Links of interest: April 29th, 2011

(As you can guess by the gap, travel last week did mean I didn’t get other things done that I would have liked, including the links post. Onward! This week’s links cover a fascinating case study in information literacy, online communication in several directions, and some other interesting resources.)

Who’s got the right story?
One of the big things that was emerging last week was the ongoing story about Greg Mortenson (of Three Cups of Tea fame) and questions about the organization of his non-profit, specific events he describes in his book, and other details.

All of which made me wish I was currently teaching information literacy somewhere, because the resulting conversations made for an amazing microcosm of issues, approaches, and other things to consider.

(When I say “This is the kind of thing we’re not teaching enough of…”, that’s what I mean: how many schools dig very deeply into the kind of information evaluation we’re going to need to do throughout our adult lives? How many students – or for that matter, adults – know how to research a charitable organization effectively and efficiently?)

This situation, as complicated as it is, has some really interesting hooks. You have several different strong personalities in the mix. Obviously, there’s Mortensen, whose books have been extremely widely read. But you also have Jon Krakauer (also widely read), who was accused of mispresenting events in his famous account of the 1996 Everest season in his Into Thin Air but here is documenting the lacks in Mortensen’s side of the story. And then you have a number of other voices who clearly come down on different sides of the issue, and the complexity of talking about cultures and countries that are often poorly understood (or explained) in English-language press and writing, and all the other considerations that come of living in a global society.

I may still write up how I’d go about this if I were teaching information literacy skills, but in the meantime, have some collected links:

And then there are many articles looking at the issues raised not as “American goes and does good in some foreign place” but with people who are deeply familiar with the history and culture of the region commenting on how misrepresentations in a widely-read book in the US are actually limiting and harming growth and development. These include:

New tools:
Among my links this time are several new resources and tools.

Online communication and identity:

I’ve seen two strands of conversations this week. One is about how we communicate – Doug Johnson talks about signs of over-communication, while an article about the RISD president talks about how too much tweeting can be seen as negative by other community members.

danah boyd had a complicated interaction with Tumblr this week, when they moved her account to a new URL to give her account name to a company with the same name. Her initial post talks about her concerns about trusting other sites with important data, and her second post talks about her work with the Tumblr staff to resolve the issue and the larger issues of branding and names in online space.

I definitely agree with the suggestions in her second post about handling these issues. 72 hours is still – even in our highly connected society – a very short time. People go away for the weekend to take a break, they’re miserably sick with the flu, whatever. It’s a reasonable deadline for something that can be easily undone when someone returns to the computer (removing a post from sight, or even suspending a site temporarily). It’s not so great for something that will break links and resources, and cannot be recovered when the person is around to deal with it.

As danah points out, there are also the problems of getting email – spam filters are still quite imperfect. Some kind of second communication option is nice, if the account might go away otherwise, whether that’s a post on the account (so friends who might have other contact methods can get in touch with the person) or a backup communication method. (Ok, there are logistical problems here too, but I think I like them better.)

And other topics:

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Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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