Friction and Mystery

Open Source Software and Information Literacy



Sam Popowich, University of Alberta

@redlibrarian

  • Fear, Uncertainy, and Doubt
  • "Digital Natives"
  • Expertise and Authority
  • Black Boxes and Sandboxes: Library IT vs. Campus IT
  • Friction
  • Information literacy: systems thinking
  • Information literacy: code and algorithms
  • Open Source and Open Standards
  • Open Source Software as playground
  • Making and Hacking

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD)

  • Reducing FUD is part of the library's mission
  • Information literacy: reduce FUD with respect to information resources
  • Identify, Locate, Evaluate, Use
  • Focus on search strategies and content evaluation: authority, reliability

We tend to ignore questions of how information systems are designed and built, what algorithms are used to index and retrieve material, and how to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the information system itself, because...

  • We assume younger people are "digital natives"
  • It's not something we think is our role
  • It's a lot to learn
  • It's esoteric
  • We tend to think there's something mysterious about IT

Digital Natives?

Expertise and Authority

  • What is our role in terms of understanding and explaining information systems?
  • What is the requirement for learning new things?
  • What is esoteric information?

Why do we treat information systems different from other systems?

Black Boxes and Sandboxes

  • Proprietary software
  • No local ownership or control
  • Someone else's problem
  • Gatekeeping

Campus IT vs. Library IT

Friction

A term from from user-experience and usability studies. In general, a feature in a workflow that slows down or obstructs the work.


Software designers and IT staff (and library workers) tend to try to reduce friction as much as possible, but is this always good thing?

Intentional friction can drive education by making hidden details explicit, and by making users aware of their (unconscious) work.

BUT... we don't really want to increase friction in our public, production services (even if that were under our control).

Proposal: use open source software as a way of teaching/learning about information systems.

*Because open source software is FULL of friction.

Information literacy: systems thinking

Information literacy: code and algorithms

Open Source and Open Standards

  • They combine to allow you to find out everything you need to know.
  • Open Source: Languages, Programs, Tools
  • R programming language
  • WordPress
  • Markdown, Reveal.js

Open Source Software as playground

Making and Hacking