Howard Rheingold’s “Crap Detection 101,” including a mention of the fact that librarians aren’t listed as a valuable “crap detection” tool.
As librarians, how do we promote the value of our services–particularly the ability to teach skills like info/visual literacy? Well, attention to terminology might be a first step. The average student (and even some faculty members) has no idea what “information literacy” means, but we can certainly all understand a rather colorful term like “crap detection.”
Other ideas? Comment away!
Among my many fun, summer projects this year is the task of creating online tutorials for distance education students. After reviewing the ACRL’s standards and guidelines for distance learning library services (for more info see: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/standards/guidelinesdistancelearning.cfm) I feel inspired to begin this project…and I’d like to discuss it with my fellow librarians!
Have you created online tutorials for distance learners? If so, what were the tutorials designed to do? Teach specific skills, like using the catalog or databases; or information literacy, such as how to evaluating information and developing research topics; or explain library procedures, like renewing books or interlibrary loan services? What software did you use (I’m thinking of using CamStudio – it’s free!)? How did you assess the usage of the tutorials and their success?
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about library instruction. The art history department at my university has invited me to help develop a new course, tentatively titled “Information Technology for the Art Historian.” The course will focus on a variety of skills that are needed to be successful academically, such as conducting research, acquiring and using images, preparing presentations, and writing research papers. I’m really excited about this opportunity to include the library in the art history curriculum!
There seems to be a trend toward integrating library instruction in the curriculum, rather than the more traditional one-shot approach to library instruction. At the recent ARLIS/NA conference, I attended a discussion group that focused on making library instruction an integral part of student’s educational experience. Some suggestions included, using assessment tools such as Survey Monkey for pre-and post-testing during library instruction, incorporating games and group-work, and using visual mapping/mind mapping to teach the research process.
I’m wondering what other tips and tricks librarians can try to make the research process fun and interesting for students, especially in a semester-long course. Has your library integrated library instruction into course curriculum or developed a course (either required or for extra credit) for students at your institution? If so, what challenges and successes have you experienced?