Category Archives: information power

Advocates resist restraints, misuse of government information

Clearly, the challenge facing this nation will challenge most Americans in one way or another. It helps to focus – and to assess individual and societal resources within our reach. As past blog posts suggest, my tools of choice lean toward real facts, the truth and, above all, informed citizens “armed” with the tools (weapons?) of access and critical thinking tools to weigh the overwhelming flood of facts and alternative facts by and about the government.

Good information has a real advantage when it comes to weaponry – it’s agile, abundant and, as I often quote, Harlan Cleveland’s contention that “it’s better if shared.”

No wonder then, that the Commander-in-Chief is quick to grasp the potential of information and its manipulation — misinformation, disinformation, and, most recently, depriving Americans of information collected and analyzed at public expense.

We the public are at the ready to fight fire with fire, alternative facts with legitimate data, mindless tweets with authenticity, bluster with honest truth.   Seekers of truth are eager to share truth with citizen stakeholders who possess both the skills and technology to learn, assess, share and act on good and relevant information by and about the federal government.

Clearly, we have a long way to go – and yet at this juncture many Americans are keenly aware that information matters and that we have the people and the organizational power to act. Leaders of efforts to assure truth in government, transparency and accountability share a commitment to shape a powerful strategy built on truth, not trickery.

The founding fathers affirmed that the fundamental principle of this democracy is information, presumably in the hands and minds of citizens for whom government information is a mighty tool – until access is denied – or until the information tool is weaponized. That’s where we are now. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/information-and-media-not-weapons-but-tools/

The weaponization of the peoples’ information has clearly caught the attention of the public and of those advocacy groups that have galvanized their efforts to collaborate and “resist.” The most overt of action is the forthcoming March for Science, a public expression of resistance set for Earth Day, April 29. Plans for the March are also underway. – some recent updates: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/01/politics/science-march-earth-day-trnd/\

For a half century the most powerful tool in the hands of open government access proponents has been the Freedom of Information Act. More about FOIA here https://www.foia.gov/faq.html. Follow the FOIA website here: http://thefoiablog.typepad.com

Countless advocacy groups, including numerous coalitions, are “armed for action.”

These are just a very few of the insider entities at the forefront of truth-finding:

Muckrock suggests an action plan – https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/jan/04/how-we-can-all-work-towards-better-foia-process-20/ [note: if you have problems with this link, google the title]

http://www.openthegovernment.org/node/5414 – offers timely updates and an excellent list of coalition members that share a commitment to open government..

Federal News Radio provides just one of countless descriptions of the backlash to presidential halts to the free flow of federal government information – in this case the news is geared to inside the Beltway audience. http://federalnewsradio.com/

A couple of recent “Poking” posts underscore and elaborate the centrality of an challenges to an informed electorate:

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/category/access-to-information-2/freedom-of-information-act-foia/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/inquiring-minds-need-to-know-thoughts-on-sunshine-week-2016/

 In a Time of Universal Deceit Telling the Truth

Is a Revolutionary  Act ~ Source not certain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words matter – and are now searchable in the Trump Archives

The opportunity before all of us is living up to the dream of the Library of Alexandria and then taking it a step further – universal access to all knowledge.  Interestingly, it is now technically doable Brewster Kahle

Founder of the Internet Archive Brewster Kahle is disinclined to back down from a challenge. He’s also a proponent of real facts, primary sources and the capacity of technology – in the hands of people of good will — to assure that real acts trump alternative facts and fake news. Basically, he believes that a democracy ruled by informed citizens is what the Forefathers envisioned….

Kahle’s Utopian vision is realized in the Internet Archive, now an accepted and essential pillar of today’s information infrastructure.

Sometimes a tool waits in the wing for just the right moment to be essential! Such is the case with the Internet Archives,  henceforth the home of the Donald Trump Archives.   Journalist David Lumb heralded the archive with a hearty “Fact-checkers, start your engines!”

Dating back to December 2009 the Trump Archives’ ultimate goal is to capture virtually every utterance, print, video, digital, or other of the Trump administration.   At the launch of the Trump Archive last month journalist Kalev Leetaru wrote this in Forbes:

For this first incarnation of the Trump Archive, the Archive chose to start with a manually curated collection of around 700 video clips, ranging from major events like presidential debates and major speeches to key policy statements and views espoused by the President-elect, drawing heavily from those video clips that journalists had already identified as particularly noteworthy or which received widespread attention. This means that the collection as it presently stands includes many of the most-talked about Trump statements, but is not an exhaustive record of Trump’s total television appearances.

