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Is information enough to save the region?

Is information enough to save the region?

On the past issue of Information Development (IDV) (Published November 2014), we had to part ways with and wish our best to our fellow Editorial Advisory Board Member (EABM) Archie Dick and his column African Information Initiatives. Some months ago, IDV Editor asked EABM for ideas on a new regular column. For me, the prospect of being in charge of a new column was very attractive from the beginning and I had a clear idea to propose: if we had a column about Africa, then the most logical choice is to continue with a column about Latin America (LA). Before making my suggestion, I knew that writing a column for every IDV issue involves a huge challenge: have the discipline of writing something interesting while keeping up with the journal’s deadlines. However, it could be a very important achievement as the proposed column’s debut would coincide with IDV’s 30th anniversary. Moreover, it is an outstanding opportunity for me as a scholar, in order to be able share some thoughts and concerns in the personal and pleasing, but didactic format of an ongoing opinion column. Furthermore, this gives me the chance to deepen my own understanding about some topics that are strategic to the region before writing the lines you will read on the next issues. Hence, Developing Latin America was my proposal, which was accepted and encouraged by our Editor and my fellow EABM, for which I am very thankful.

The final running title was almost a last minute decision. When I was rushing to get this first column written I only had a handful of obvious and bland titles. Although this final title is very simple, the intention is for it to be somehow provocative. LA is a region with many issues and challenges and sadly it does not feature as prominently as many of us would like in academic journals such as the present; there are neither many articles written by Latin American authors, nor many articles written about the region (at least in the Library and Information Science field). Moreover, in most of the cases that the region is mentioned in scholarly communications it is done tangentially. Furthermore, there is not much published about information initiatives and milestones in LA, when we compare it to other regions, and this issue is not exclusive to IDV. A prominent problem is to blame: the language barrier for information professionals to be able to write in English journals when the languages of the region are mostly Spanish, Portuguese, French, all the indigenous languages, and English is spoken as a main language a very small proportion of LA countries. For all the above, I am using in the title of the column series form of the verb ‘developing’, as this means: a reminder that the region is and has to be developed, this is a work-in-progress, the aim is to work toward its development, try our best to advance with the region, and most importantly, communicate regional achievements in journals such as IDV. I should dedicate some lines to the other part of the column’s title “Latin America”, because this is not a totally clear distinction, although we are using it for the sake of practicality. Unless stated otherwise, when I mention LA, I will mean all Latin American countries including Caribbean countries, from Mexico to Argentina, including nations along the Caribbean Sea and those of Central America.

I was keen on the idea of writing this introduction to the column, because I also took the opportunity to review the articles about LA (and from LA authors) that have been published in these 30 years of IDV, thus tracing the representation of the region in IDV and providing some insights and an interesting basis for discussing and updating on some issues that have already been posted in IDV. All the above and much more is available in this first issue of Developing Latin America, which starts with the question: is information enough to save the region?

Abstract: Latin America does not exist. These 42 diverse and developing countries are hardly a union. However, they share geographical proximity, history, strangely unique elements, and the wish to progress. This first issue of a new column, ‘Developing Latin America’, explores some information issues, literacy rates, regional prominence in scholarly publications, and relevant topics taken from Information Development’s publication history.

Full text at Sage Publications

Open Access version

Recommended reference: Machin-Mastromatteo, J. D. (2015). Is information enough to save the region? Information Development, 31(1), 89-91.

Los números de 2014

Los duendes de las estadísticas de prepararon un informe sobre el año 2014 de este blog.

Aquí hay un extracto:

Un teleférico de San Francisco puede contener 60 personas. Este blog fue visto por 710 veces en 2014. Si el blog fue un teleférico, se necesitarían alrededor de 12 viajes para llevar tantas personas.

Haz click para ver el reporte completo.

Piloting a holistic information culture program


Abstract: This article presents the staff, structure, methods and preliminary results from the pilot of a holistic information literacy program developed in the System of Libraries of CETYS Universidad in Mexico. ‘Information Culture Development’ (ICD) is driven by action research (AR) and the concept of information culture (IC), comprised of information literacy (IL), digital literacy (DL), and research competences. ICD aims at developing these competences and supporting reflection and improvement upon university practices related to curriculum, teaching, and research. ICD’s initiatives and products were divided into four axes: a) curriculum and learning support, b) information and digital literacies development, c) research and scientific communication support, and d) evaluation and communication of results. ICD’s pilot involved workshops and activities framed within an AR perspective and a mixed methods approach. Preliminary results determine the success of activities with academics and students regarding their strengths and weaknesses in IC-related competencies.

Full text at Springer Link

Open Access version (Coming soon!)

Recommended reference: Machin-Mastromatteo, J.D., Beltrán, O. and Lau, J. (2014). Piloting a holistic information culture program: The experience of CETYS Universidad System of Libraries. Information Literacy: Lifelong Learning and Digital Citizenship in the 21st Century; Communications in Computer and Information Science, 492, 350-360.

Thinking outside of literacy

thinking outside

On July 23 2014, I published a commentary in the academic journal Information Development (published by Sage), titled Thinking outside of literacy: Moving beyond traditional information literacy activities. This reflection is framed in the field of information literacy, a dynamic area of practice and research that is typical of Library and Information Science, which contains the competences to access, use and evaluate the information effectively. This field also includes the use of information and communication technologies and participatory media such as social media.

