Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The category of literacy

I am very excited about the upcoming CoLIS conference in London next moth -- but speaking of literacy, my paper at the conference, Trusting Tags, Terms and Recommendations, [preprint here], is in an interesting session:
What I find striking is:
1. How international diverse the session is... wow...
2. That the three other papers have "information literacy" in their titles - am I in the right category? Have I been misunderstood? Do I misunderstand my own work?


June 21, 2010 update: The program has been re-organized, so I am now in a less diverse group with a couple of other Danes (talking about: "The social psychology of information use: seeking friends, avoiding enemies") and a Finn (talking about: "Diversity in the conceptions of information use"). Arh, that felt good... to be grouped with people with similar paper topics.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Today my friend Yuri pointed me to a fabulous post about colors (or "colours", I am, after all, in Canada...) -- any student of classification will at some point marvel over some of the many studies on the classification of color... but what is unique, I think, about the post that Yuri pointed me to is the attempt to figure how ordinary people (who are reading the particular blog) name a bunch of ordinary colors. The post is especially interested in the difference in the size of color vocabulary between guys and girls. Girls have a larger color vocabulary than guys. Great. Go figure. This just proves, once for all, that guys are color illiterate. Or, rather, it proves, once for all, that literacy is context-dependent and that any assumption about what it means to be literate needs to start from an understanding of what people want to accomplish... one can be illiterate [at something, by some standard (in this case the ability to name colors)] and still function very well in the world (as most guys do, also in situations where they have to name colors). The ability to name colors (or remember names of colors) is context-dependent; these colors have particular names for particular people, in particular contexts -- colors don't have names, colors are given names and the names are tied to particular activities and contexts... Which is, in fact, true for any category - it is socially constructed.