Title

Information Intersections: Mis-and Disinformation at the Convergence of Critical Information, Critical Pedagogy, and Critical Race Theory

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Equity, diversity, and inclusion

Abstract

Librarians have long championed information literacy as essential to democracy, and have been at the forefront of codifying definitions and standards that cemented librarians’ role in developing related skills. However, some have criticized these conceptualizations as approaching information and even literacy as neutral “goods,” seemingly without critical reflection on the racism, sexism, and oppression often inherent in these systems and thus replicating those systems (e.g. Pawley, 2003; Tewell, 2015). Framing information as a product and patrons as consumers ignores the patron’s role as a potential actor and creator who might influence systems. Drawing on critical race theory, feminism, and queer theory, critical information literacy investigates “the political, social, and economic dimensions of information, including its creation, access, and use,” seeking a “better understanding systems of oppression while also identifying opportunities to take action upon them” (Fister, 2013). Critical pedagogy, with its focus on praxis and empowerment, can inform how these concepts are taught in the classroom.

Current challenges of mis- and disinformation have a greater scope than ever. Disinformation, shared with an intent to deceive, is particularly insidious as false information about COVID vaccines impacts vaccination rates, and lies about voter fraud led to the January 6th insurrection. The impacts of mis- and disinformation disproportionately affect marginalized people, especially people of color, who not only face greater barriers to access, but also disproportionate detriments when they do have access. For instance, they are more likely to have their data misused, or be targets of online bullying, doxing, and stalking, making a more thorough understanding of critical information literacy from a critical race perspective increasingly important.

ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education offers a more critical approach than previous standards. However, some argue it still does not go far enough in surfacing and challenging the power imbalances and systemic oppression inherent in information systems and thus may not provide librarians with adequate guidance to take a critical approach to information literacy instruction. This presentation will explore the convergence of critical information literacy, critical race theory, and critical pedagogy, with a specific focus on underlying information infrastructures and the challenges highlighted by the spread of misinformation. The presentation will examine the conceptualizations of information literacy, including ACRL’s Framework, through a critical race theory lens to identify both where it succeeds in addressing these issues and where it falls short. The presentation will conclude with suggestions for a reframing of the Framework to more fully integrate critical race theory, and will also explore how librarians can adopt critical pedagogy approaches to inform their information literacy instruction.

References

Fister, B. (August 27, 2013). Practicing freedom in the digital library: Reinventing libraries. Library Journal. https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=practicing-freedom-in-the-digital-library-reinventing-libraries

Pawley, C. (2003). Information literacy: A contradictory coupling. Library Quarterly, 73(4), 422-452. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4309685

Tewell, E. (October 12, 2016). Putting critical information literacy into context: how and why librarians adopt critical practices in their teaching. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. https://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2016/putting-critical-information-literacy-into-context-how-and-why-librarians-adopt-critical-practices-in-their-teaching/

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Information Intersections: Mis-and Disinformation at the Convergence of Critical Information, Critical Pedagogy, and Critical Race Theory

Librarians have long championed information literacy as essential to democracy, and have been at the forefront of codifying definitions and standards that cemented librarians’ role in developing related skills. However, some have criticized these conceptualizations as approaching information and even literacy as neutral “goods,” seemingly without critical reflection on the racism, sexism, and oppression often inherent in these systems and thus replicating those systems (e.g. Pawley, 2003; Tewell, 2015). Framing information as a product and patrons as consumers ignores the patron’s role as a potential actor and creator who might influence systems. Drawing on critical race theory, feminism, and queer theory, critical information literacy investigates “the political, social, and economic dimensions of information, including its creation, access, and use,” seeking a “better understanding systems of oppression while also identifying opportunities to take action upon them” (Fister, 2013). Critical pedagogy, with its focus on praxis and empowerment, can inform how these concepts are taught in the classroom.

Current challenges of mis- and disinformation have a greater scope than ever. Disinformation, shared with an intent to deceive, is particularly insidious as false information about COVID vaccines impacts vaccination rates, and lies about voter fraud led to the January 6th insurrection. The impacts of mis- and disinformation disproportionately affect marginalized people, especially people of color, who not only face greater barriers to access, but also disproportionate detriments when they do have access. For instance, they are more likely to have their data misused, or be targets of online bullying, doxing, and stalking, making a more thorough understanding of critical information literacy from a critical race perspective increasingly important.

ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education offers a more critical approach than previous standards. However, some argue it still does not go far enough in surfacing and challenging the power imbalances and systemic oppression inherent in information systems and thus may not provide librarians with adequate guidance to take a critical approach to information literacy instruction. This presentation will explore the convergence of critical information literacy, critical race theory, and critical pedagogy, with a specific focus on underlying information infrastructures and the challenges highlighted by the spread of misinformation. The presentation will examine the conceptualizations of information literacy, including ACRL’s Framework, through a critical race theory lens to identify both where it succeeds in addressing these issues and where it falls short. The presentation will conclude with suggestions for a reframing of the Framework to more fully integrate critical race theory, and will also explore how librarians can adopt critical pedagogy approaches to inform their information literacy instruction.

References

Fister, B. (August 27, 2013). Practicing freedom in the digital library: Reinventing libraries. Library Journal. https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=practicing-freedom-in-the-digital-library-reinventing-libraries

Pawley, C. (2003). Information literacy: A contradictory coupling. Library Quarterly, 73(4), 422-452. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4309685

Tewell, E. (October 12, 2016). Putting critical information literacy into context: how and why librarians adopt critical practices in their teaching. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. https://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2016/putting-critical-information-literacy-into-context-how-and-why-librarians-adopt-critical-practices-in-their-teaching/