One thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about since the conference last week is the effect that RSS has on access to information. I know I’ve alluded to this before, but I think aside from the potentials of packaging and redistributing information in a variety of cool ways, all of these new technologies really require more thinking and teaching about how to find relevant stuff and how to use it when you find it. Sometimes when I sit and listen to people talk about where this is going, I get seriously overwhelmed at the implications. Especially since I think our kids are way too information illiterate to begin with. Just imagine a) how these tools will make it more manageable for them, and b) how these tools will make it worse.
The hope is captured in the second chapter of Dan Gilmor’s book (now up for review) where he says:
At the same time, services like Feedster and Technorati are helping us envision what amounts to a new architecture for tomorrow’s news and information. They may enable “consumers” of journalism to sort through the opinionated conversations to assemble something resembling reality, or maybe even truth. We’ll look at this architectural potential in more detail in Chapter 8.
I’m looking forward to Chapter 8 where I hope he’ll talk about the even greater need to teach people (students) how to “assemble something resembling reality.” I can tell you right now that most kids have no tools to do that, and that the pedagogy involved in building those tools is probably a book in itself.
All of this is especially acute to me right now in this election year since, in my humble opinion, reality seems to be sorely missing from the mainstream media. That’s not to say it’s 100% captured in alternative sources of information (Weblogs et.al.) either, which of course is where the sorting through comes in. But right now very few people have the skills or the mechanism (or the energy) to even collect enough information to have to think about it in any meaningful way. There’s nothing to sort when all you watch is Fox News. But I’m a dreamer, and I think as people start to realize that they have some power and real choice over the news they consume, and as it becomes easier to do so, there will be a greater and greater need to know how to sort and process and find truth. And that can only be a good thing.