RIOT: Political Blogs

Information Literacy in the Study of American Politics: Using New Media to Teach Information Literacy in the Political Science Classroom
Behavioral & Social Sciences LibrarianVolume 32, Issue 1, 2013
I chose this article because it looks at an interesting collaboration between a librarian and a Political Science professor. It also challenges my thinking about how to present evaluative criteria for resources. Given the rise and ubiqity of political blogs, news aggregators, amateur journalism sites and social networks it’s important to think of how to use them in teaching Information literacy. “the new media environment for covering American politics is a chaotic blend of independent bloggers, Internet media aggregators (e.g., The Huffington Post), social media networks, and traditional news organizations with a Web presence. In this context it becomes necessary to think about IL more as a group of methods for thinking about and analyzing the claims made by variegated information sources than as a set of skills that can be taught divorced from a disciplinary engagement with the information content”
The authors describe an assignment where 12 undergraduate students look at a competitive congressional race. They were instructed to look at a number of variables like like fundraising info, campaign tactics, advertising, and media coverage and to consider local political history and demographic info for context. A challenge the authors saw that it was easy for students to find bits and pieces of news information related to the assignment. But they had difficulty with critically examining the claims or their sources or how to distinguish between different types of content such as for example, a highly polemical blog post vs. an empirical analysis and then synthesizing that info into a coherent and original analysis.

Based on their findings, they came up with 4 categories or types of students based on their work. These categories are fluid and it’s probably not accurate to divide all students into these neat 4 groups. I think they are instructive in give insight into how students might engage with these new media and other information sources.

The Believer (4)
Takes all news sources as trustworthy. There
is no attempt to judge the verity of claims
either in the context of the news item itself,
or on any understanding of the institutional
platform from which the reporter is writing.

The Cynic (4)
Claims that nothing written about a campaign
can be trusted. In the competition to win an
election, candidates and their campaigns
will distort facts to win election. All
reporting about the campaign is similarly
biased, where amateur and professional
journalists have some agenda that favors
one side or the others.
The Opportunistic Surfer (2)
Takes satisfaction in the easily available and
diverse sources of information available to
the technology-savvy researcher. The
benefit of access to information is not so
much for deeper analysis but to use the
technology to find easier ways to collect
information.
The Discerning Analyst (2)
Can navigate through all types of information
sources and can evaluate the veracity of
claims using disciplinary tools and concepts
from history, political science, and current
affairs. That is, the analyst can draw on
recent historic events like previous
elections.

These new media sources can provide an amazing array of opinions and viewpoints on current events and policy developments that were not available 10 years ago.

Questions / Points of Discussion:

What has your experience been like working with new media in information Literacy sessions?

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