"Creating a knowledgeable public requires at least some workable signals that distinguish truth from falsehood. Fostering a healthy, rational, and informed debate in a mass society requires mechanisms that elevate opposing viewpoints, preferably their best versions. To be clear, no public sphere has ever fully achieved these ideal conditions—but at least they were ideals to fail from. Today’s engagement algorithms, by contrast, espouse no ideals about a healthy public sphere."
"By this point, we’ve already seen enough to recognize that the core business model underlying the Big Tech platforms—harvesting attention with a massive surveillance infrastructure to allow for targeted, mostly automated advertising at very large scale—is far too compatible with authoritarianism, propaganda, misinformation, and polarization. The institutional antibodies that humanity has developed to protect against censorship and propaganda thus far—laws, journalistic codes of ethics, independent watchdogs, mass education—all evolved for a world in which choking a few gatekeepers and threatening a few individuals was an effective means to block speech. They are no longer sufficient."
As much as the advocates of information literacy at libraries and universities hope to be arbiters of truth and facilitators of knowledge, with a unimpeachable mission of social justice guiding their practices, their micro actions over the past few centuries have too often been tangential rather than negotiated with or in resistance to the dominant hierarchy. The result is a system that, by and large, reconciles pupils to the existing order, first in deference to an aristocracy of power and now to the sovereignty of the market.
So rather than develop localized standards, with librarians and instructors working in collaboration with those seeking information, developing together shared social standards for knowledge in their community, colleges and libraries have ceded control to content publishers, who impose their hierarchical understanding of information on passive consumers, leaving institutions to only exhibit and protect the information. In this, they have excelled: Access to the world’s most prestigious research journals is a website away, although that website is behind both a tuition and a journal subscription firewall. The best teachers in the world offer the best courses in the world for free through networks of classes aimed at democratizing education, as long as the students are essentially autodidacts. Although shrewd advertising promotes the college experience as personalized and connective, schools and libraries have joined the historical arbiters of culture as mausoleums.
To remake education into a space of social justice rather than course-by-course “all you can consume” content buffets, faculty and staff would need to acknowledge and address these structural issues. Instead, educators doubled down on control, promulgating top-down information-literacy rubrics.