More Mianderings about Information Ethics

Earlier this morning, while waiting or my my flight’s boarding, I wrote a brief blog with my phone about my continuing struggles with a librarian’s perspective of the new information environment. From their perspective, and the way that most people think about information, it is something that you keep in a container. It’s usually on paper, and more recently on microfiche, celluloid, magnetic tape… But, bodies of information were objects that had to be stored by category.

Starting with the Internet, information began to flow independent of containers. It’s been ancillary, a parallel information source, that was almost no threat to our traditional ways of thinking about libraries. It was not a revolution in the making for most people. However, the proliferation of computers and other information devices, increases in broadband access, and the growing web of WiFi has turned the digital networked information domain into a preferred source of content for many people, perhaps most people.

In a way, our attention seems to be shifting from an inward focus, into the library, into the book or magazine, to an outward focus, to a more global and ethereal information landscape. It’s almost as if we are becoming a global mind, with signals and impulses flowing around the globe, memories and concepts stored and connected logically (not in alphabetical or Dewey decimal order), and people, the neurons of this big brain, observing, reflecting, sharing, reading, processing and growing new memory, concepts, and knowledge. We live in the library! We are the library!

In my last blog, I suggested that we have faith. The problem is that this big brain suffers from a variety of psychoses. There are thought processes that are counter productive, antibodies and viruses that attack the system. that grow on their own, with their own interests, divorced from that whole organism, and poisoning its function.

It’s already happened. I do not believe that we can go back. There will certainly be those who want to, the refusnics, as PEW calls them. But the function of the world and global citizens will be governed through the digital networked realm.

So how do we cure this illness? How do we brain it all back into alignment. I’m not talking right and wrong, good and bad. I’m just talking about making the organism work, such that it can be used by us to help us become a better us.

No Doubt, education plays an integral and critical role. Teaching ethics is an imperative. But what do we teach and how do we teach it? I would toss out, once again, some factored-down elements of ethics as a joumpin off place for any continued conversations.

  • Seek and express truth,
  • Do no harm with information,
  • Be accountable for your information work,
  • Respect the information and its infrastructure.


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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.