Frame of the Day: Information Creation as a Process

Posted: May 7, 2019 9:00:00 AM CDT

In our April 2nd post, we discussed the Information Literacy Frame, Authority is Constructed and Contextual. Today, we'll focus on the second frame: Information Creation as a Process

So first of all, let's get this out of the way: Everyone is a creator of information. When you write an essay, you're creating information. When you log the temperature of the lizard tank, you're creating information. Every Word doc, Google Doc, survey, spreadsheet, Tweet, and PowerPoint that you've ever had a hand in—they are ALL information products—that YOU created. In some way or another, you created that information and put it out into the world.

One process you're probably familiar with is the typical "Research Paper." You know your professor wants about five to eight pages consisting of an introduction that ends with a thesis statement, a few paragraphs that each touch on a piece of evidence that supports your thesis, and then you end with a conclusion paragraph that includes a rephrasing of your thesis statement. You save it to your hard drive or Google Drive and then submit it to your professor.

This is one process for creating information. It's not necessarily an exciting one, but it's a process. 

Outside of the classroom, the information creation process looks different, and we have lots of choices to make.

One of the choices you'll need to make is the mode or format in which you present information. For example, the information you are reading right now comes to you in the mode of a blog. Your five page essays are in the mode of an essay.

When you create information (outside of a course assignment), it's up to you how to package that information. It might feel like a simple or obvious choice, but some information is better suited to some forms of communication. And some forms of communication are received in a certain way, regardless of the information in them.

Photo Jon Snow of Funko Pop dollFor example, if I tweet "Jon Snow knows nothing," it won't carry with it the authority of my peer-reviewed scholarly article that meticulously outlines every instance in which Jon Snow displays a lack of knowledge. Both pieces of information are accurate, but the processes I went through to create and disseminate the information have an effect on how the information is received by my audience.

And that is perhaps the biggest thing to consider when creating information: your audience. If I just want my Twitter followers to know Jon Snow knows nothing, then a tweet is the right way to reach them. If I want my tenured colleagues and other various scholars to know Jon Snow knows nothing then I'm going to create a piece of information that will reach them, like a peer-reviewed journal article.

Sometimes (maybe most of the time?) we aren't creating information, we're acting as the audience members instead. When this is the case, we have to think carefully about the ways information was created. Advertisements are a good example. Some are designed to reach a 20-year-old woman in Corpus Christi through Facebook, while others are designed to reach a 60-year-old man in Hoboken, NJ over the radio. They might both be selling the same car, and they're going to put the same information (size, speed, terrain, mpg, etc.) in those ads, but their audiences are different so their information creation process is different.

When we are the audience member, we might automatically trust something because it's presented a certain way. I know that, personally, I'm more likely to trust something that is formatted as a scholarly article than I am something that is formatted as a blog.

Imag of axe buried in logThis is risky for a couple of reasons:

  1. Looks can be deceiving. Just because someone is wearing a suit and tie doesn't mean they're not an axe murderer and just because something looks like a well-researched article, doesn't mean it is one.
  2. Automatic trust unnecessarily limits the information we expose ourselves to. If I only ever allow myself to read peer-reviewed scholarly articles, think of all the encyclopedias and blogs and news articles I'm missing out on!

If I have a certain topic or subject I'm really excited about, I'm going to try to expose myself to information regardless of the format and I'll decide for myself (#criticalthinking) which pieces of information are authoritative and which pieces of information suit my need.  

Likewise, as I am researching and considering how best to share my new knowledge, I'm going to consider my options for distributing this new found information and decide how best to reach my audience. Maybe it's a tweet, maybe it's a Buzzfeed quiz, or maybe it's a presentation at a conference. But whatever mode I choose will convey with it implications about me, my information creation process, and my audience.

The Takeaway:

You create information all of the time. The way you package it will have an effect on how others perceive it.

By: Emily Metcalf

Category: Library Hacks, Behind the Scenes