Critical Questions of Social Justice Movements

I’m an ally. I’m an ally for LGBTQIA+ folk. An ally for #TransRights. For #MeToo. I support #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks. In general, I ally with anyone fighting for equity and justice, and against intolerance and discrimination.

There are some critical questions I want to ask about many of these movements and organizations. Sometimes I see things that give me pause, that concern me. Actions taken or statements made which seem problematic or counterproductive. There are questions I want to ask.

But I shouldn’t ask them. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I believe I shouldn’t ask them.

I’ve always believed it’s good and healthy to ask critical questions of the world. I believe there’s great benefit in it.

I was raised in a very intellectual home. Both of my parents have Masters degrees in history; my father has an EdD and spent his career in higher education administration. My mother has the equivalent of a Masters in architecture. I spent my childhood surrounded by books on history, art history, philosophy. I immersed myself from a young age in my father’s science fiction collection and grew up wanting to be scientist and a philosopher. I grew up wanting to be a learned man. I was formed in an environment of inquiry and exploration and sincere critique.

I genuinely want what’s best for those fighting for equity and justice. I believe it’s crucial and beneficial to ask critical questions.

So why have I decided I shouldn’t ask them?

Continue reading “Critical Questions of Social Justice Movements”

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Echo Chambers

There have been a couple of occasions when I’ve voiced my concern about the internet and social media being a giant echo chamber, a forum which encourages solipsism and makes it easy for us to avoid challenge, disagreement, and other perspectives.

I’ve concluded that I’m wrong about this. Not that there aren’t plenty of solipsistic echo chambers online, but it’s nothing to do with the inherent nature of the internet or social media. It’s to do with the inherent nature of human beings.

Consider—Outside of school and work assignments, no one is required to read books they don’t want, to talk to people they don’t like, to see or listen to things they don’t agree with, and many people don’t. We’ve always either avoided or sought out challenge and disagreement, accord and reinforcement, each based on our individual natures. Preaching to the choir, seeking affirmation of our beliefs and opinions, burying our heads in the sand… These things have always been how we behave.

Very few individuals handle disagreement or conflict well. Most people do everything they can to avoid it. This has always been true.

The internet may bring our echo chambers to a larger scale and make them more explicit—but this isn’t a flaw inherent to the internet itself. Indeed, maybe making our echo chambers so much more explicit helps us to counter them.

And the internet also makes it easier than ever before in history for people to encounter ideas and perspectives they never knew existed. This is a good thing, no matter how much it sometimes makes us uncomfortable and scares us.

Expanding My Perceptions, Correcting My Assumptions

Recently, I read an eye-opening post by Cecily Walker:

On Privilege, Intersectionality, and the Librarian Image (posted on December 20, 2013)

This brought to mind a post I wrote shortly after I started this blog, in which I detailed an experiment that some librarians had done to determine how dress and appearance affect patrons’ perception of them:

Conveying Authority (posted on November 21, 2012)
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Social Web Engagement Metrics

In the world of social web, the idea that page views and visit lengths on a library’s core website are still relevant metrics for measuring patron engagement is outmoded. Yes, there are some pieces of content that require a visitor to spend time on your main site. But increasingly, more of a library’s relevant content is available to people through multiple avenues of engagement, across multiple accounts on multiple platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc.

Many libraries, though, still determine their online strategy using page views and visit lengths on their core site as their main data input. There’s still substantial resistance to sending people away from the core library website. This is understandable – we librarians have a hang-up about all the unevaluated and uncurated data “in the wild” out there on the internet; what we present on our library website is known to be high quality and our impulse is to keep people there. Linking visitors to social media sites requires us to give up some control over the quality of their experience… and we don’t like doing that.
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