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Information Science and Social Justice Issues

March 7, 2014

(Reblogged from jessalingel.tumblr.com)

It’s the last day of the iconference and I’m just leaving an awesome, much needed discussion of social justice issues related to library and information science.  It’s always affirming to see people in my field who care about social justice exchanging ideas, frustrations, success stories, failure stories and giving advice, here are some brief notes from the discussion.  Many of these examples focus on teaching and academic life, but there are ways to reposition them towards other contexts.

+Discomfort is okayNicole Cooke pointed out that it’s actually productive and useful to generate moments of discomfort in class – I really appreciate this point as a reminder that as tempting as it is to shy away from moments of social awkwardness that come from identifying gaps in privilege, it can also be an important opportunity to reshape assumptions.

+When it comes to convincing administrators and senior faculty of the importance, we need allies who are higher ups and money talks.  The members of the panel were from GSLIS at the ischool at Illinois, and they noted the importance of having champions in their program. Also, having received a grant to work on diversity and inclusion lends a degree of legitimacy to politics of challenging heteronormativity.

+Even if we’re making our classes full of theories of power, students self-select for classes specifically geared towards issues of race class and gender, so how do we get issues of social justice into the curriculum as a whole? Some inventive ideas include course releases for faculty to partner with existing classes to integrate issues of critical theory and social justice into coursework.  Also, a clearer articulation of how these efforts fit into the category of service. Another idea is building momentum with interdisciplinary efforts towards feminist ideology, like Laura Portwood-Stacer’s efforts to generate conversations of feminists working on social media at a range of communication and HCI conferences.

+When it comes to the examples that you’re using in class, it’s important to think about the examples that we use.  It’s an easy thing to bring up with colleagues as a way of talking about diversity that can be fairly easily integrated into the classroom. (Shout out to Emily Knox for making this point.)

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