New book on information literacy and the crisis of information
Jutta Haider is Professor of Library and Information Science since January 2020. She will be installed as professor at the Academic Ceremony 22 April.
The debates over what is true or false continue on social media and have now moved offline into the “real world,” as we have seen more and more examples in recent years.
Using approaches as diverse as interviews, literature analyses, and investigations of Google trends, Jutta Haider, together with Olof Sundin, Professor of Library and Information Science at Lund University, has attempted to understand this crisis of information. They believe that it goes hand in hand with a number of tensions in society, such as those related to vaccines, the climate, migration, and democracy. Common to these phenomena is a lack of trust in institutions as well as that the information ecosystem is unstable, politicised, fragmented, and influenced by emotions. At the same time, a few major platforms, such as Google, Youtube, and Facebook, use their algorithms to shape what information we see and thus, by extension, our everyday lives.
"Peripheral voices can end up setting the agenda"
“We see how voices that have been peripheral in the past can end up setting the agenda, and unfortunately it is often the case that issues that resemble conspiracy theories, or are otherwise extreme, gain momentum in this way. Traditional media then follow their lead and amplify it, by using headlines like ‘Twitterstorm.’ This can lead to us getting a false picture of what many people actually think,” said Jutta Haider.
In Paradoxes of Media and Information Literacy: The Crisis of Information, the authors address paradoxes and tensions around media and information literacy, which is often discussed as the solution to the crisis of information. Views on media and information literacy, and expectations associated with it, vary depending on perspective and person. An example is when conspiracy theorists use the tools and rhetoric of information literacy against established knowledge.
Challenges for democratic societies
Jutta Haider describes how the very frameworks under which knowledge is created are being renegotiated.
“Nowadays, extreme vigilance around information literacy and not trusting anything one hasn’t experienced oneself can be considered a virtue; we have seen that in interviews with young people, for example. But without a shared ethos of how knowledge is produced, trust is not possible, which leads to major challenges for democratic societies,” said Jutta Haider.
She explains that it is not about agreeing in detail about what is true or false, but rather about reaching a general consensus on what methods work or do not work.
“It is also about values — is equality something to strive for or not? In plain language, you cannot, for example, fight anti-Semitism by proposing more information literacy if you regard information literacy as a neutral method that does not take a stand.
Paradoxes of Media and Information Literacy: The Crisis of Information (Routledge, 2022) problematises media and information literacy from numerous perspectives and fields of research.
The empirical material comes from several research projects, most notably Algorithms and Literacies: Young people's understanding and society's expectations, which was funded by the Swedish Research Council between 2018 and 2021.
The book is primarily aimed at readers with an interest in library and information science, information studies, media and communication studies, journalism and educational sciences, as well as professional librarians and journalists, to name a few.
Lina Färm. Translation by Eva Medin
Illustration: Adobe Stock, Portrait photo: Suss Wilén