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Rheingold: “I’d be in the penitentiary today if not for librarians!”

Hi all! Shinjoung and I are at ALA in Seattle this weekend (did you see that ALA’s got a conference wiki!!) and we just attended the OCLC Symposium: “Who’s Watching YOUR Space?” We largely went to hear the talk given by Howard Rheingold, who we’ve had the great good fortune to be able to get to know at Stanford. Here’s our stream-of-consciousness notes on Howard Rheingold’s talk. Any errors are completely ours!

Howard talks a lot about virtual communities and media literacy. Howard’s panel was about social software and “virtual space.” Other panelists were Michael Stephens, Danah Boyd, and Marc Smith. All the speakers were most engaging, but we ran out of battery power after Howard’s talk 😉 Here’s a flickr set of Howard’s talk.

You might not think much about this as you use a library, but the Internet has brought a tremendous impact and challenged the roles of librarians and libraries.

Howard provides historical context of social networking. He pointed to 2 significant changes of importance:

  1. Emergence of new media literacy. Internet changed the location of text authority from publishers to readers. This brought about the importance of media literacy which most often happens outside of educational institutions.
  2. Emergence of a moral panic generated by the Web such as 1996 telecommunication act and DOPA.

The answer for these two questions rise from an education-based, NOT a regulation-based response. Librarians and teachers need to teach the net generation how to learn to use participatory media for civic engagement — shift from individuals to community. For digital natives, the internet is not a new, transformative technology but has always been there — and these digital natives largely learn how to use these digital tools in a self-guided way, they DON’T read the manual! Educational institutions such as libraries, schools, etc need to provide guidance on how to engage with political life. It’s important to teach about a public voice in order to engage in active participation and to be a true citizen.

Limits to how far and to whom we can network with have been transcended by the medium. Now we have the capability to amplify our networks many fold. It’s crucial to teach students to apply Web networking skills to political participation and teach students to be engaged with the issues that affect them most.

Media production is different because they have power to persuade and communicate with others. By learning participatory media and using them for civic engagement we can transform individual expression to collective action.

These are just the points that we were able to type. We hope he will put up the text/slides of his talk because it was REALLY thoughtful, engaging, and inspiring!

(This was a collaborative blog post with Shinjoung Yeo, who’s sitting right next to me, sharing the outlet and notes!)

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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