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Reflection 3 - Literacy and Controlling Information

msch's picture

Our in-class discussion on the dangers of literacy and Frederick Douglas's story made me think a lot about how available information is nowadays. In our time, for those with socioeconomic circumstance (privilege) to have internet access, information is readily available. However, as one of my classmates pointed out, this information is often from biased sources. I thought that comment was incredibly important. If someone who is in a disadvantaged situation of any kind seeks out information, the source of that information may have a huge impact. For example, a young queer individual from a highly religious, low-income family may not know where to seek out information on the internet. Perhaps their parents monitor their internet access, or maybe they have no way of accessing the internet at all. This information is drastically different from the many sources that view gay people in an open and accepting light.

There's no doubt that information is filtered - often by the government or the wealthy, privileged elite (on both sides of this country's bipartisan spectrum) - to be available in certain specific ways. We are seeing this become more overt in the current political climate. It all made me think a lot about how people who are in oppressed situations are further controlled by having information denied to them. I have started to view "internet literacy" as a potential type of literacy... it isn't an inherent skill for humans to be able to access the internet and know exactly how to google something and find reliable information. I view it as a highly overlooked form of literacy, especially by our generation who grew up learning to use the internet efficiently. People who aren't internet literate are denied a critical source of information in many cases.

Part of me wonders if the internet is going to supply a higher percentage of people with information, or if it's just another source that only  some  people can access. Certainly not everyone can access the internet and use it effectively, but are we making any overall progress here? Is the internet a pathway to break down barriers towards information, or is it just another type of literacy to withhold from the oppressed?