I picked up this white paper called Trust “MeDIA”: How Real People are Finally Being Heard. It’s on blogging, a how-to and explanation of the blogosphere “for marketers and company stakeholders”. So I’ve just been reading through the paper, and meanwhile in the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the relationship between blogging as it’s generally happening and how that process relates to the concept of information literacy. From the white paper:
[Mazda] launched a blog featuring three 30-second spots for its Mazda 3, apparently assuming that no one would figure out that the blogsâ€”purported to be authored by anonymous bloggers who “found” incredible videos to shareâ€” were sponsored by Mazda’s ad agency and that the videos were hosted by an expensive Web-hosting service. That the videos featured Mazda logos only added skepticism to the bloggers’ already skeptical views, causing Rick E. Bruner of Business Blog Consulting to comment on his own blog: “Marketers, please, please get the point: blogs are about building trust, not spinning it.”
What went wrong? Pete Blackshaw, CMO of Intelliseek, shares his opinion: “….Mazda totally ignored the importance of ‘transparency.’ Corporate blogs are OK, but they must be as such, because if bloggers are anything at all, they’re savvy, inherently skeptical, defensive of their medium and able to sniff out imposters quickly. And once they do, they let everyone else know. [pg. 13]
Far be it from me to suggest that a technology or web application alone can instill the values of information literacy in a person, but there’s clearly something about the culture of blogging that librarians and educators need to get on side with. Librarians are trying to hard to explain to students that they need to be critical of the documents they’re reading; they need to question the purpose of the document, determine who the publisher is, the writer, the bias.
Look at what’s going on here in the Mazda example: individuals are encountering sources on the web, examining them critically, talking about them, determining the most basic elements of who, what, where and why, exposing issues when there’s something fishy about them, and bringing other people into a conversation about them. They are making news by being critical of the documents they encounter. Isn’t that the sort of culture and community we want to see built in classrooms? Isn’t that exactly the kind of critical thinking and document interrogation librarians have been trying to explain in those endless info lit sessions?
Blogging software alone does not create that kind of engagement, but it was built to support it. And fortunately for us the technology continues to improve its simplicity and transparency, and continues to add more venues of communication between content creators and content consumers.
Giving every reader a voice, a venue, and forum to receive and engage with commentary; that’s what blogs are being designed to do. Isn’t that just what educators should be aiming towards as well?