This year, the advisory team of Phi Theta Kappa has been guiding the students in the research of the topic assigned by the organization's National Headquarters, "The Democratization of Information: Power, Promise, and Peril." One of the students interviewed Dr. Chaffee on the issue, and as I read the interview I found one except really relevant to what we are doing in the seminar, and I think it also highlights our future work as educators. Seems to me we have an ethical and professional responsibility to be helping the students make sense of what is available to them than to simply ask them to avert their eyes and ignore the internet and new technologies that make so much information readily available to them. Here is the except from Dr. Chaffee's interview:
Q: How does the media, press, and the internet influence the democratization of information?
Dr. Chaffee: Well, it’s interesting. On the one hand, it makes it more available. Anybody with a computer now can access any kind of information. The problem is that a lot of that information is worthless or worse, it’s false, and it really highlights this idea that information is not knowledge, information is just stuff. Information doesn’t become knowledge until the human mind acts on it, until it analyzes it and applies, synthesizes it, evaluates it, integrates it and makes use of it. But also, determines whether the information has value, and if it has value, what value and how it ought to be used. So on the one hand, there is the accessibility to an infinite amount of information, opinions and all sorts of stuff. But if the person doesn’t have the intellectual abilities, the critical thinking abilities to really sift through and evaluate the processing and make sense of all that stuff it really doesn’t have much value. In fact, it can be dangerous and destructive because people would read things or be exposed to things that they consider to be information, which then they might think is knowledge or something that has value when it doesn’t, and that can lead to dangerous and destructive actions.