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Code in the IL Classroom: Moving towards a trans-discipline information literacy - Langan

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Presented at LILAC 2018

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Code in the IL Classroom: Moving towards a trans-discipline information literacy - Langan

  1. 1. The Hidden Code of Bias and Power in the Infosphere Moving towards trans(formative) information literacies Kate Langan, Associate Professor Western Michigan University
  2. 2. 1. Contextualizing code as a cultural phenomenon 2. Reviewing critical theories of power, privilege, race, and agency 3. Applying these critical theories to the infosphere and the research process 4. Examining how code influences access to information and creation of knowledge Purpose of Presentation To define transformative information literacies learning objectives through the process of
  3. 3. Part I. Computer Code • Computer code is a generic term that refers to the collection of signs, symbols, and syntax that makeup a particular computer language. • Above all, code is meant to be understood by humans. (Matsamuto, as cited in Chana, 2014, 114)
  4. 4. Code has different functions Structural – logic programming – architectural languages like Python Operational –perform a task - algorithms Descriptive – taxonomies and labels – metadata
  5. 5. Good Code Order Brief Simple Flexible Predictable Reusable Transparent Bad Code Entropy Convoluted Ambiguous Chaotic Opaque Biased*
  6. 6. Biased in Code • Machine or Human Generated • Bias enters code when it ignores order and contains predetermined entropy. (Mowshowitz & Kawaguchi, 2002, 146) • Leads to questions of power and control
  7. 7. Code as a Sociocultural Phenomenon • Computer code is a product of human endeavor. (Berry, 2011, 5) • Unique narratives constantly emerge as users interact with code. • Biased code leads to questions of power and control of those narratives
  8. 8. Code’s Narrative of Power the Infosphere Acknowledging code as human and cultural product implicates its creators but does not exonerate the user Code influences access to extant knowledge and plays a prominent role in the creation of new knowledge.
  9. 9. Code’s Narrative of Power in the Research Process “To the unsophisticated user, databases or digital collections may appear to be transparent and neutral frames providing access to objective content. Yet databases and digital collections are shaped and structured by a variety of competing influences.” (Manoff, 519) and can equally “foster and constrain scholarly research.” (Manoff, 520)
  10. 10. Part II. Critical Theories By the year 2030, English Language learners will represent 30% of students in the primary and secondary American school system. (Flynn & Hill, 2005, p.1) To ignore race and culture is to systemically normalize bias and racism.
  11. 11. Critical Race Theory CRT focuses on the social constructs of race that regulates privilege and access to power. “To act as if power does not exist is to ensure that the power status quo remains the same.” (Delpit, 1988, 292)
  12. 12. Critical Code Studies CSS takes the analytical approach of cultural studies and applies them to the source code.” (Marino, 2013, 283) CCS also looks at human interaction with code, from the human as creator of code to the information seeker as the user of code.
  13. 13. Critical Literacies In education, knowledge is treated as cultural and economic capital. “Accruing knowledge equates to accruing wealth.” (Frieire, 2002, 72)
  14. 14. Critical Librarianship & Information Literacy “Information science is oriented around the problem of connecting human generated knowledge to human users.” (Frazier, 2015, 1) “Critical information literacy is an approach to IL that acknowledges and emboldens the learner’s agency in the educational process.” (Tewell, 2015, 25)
  15. 15. Part III. Trans(formative) Literacies “Diversity and social justice must appear in some capacity in the curriculum.” (Cooke, Sweeney, & Noble, 2016, 116)
  16. 16. A New Trans-media Literacy A critical trans-media literacy acknowledges the hierarchy of power at play in the information literacy classroom, the elevated role of the librarian as an agent of change who combat systemic acquiescence and secure the role of the library as a space free from threat, and focuses on student bias in the research process while emphasizing code and algorithms in that process.
  17. 17. Librarians as Agents of Change The librarian has the professional obligation “as moral agent” between user and information, to facilitate knowledge. (Van der Veer Martens, 2017, 40, 45)
  18. 18. Trans (formative) Information Literacy Objectives • Bias in Algorithms • Bias in Metadata and Taxonomies • Bias in Search Engines & Retrieval Systems
  19. 19. Conclusion 1. This approach moves beyond critical librarianship and is a new lens by which we can analyze socioeconomic constructs of privilege and power in online information. 2. A critical trans-media literacy pedagogy acknowledges the hierarchy of power at play in code and in the infosphere. 3. IL Learning objectives should include code and critical theories as a way to empower students.
  20. 20. • Kathleen.langan@wmich.edu

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