Marginalia 26 – what to look for

In Real Life magazine, M. R. Sauter writes about what we can learn from Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto project, Susan Sontag’s thoughts on photography, and the datafication of everyday life.

Proposed systems like Sidewalk Toronto’s ever-observing KOALA camera risk becoming self-referential and self-sustaining: images and the data derived from images, about images, and for images dominating the social, computational, and global spheres.

Barbara Fister writes for Project Info Lit about how information literacy is taught in US four-year college degrees, and the dangers she sees. In Australia we generally teach 3 year degrees without the ubiquity of the first year curriculum she describes, but many of Fister’s arguments are still relevant outside the States.

When information-seeking is cast as a matter of making personal choices or winning arguments, social responsibility can seem to be in conflict with self-interest (which, in late capitalism, has become the definition of “freedom”). That conflict is ripe for exploitation and in-group/out-group antagonism.

She also has important things to say about how we teach and manage search systems.

Privileging of simplicity and efficiency implies that if your search doesn’t lead to satisfying results quickly, you must be doing it wrong. In reality, authentic and open-ended research is messy and complex.

Meanwhile, Jill Barshay reports on a study that has some bad news for those of us hoping to rely on students’ own assessment of whether they learned anything from our teaching efforts. In short, “College students often don’t know when they’re learning”.

Real learning is hard work and it often doesn’t feel good. When you’re struggling to solve a problem in an active learning classroom, it may feel frustrating.  Making mistakes and getting feedback to correct misunderstandings is where the learning happens…

…“Sports and music instruction make this really clear,” McCarty said. “Watching [Roger] Federer play tennis can get you really excited about tennis, but it’s not going to make you a great tennis player.” 

The final thing I’d like to share this month is Masud Khokhar’s Tips for developing a successful work relationship with your new (Library) Director. Masud has some great advice here for anyone with a boss. My personal picks are “Do your homework”, and “Clarify expectations”.

Look after each other.