Information Deserts

While listening to Bobbi speak today at ILEAD U about the importance of access in transliteracy, it got me to thinking about information deserts.  I am working on an article related to information deserts and thought I would share a few thoughts here:

How do we, LIS professionals, describe a locale in which access to unbiased information is difficult to obtain?   Are there areas in this country in which people cannot obtain information because of the lack of access to the Internet, community computer centers or a public libraries?  Are some people cut off from access to the sum of human knowledge, and all the benefits derived from such access?

An information desert exists where access to unbiased information is limited either through a digital divide or lack of access to public libraries.   In urban areas, like Chicago or New York, an information desert exists where computer-based Internet penetration falls below 60% and distance to a public library or public computer center exceeds .5 miles.  I come from the school of thought that does not think mobile Internet is a substitute for computer-based Internet or public libraries.

8 Responses to “Information Deserts”

  1. Chicago Information Deserts | The Information Activist Librarian Says:

    […] may have read my post over at Libraries and Transliteracy where I introduce the concept of information deserts.  Well I have been conducting some research on information deserts in Chicago, and I thought I […]

  2. Information Deserts | The Information Activist Librarian Says:

    […] other day I posted a brief snippet of an article that I penned on Information Deserts over at Libraries and Transliteracy.  Well, I ran across this TedXWindycity video on food […]

  3. Anthony Molaro Says:

    Lots of great comments! Thank you so much. I think this issue is much larger than it appears.

  4. rcampbellmls Says:

    If you aren’t wedded to the idea of a physical desert, consider the foreign alien: those people whose communication abilities and understanding of local culture is so limited they cannot access available resources, and whose fear of deportation/physical safety/exploitation/etc. is so high as to prevent them from trying. They tend to develop their own information networks amongst themselves, and often this creates the type of misinformation/bias you mention.

    I’ve also been wondering about prison populations — I know there are prison libraries, but given the state of prisons in this country, do they actually have enough resources? I suppose GITMO is an extreme example :)

  5. digitalcollaboration Says:

    Everybody lives in an information desert: there is no such thing as ‘unbiased’ information. It is biased by social context or by epistemological framework, at the very least. It is for this reason that information literacy is an extremely difficult skill to acquire, as it is sophisticated, and requires both critical thinking skills and familiarity with how knowledge is created in many ways.

  6. Sharla Lair Says:

    Have you done any comparative analysis of this issue with food deserts?

  7. Bobbi Newman Says:

    Just came across this great article about what happens when you encounter information the contradicts your beliefs.

    http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/06/10/the-backfire-effect/

  8. Nicola Franklin Says:

    Also, even those with internet access might unknowlingly be living in an information desert (or at least a skewed / biased world) if this article http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/12/google-personalisation-internet-data-filtering is anything to go by!


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