Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The postmodern information-retrieval culture

I was reading an essay for my class ("Heidegger and Borgmann on Technology" by Dreyfus and Spinosa). They were talking about how our culture has changed from modern to postmodern. They labeled the shift as a change from a "library culture" to an "information retrieval culture." In the "library culture" there is a focus on careful selection of texts, authenticity, classification and organization, and permanent collections. In the "information retrieval culture" there is a focus on access to everything, inclusiveness of all texts, diversificiation of ideas and paths to follow, and dynamic collections. They say "the user seeking information is not a subject who desires a more complete and reliable model of the world, but a protean being ready to be opened up to ever new horizons."

I hadn't thought about this before - how post-modernism, with its relativism and ideas about constructing truth, could affect research. Certainly if you don't believe in a solid truth or reality, you won't be as concerned about trying to find it. If you think that all ideas are equally valid and that we can create our own truth, then why trust a scholar more than a random person on a blog? The random person may be as useful as the scholar.

I've encountered this somewhat when I'm teaching (even older students) and I'm trying to convince them why they should be finding scholarly rather than popular sources. And to some extent I can agree with them - one student asked why a scholar would be better than a pastor for a pastoral issue. (Especially since many scholars are more liberal.)

So how does this affect how we teach students to evaluate information? Perhaps more and more we'll be fighting against an entire worldview that says that each idea is equally valid. How much should we fight it and how much should we work within that worldview?


  • At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your post helped me to formulate some ideas in relation to postmodern analysis of information retrieval for a final paper -- thanks for sharing!
    --a grateful MLIS student


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