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The information literacy thresholds project began from a concern that people (particularly the students we were teaching) did not have a really deep understanding of the ways in which we are surrounded by and use information. There was a tendency toward unreflective practice and use of information. Each time, we introduced new concepts to students (and to our colleagues), there was momentary flashes of insight writ large on the faces. These flashes are almost synonymous with the ideas behind threshold concepts. What if they are the same thing?
So we set out to try to work out what kinds of knowledge (information), activities and insights helped people to understand the use of information in our information loaded world. We set about teaching how to deal with information, how to manage it, keep up to date and generally know what’s out there. There was always a problem with the term ‘information overload’ and so it was a pleasant surprise to find Clay Shirky’s framing of that issue as ‘filter failure’. That was a threshold moment.
The ideas of knowing what information is important, of dealing with only that information, of not being lost on the ‘information superhighway’ (dumb metaphor) or swamped by an ‘information tsunami’ (equally dumb metaphor) are appealing in a sense that we can then take control of our own information needs. We can reflect on our location within the ‘information stream’ (yep, another silly metaphor) and understand what it is we actually need.