Read Leetaru’s full article here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2017/01/06/the-internet-archives-new-donald-trump-and-white-house-archives-transparency-and-history-as-data/#26efe1907d98

It’s been nearly a month now since The Launch.   To get a sense of the goals, and to keep up-to-date on the scope, response and impact, follow the Trump Archive blog here:  http://blog.archive.org/2017/01/23/in-the-news-trump-archive-end-of-term-preservation-link-rot/

A well informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny. Thomas Jefferson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scholars create digital learning tools on volatile current issues

As the Commander in Chief stresses about the throngs of immigrants, wiser, more temperate scholars have devoted themselves to helping Americans better understand the deep historical roots of today’s immigration debates. Immigration historians, working with the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center (http://cla.umn.edu/ihrc) and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (http://iehs.org/online/) have produced another in series of unique and timely resources, #immigration Syllabus. This indispensable tool for teaching, learning and advocacy is available online: http://editions.lib.umn.edu/immigrationsyllabus/

The syllabus “seeks to provide historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship.” It follows a chronological overview of U.S. immigration history as well as thematic weeks that cover “salient issues in political discourse today, including xenophobia, deportation policy, and border policing.”

Listing essential topics and readings and linking to historical documents and multimedia source #ImmigrationSyllabus provides real facts that answer a broad range of questions including the history, policies, and “what’s ‘new’ about new immigration to the US.”

#ImmigrationSyllabus is actually one in a series of timely resources created by and through the University of Minnesota. Previous syllabi include these:

  • #TrumpSyllabus, designed to hep readers understand Trump’s political success during the presidential campaign,
  • #Fergusonyllabus, intended to inspire conversations about race, violence and activism, and
  • #StandingRockSyllabus, a tool to raise awareness of the Dakota Access Pipeline and to place the #NoDAPL process in context.

Download for #Immigration Syllabus:

PDF version of #ImmigrationSyllabus

Word version of #ImmigrationSyllabus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information and media – Not weapons, but tools

Informational Power is where a person possesses needed or wanted information. This is a short-term power that doesn’t necessarily influence or build credibility. Vivian Giang

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. Malcolm X

The fact is, information and media are unique and powerful tools, to be wielded by sentient creatures for good or for evil. When the American Library Association was promoting the “information power” theme years ago I worried at the value-free assumption that the information would be put to good purposes. And when we hyped the potential of the communications media, from cable to the web, I wondered more….

My skepticism is affirmed today as we experience the reality of information and communications expertise brilliantly coupled to disrupt our democracy.

This should not be news. It was either Mark Twain or H.L Mencken who advised his readers to “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.”   The technology, but not the meaning, has been updated here. http://www.adweek.com/fishbowlny/ink-by-the-barrel-on-the-internet/252889

But that’s a diversion from the real fact – that the administration has effectively wed the power of information with the power of the media to shape reality.   Those in power wield information as a sword to silence, to pervert, to foment, to shape, to craft alliances and to conceptualize, then propagate, alternative truth.   We who are but “subjects” are ill-prepared to meet the challenge; we lack, or fail to unsheathe, the information/communications skills and attitudes to withstand the onslaught.

And still it is a real fact that we are not a passive people. The Women’s March and forthcoming March for Science clearly reflect our power to harness the human power to resist.

The first line of resistance to alternative facts is well-meant but knee-jerk –- placing blame and responsibility on the communications channels, or even the sources, of misinformation and disinformation is short-term and futile.

We are challenged to fully accept that information and communications technology have been “weaponized” – and that it is incumbent upon us to “arm” ourselves. We need to assume the responsibility to become critical thinkers – and to shape a learning environment that enhances the critical thinking of future voters, including both youth and future voters.

We can’t fall for the press-bashing and post-truthiness cleverly designed to divert our focus and our energy. Instead, we need to embrace the challenge to seek the truth and to stand firm when it is information is thwarted, perverted, suppressed, hidden from public view – or is not collected in the first place!

Thomas Jefferson, a man who dealt in truth, had this to say on the subject

Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government.” –  Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789

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Related posts – Selected:

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/marchers-will-support-research-science-real-facts/#respond

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/discovering-truth-starts-with-independent-thinking/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/creating-a-culture-of-encounter-some-info-tools/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/relax-learn-then-resolve-to-resist-post-truth-thinking/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/information-literacy-universal-challenge-of-the-digital-era/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/information-literacy-curriculum/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/national-information-literacy-awareness-month-2016/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/facing-the-facts-about-facts/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/scrubbing-history-scrapping-the-facts/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marchers will support research, science, real facts

It’s hard to specify the “tipping point.” It could have been the fact that the President considers climate change “a hoax”; or it could have been the gag orders issued to federal agencies; or maybe it was funding cuts for scientific research; or the team of researchers, archivists and librarians rushing to preserve essential scientific records. For many non-scientists it was simply the challenge to comprehend the concept of “alternative facts.”

Whatever the efficient cause, the effect is a planned March for Science – a march similar to the Women’s March, to be held in Washington, DC, in Europe, and in communities throughout the nation.

This is not to be a march of scientists but rather a March for Science. Planners describe a non-partisan march that “reaches far beyond people in the STEM fields and should concern anyone who values empirical research and science. “ Focus is on policy, including communication of findings from tax-funded research as well as funding for and nature of tax-funded research initiatives.   A fundamental premise of the initiative is that facts matter.

