Tuesday, November 15, 2005

hunkered down

I'm finally getting moved into my new area. Closed on the house, and about 60% of the boxes (the most important stuff, anyway) is taken care of. Meanwhile, it's time to prepare for yet another possible Minnesota snow storm.

So I've been spending a significant amount of time in the past few months contemplating information literacy.

I've caught myself with the same information gather habits I feel the need to correct in others. I told a bunch of people during Thanksgiving weekend that P.D. Eastman and Dr. Seuss were one in the same. One of the people I worked with as a Children's Librarian had assured me it was true, and, well, their stuff does look remarkably similar. Of course, if I had done a quick search in Contemporary Authors, I would've known the truth immediately. But I didn't. I had taken her word for it. And the truth is I believed that P.D. Eastman and Dr. Seuss were the same person, but they were not.

And that was taking information someone I knew. Someone I trusted to be informed because most of the time she is.

But this leads into other encounters with I've had with friends and relatives over the remarkable number of forwards that warn of some terrible fate. Like the rumor that you can get sick from rat urine on unwashed soda cans. Or that you will be shot if you flash your headlights at a car that is driving with them off. And I keep saying check Snopes (www.snopes.com) before you forward this stuff on, thinking you're improving my safety. Not that the forwards hurt. They don't. I can shrug them off. And I mostly do.

But sometimes they worry me. Not for whatever thing the forward is cautioning me against this time. But for two other reasons. First, they seem to be part of a movement that seems geared toward all of us going home, locking our doors and trying to avoid the rest of the population because of the horrible stuff going on in the world. Now, I realize that's an oversimplification. But I hate the increasing number of news stories aimed at making you afraid.

The second thing that concerns me about the forwards is that it proves to me that people who are otherwise highly informed still use poor quality information because this information is easy to access. How do we get the word out to the general population about effective information gathering if we can't even get our friends and loved ones to do so?

And that's what I've been thinking about...


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