Great article in the New York Times that asserts the Clay Shirky idea I noted here earlier of a publish then filter world.
According to interviews and recent surveys, younger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well â€” sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them. In essence, they are replacing the professional filter â€” reading The Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com â€” with a social one.
I like the phrase “social filter” that the article puts forth as a way to capture what I think is a big shift in emphasis on many of the basic reading literacies that we should have been teaching but by and large haven’t been doing a very good job with. We have to be editors, not only in the sense of identifying those pieces of information that should be “passed on” but in assessing those that have been passed on to us. It is a bit more complex, and potentially problematic, when the filter who is suggesting something for you to read may not be very well trained in the skill of filtering either.
While, as the article points out, much of this trend is a technological version of “word of mouth,” I think the difference is the scope of the potential personal audience, the ease with which we can copy and forward what we find, and the speed with which it all happens. Think Twitter for all of that.
And this is a younger vs. older thing. While two-thirds of those under 30 use social networking tools to disseminate and consume information, only 20% of those over 30 do. I’m guessing those percentages are about right for education as well.
Finally, I find this really encouraging, especially in an age where talking heads hold so much sway:
Young people also identify online discussions with friends and videos as important sources of election information. The habits suggest that younger readers find themselves going straight to the source, bypassing the context and analysis that seasoned journalists provide.
Obviously, that can be good or bad, depending on who those “seasoned” journalists are and who your friends are. But I’m just thinking that if we can teach kids to go to the source and do their own cogent, reasoned analysis, that’s a good thing. Again, establishing these skills and habits in our students has to be something that we model and include in every part of the K-12 curriculum.
David Warlick says
First, thanks for Twittering reference to this article early on. I read it, with great interest, and have already bookmarked it, so that it will be part of tomorrows online handouts.
You make an excent point about this being “sorta” like word of mouth. The thing about word of mouth is that it’s geographic. So you are going to learn about information that people who are physically near you know about. To the network, geography, as physical space, doesn’t really exist. Instead, it’s the geography of world views. We tend to connect to people with our own world view. So the social filter can be quite narrow and biased. Can’t tell you how many times my Dad quoted FoxNews this week.
So, I think you are correct in referring to “a big shift in emphasis on many of the basic reading literacies that we should have been teaching but by and large havenâ€™t been doing a very good job with.” I think that these become BASIC literacy skills, that cause us to filter the social filter.
Will Richardson says
See Ulises Mejias dissertation if you haven’t already.
Christopher D. Sessums says
RE: “a publish then filter world” —
are we participating in a publish then filter world or a filter then publish (then filter) world? In other words, the filters are inevitable. Is that the notion you want to communicate as a basic literacy skill, i.e., everyone is an information filter and meaning generator? To what do we compare our analyses, our choices, to? How should we go about looking for other voices that expand understanding? That’s a literacy skill I would like to see taught
In what ways can we get beyond our immediate circles that allows our social filters room to grow and expand?
[Sorry, I haven’t had my coffee yet this morning…]
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment. Good to hear from you. Your point is well taken in terms of what we compare the results of our own filtering to. It’s something that I think requires peer review (such as what you are providing right now) and the ability (and the willingness) to seek out disparate opinions. Kind of writing as I think here, but in the act of blogging my opinion of all of this here, I’m attempting at least to satisfy the first but still need to go beyond to satisfy the second.
So what would you call that literacy? Is it still just reading with a more expansive view? Information literacy? Network literacy, the one that I’ve been grappling with? I mean, if diversity is key to successful networks as Stephen Downes says, how do we teach that and model that. Certainly, like “seasoned” reporters, we should try to seek out both sides; that is the filtering role of reporters. So should we be teaching our kids to be reporters in that sense, since now access to primary sources is so much more readily available?
Hoping you still haven’t had that cup of coffee… ;0)
I have noticed that my 20-something children are much more informed about politics and other important world issues than I am. I believe it is because they use their PLN and social filtering to process the information. I have come to rely on them for analysis of complex issues. It isn’t that I am uninterested in these things but most of the time I feel like I am “drinking from a firehouse” when it comes to dealing with all the information available to me. My 50 year old brain is like an old computer trying to compete with the latest processor:)
Suzanne Wargo says
Both of my mid-20’s kids are more interested in what is going on in the news today than in any other time in their lives. My daughter lives an hour away and often sends me links to things in the news. When she went away to college she read hometown newspapers on the web to still feel in touch. I have always encouraged them to read and listen to all views to make up their own minds about things which has lead to some interesting discussions over the years. I think what throws people is the term “literacy.” I am a high school media specialist. You have no idea how often I have to explain what information literacy is. If I relate to an old term like library skills (which does it no justice) people nod and sort of get it. But where I teach which is middle America, literacy still means a text book in a language arts classroom. I work with teachers who think they are high-tech when they have students Google for something.
“In essence, they are replacing the professional filter â€” reading The Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com â€” with a social one.”
I find these statements misleading, becuase no one is replacing CNN or The Washington Post. These news articles that people are sharing socially are typically links to traditional news outlet stories. Yes, there is a second level of filtering going on (is this a story that I find interesting enough to share with my audience), but at the primary level people are still getting the news article from a major publisher.
Tammy Green says
The concern I have with social filtering is the formation of the echo chamber. How do we allow dissent and serendipity into our lives? How do we learn tolerance and appreciation for differing views if we’re not exposed to them?
There is no such thing as unfiltered knowledge, event, or even supposed facts. Literacy means understanding the “bias” of the filters through which the information passes – eg. what part of the whole scene was left on the cutting room floor; what news angle is being put forward. All editing and publishing involves multiple layers of filtering. True literacy means learning to view possible ranges not points. The “truth” usually lies within a range. A most important part of education is to learn how to judge the always present filtering — to “see” the possible range instead of fixating on a point. Today’s world simply adds new extra filters to the whole process of observation and inquiry. In a way, real learning is learning how to recognize and deal with the filters.
there is an interesting conversation between clay shirky and daniel goleman (author of emotional intelligence) called Socially Intelligent Computing with free samples available for listening at http://www.morethansound.net
Zbigniew Lukasiak says
Filtering suggests something passive – but this dissemination of news is clearly active. I propose to use ‘social routing’ for that (http://brudnopis.blogspot.com/2008/03/social-filtering-versus-social-routing.html).