This text offers some suggestions from my practical and research experiences in order to foster a professional reflection upon how we can overcome from these traditional ways of conducting information literacy activities; which are vital for developing an information culture, for university environments as well as for society.

I include the necessary discussion of the differences between the so-called digital natives and the generations preceding them; both have different challenges when they need to use information and technologies  strategically and especially for purposes beyond communication and entertainment. I also mention the recent challenge that I call the ‘ready-made information culture’, a term inspired in the dark side of social media and the over-simplification of the information that we currently consume. This challenge entails the difficulty to reason and think critically over complex and lengthy information; thus implying loses over their messages and resulting counterproductive for the development of critical thinking in the academic sector. Lastly in this discussion, I categorize in two main areas what I call the traditional way of developing information literacy competences:

a) Resource specific training: are basically software demonstrations, very common in libraries when we train users about the use of a technology or an information resource. Its problem is that it seems difficult to keep it dynamic for students, if it is not possible to add a practical component, such as doing problem based learning.

b) Theoretical teaching of information skills: these appear in some international standards and curricula that do not usually specify how do these competences apply to areas of the human or professional profiles that is to be developed. Their challenge is that the student and even the teacher will not necessarily going to understand how to transfer these competences to academic or life scenarios.

These criticisms do not mean to say that these variations of methods to develop information competences are wrong. Conversely, we the teachers must consider both and seek for a third way that integrates the previous two while we discover how to get beyond. It is important to keep at hand these kinds of reflections about how to develop an information culture in our students (and thus these transfer to society) and above all: to discuss them.

Abstract: A brief reflection on what might be becoming the traditional way of conducting information and digital literacy activities, together with some recommendations in order to move beyond these traditional grounds. This reflection is framed within this age of social media and draws upon information literacy concepts, tools, and experiences.

Full text at Sage Publications

Open Access version

Recommended reference: Machin-Mastromatteo, J. D. (2014). Thinking outside of literacy: Moving beyond traditional information literacy activities. Information Development, 30 (3), 288-290.

Slidecasts to be (killed) Discontinued


After the turn of the year, on February 7, Slideshare announced through its blog that slidecasts are going to be discontinued. Slidecasts are presentations uploaded to Slideshare that are synched to a MP3 audio file. While it’s relatively easy to create a slidecast, it may be seen as a niche practice, as some preparation and technical expertise is needed to do it, let alone the fact that Slideshare must be a niche social media site. For example, I used to do the presentation either with Powerpoint or Keynote and then record and edit its corresponding audio with Audacity or Soundforge. Hence, I suppose that only a limited number of Slideshare users have actually created this type of resource.

However, any way I see this decision from Slideshare, I call it a mistake similar to that of Google with its Google Reader (RIP), when they attempted to destroy RSS and the blogosphere to favor a lesser service/technology such as Google+. Of course, this decision is theirs to make, as it’s their service and, like me, most users are likely to use a free account. Even so, I can’t help but think that users of social media sites should have some stake in these types of decisions. I think this particular action from Slideshare is wrong because:

  • Slidecasts have way more views than the presentations without audio: although my presentations have a quite low profile compared to those of other users, my normal  presentations use to have hundreds of views while my slidecasts have thousands of them. I believe that is that shows the impact this advanced function may have. I think while static presentations are decentlly viewed, the amount of views slidecasts get show that they were a powerful type of media, not offered by any other social media site. This takes me to my other argument why this is a mistake.
  • Slidecasts are (were) one of the best and unique Slideshare features, if not the most unique. I understand that by killing it they might be killing the service altogether.

For me the most unsettling part of Slideshare’s announcement is that they state they are going to focus their energy instead “on building new and innovative ways for our users to share presentations”. I don’t want to be skeptic about innovating in social media but I wonder, is that even possible from the point of view of Slideshare, or is this just a sad excuse? You can already share presentations with your other social sites and embed any presentation on any site with an html string.

Since February 28 you’re not able to create new slidecasts. You have until April 30 to download yours and not lose them. What options do we have to cover this absence? By now, I’m thinking of downloading the existing slidecasts I have and uploading them to YouTube and doing future ones using Camtasia or Captivate, although as you may be guessing after reading this post, I’m not very comfortable with the idea of giving more of my content to Google. In any case, I would recommend that you check out Slideshare blog and take a look at the post and the comments. Take a stand, if you liked slidecasts.

Venezuelan proverbs: Uncertainty

There are moments in our existence when we find ourselves hopelessly at a crossroad. In these moments common sense or any kind of clairvoyance is useless to know what will happen. Moments that fill with uncertainty because we don’t often have the power to influence on the development of different situations, and on occasions one way or another depend on the good or bad will of third parties. However, we can find comfort by saying: “The sun will rise and we’ll see, said the blind man”.

Los números de 2013

Los duendes de las estadísticas de prepararon un informe sobre el año 2013 de este blog.

Aquí hay un extracto:

Un teleférico de San Francisco puede contener 60 personas. Este blog fue visto por 440 veces en 2013. Si el blog fue un teleférico, se necesitarían alrededor de 7 viajes para llevar tantas personas.

Haz click para ver el reporte completo.

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