Librarian Protest? Librarian Agenda?

So Fobazi and I are doing info lit workshops for gen ed classes like we did last semester. This time around, we’ve got a couple of instructors whose course syllabi are … kind of side-eye inducing. We privately (I guess not-so-privately, now) call hers Mr. Racist and mine Mr. Technophobe. Both instructors clearly mean to help their students break into the world of critically interrogating their own habits of thought. Which is great! But both instructors are also approaching fraught topics through readings that apply troublingly privileged lenses to those topics, and there’s no evidence that either of them addresses that privilege at all in their course discussions or lectures.

Mr. Technophobe might not actually be a technophobe; I haven’t taught for his course yet, so I don’t know. But I’ve looked up all of the readings for his course and they all espouse a “Web 2.0 is breaking our social order” view. There are no readings that address the other side of it – the idea that Web 2.0 holds potential to drive social mobility, and the digital divide is something to bridge in our society, not something to “lean into.” The type of technophobia displayed in Mr. T’s readings (Facebook makes people lonely, nobody knows how to have conversations anymore, your smartphone will kill you in your sleep, etc.) is of the privileged sort that assumes universal internet access and universal digital literacy. Utterly forgotten is the fact that for hundreds of thousands of people (in the US alone), working wi-fi and web-enabled devices are hard-won lifelines by which to send job-search resumes, attain a degree, find communities to cope with racism and xenophobia, do market research to start a small business, mobilize social activist movements. It troubles me that Mr. T doesn’t seem to address this in his classes, and it troubles me that this type of technophobia is precisely the sort of thing that can exacerbate the digital divide by labeling it a myth.

So, for his course workshops, I’m having his students analyze sources that address the digital divide and inequity in urban areas, edtech’s inroads in making education more accessible, alarmism in technophobia, and whatnot. Does this constitute peaceful protest on my part? Does it constitute passive-aggressively shoving my agenda into another person’s course? You could probably argue it either way. I’m curious to see what other instruction librarians do when presented with such situations.


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