Details – including date – are in the works and should be out in the next few days. Meanwhile, stay informed – or get involved – through these channels:

Twitter: @ScienceMarchDC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1862739727343189/

Reddit: /r/scientistsmarch

Get Email Updates

To help: https://goo.gl/forms/zAdY02dBEz3Ykii42

Contact: scientistsmarchonwashington@gmail.com

Who can participate? Anyone who values empirical science. That’s it. That’s the only requirement.

As a concerned non-scientist I’m eager to get instructions for gear that will appropriately represent the cause! Knitting needles are poised for action!

UPDATE:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/01/25/war-facts-sparks-momentum-scientists-march-washington

 

 

 

Discovering truth starts with independent thinking

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.  Albert Einstein

The fake news flap, having gone viral, is now a topic of social hand wringing. It’s trendy to fret about fake advertising while extremists charge that fake news is a phantom fashioned by the mainstream media to discredit the “competition.”

With all the lamentations and calls for censorship, little attention has focused on realistic solutions to what is in truth a pernicious threat to our politics, physical and mental health, individual and societal equilibrium.

Thinking about how to cope with the reality of fake news – which will only get more sophisticated — inevitably leads me back to the realization that the solution lies not with the source or even the target of misinformation and disinformation – the power, and thus the solution, rests with the “missing link” – the receiver of information.

In earlier posts my focus has been on the need to hone the basic skills of the post-truth age – how to locate and then evaluate information, how to relate sources of information to good decision-making, whatever the context. Clearly, “information literacy” is an essential first step.

The challenge is to go beyond find, assess and apply skills to deal with the fact that the receiver of information – whether student or voter, politician or parent. We are sentient human beings whose mode for processing information is insanely complex. Granted it’s more complicated than censoring or censuring the producer or connector; focus on the receiver, the “missing link” on the information chain, recognizes that information is inert until a human being gives it life, puts it to work, turns information into an opinion or incentive to act.

The first step is to consider the situation and condition of the information user – what does the user need? To date, the emphasis has been on information skills. My thought is that we need to know more about the condition of the receiver, in particular the role of self-confidence as a component of critical thinking. It takes self-confidence to welcome new ideas and match them against our own beliefs.

In an intriguing essay entitled “losing the courage of convictions” Timothy Ogden presents this puzzle:

There’s an old saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.  Unfortunately, it’s probably got things exactly backward. The more you stand for and defend the beliefs you strongly hold, the more likely you are to fall for anything – anything that confirms your existing beliefs.”

 A thought to ponder…..

The initial challenge is to fire up inquiring minds so that they have the confidence to assess, compare and weigh the facts. Only then comes the tools to locate, then assess and evaluate the relevance and truth of information – broadly defined to include everything from tweets to infographics to juried journals.

Though skepticism gets a bad rap, the skeptic, aka critical thinker, possesses and builds both the confidence and the skills to examine assumptions, weigh alternatives, confront one’s own or others’ biases.   Confidence sparks a sense of inquiry and independent thinking. Success will favor the seeker who is master of the tools.  The challenge of this chaotic era is to envision, then work to create and sustain, a society of confident seekers of truth.

 

 

 

Relax, learn, then resolve to resist post-truth thinking

The goal of today’s post is simply to relieve the stress of the politically charged season by suggesting interesting and easy stuff that promises to divert the agitated mind or volatile conversation. Without leaving your cushy armchair you can liberate your mind to wander at its own speed. Let you thoughts free flow through the overwhelming digital world that overflows with ideas best communicated in more than 140 characters. Get comfortable, clutch your clicker, catch up on some truthful information and creative ideas that probably slipped through the media melee.

To set the mood, check out “Life Satisfaction in the Internet Age – Changes in the Past Decade.” Ask yourself, are you better off now? (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215300790)

Minnesotans deserve to read beyond the disgusting headlines and to take pride in the academic aspects of the institution. Some random bright spots of a digital sort:

Explore some of the ever-expanding digital treasures preserved by the Minnesota Historical Society

If you prefer to stress out by focusing on survival in the post-truth era you’ll find an engaging battle about scientific thinking in this ongoing exchange. Follow Intercept’s challenge to Sense about Science and Sense about Science USA. The discourse is understandable to the lay reader who gets to decide wherein lies the truth. https://theintercept.com/2016/11/15/how-self-appointed-guardians-of-sound-science-tip-the-scales-toward-industry/

Should you have the good sense and option to relax and enjoy the season, here are a couple of digital delights you really don’t want to miss:

Though New Year resolutions pre-date the Post-Truth era, the time is now to “go high” with a 2017 resolution to counter fake facts and false assumptions that  distract and distort.  Resolve instead to capitalize on the power of the web to seek and share the truth and to assure that every voter and potential voter possesses the digital age information assessment skills required to preserve this democracy.