Digital Memories … Information Literacy

In earlier posts I reviewed Viktor Mayer-Schonberger’s book  Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. The book was reviewed in The Chronicle Review by  Siva Vaidhyanathan in February. I liked his review especially for its balanced approach and mention of other thinkers who have explored this idea. What keeps coming up in these discussions of digital memory is the idea of personal responsibility in the process. How can we take full advantage of the Internet, social networking, and the cloud and still protect ourselves from unwanted memories?

This thought is timed perfectly with ALA’s rollout of Privacy Revolution. At UWM there is a group of librarians brainstorming a way to participate in this annual Choose Privacy Week! One thought was to setup a help station for students to stop by and check their 3 important Facebook privacy settings (see NYTimes article). As with most things education is the first step towards change. The more Internet users become aware of their privacy (or lack their of), the greater the likelihood that as a society we will come to value privacy and be more respectful of the need for boundaries. Or in the case of digital data, the need to forget.

A funny recent story illustrates how little the ‘digital natives’ are aware of the implications of their online activity. A 17 year old burglar broke into an office building and then spent five hours online. During his time online he left a digital identity trail which included logging into his MySpace account thus making his arrest fairly simple.

ACRL Information Literacy Standard 5 states that an information literate individual understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally. Social issues is a large blanket covering many aspects of information, many of which I’m sure we can’t yet define, but we can define privacy and courtesy as two very important social issues surrounding our participation online.

What more can libraries and librarians do or contribute to the discussion of remembering and forgetting in a digital world?

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