The syllabus for my Spring 2018 course, Information and Human Rights, is ready to go and I am excited to introduce it here. I have changed the course significantly since I taught it last in Fall 2016. That semester was marked by the US presidential election, and shadowed by it.
Broadly the course explores ways in which information professionals can support human rights work by learning about theories and methods in human rights research, aid, development work and more.
However, the major revision in the course is not in content but in pedagogy. As part of the class we will chart the field of human rights and its intersection with information inspired by Blueprint for Counter Education.
Originally published in 1970, Blueprint for Counter Education is the brainchild of two sociologists, Maurice Stein and Larry Miller and was designed by Marshall Henrichs (a Pratt alum and one time instructor). It is a work of [retro] radical pedagogy that proposes to contextualize teaching in the present and cross-pollinate fields of inquiry. The publication includes three large-scale posters that “offer a road map for a journey through the intellectual history.” The posters features major thinkers, schools of thought and theories in social-sociology.
In 2016 Inventory Press reprinted the Blueprint along with the posters creating a “portable learning environment for a new process-based model of education”. A forty-minute interview with the publishers Jeffrey Schnapp and Adam Michaels tells about the history of the original publication, the 2016 edition, and the rationale for the Blueprint
I admit I have a bit of a Power-Point dependency but I plan to teach this class seminar style, no slides; just maps, charts pads and markers on the table. The blueprint requires setting that allows participation as it “is designed to be constructively acted upon by the student in the widest and most creative sense of the word act: Since the project is planned as a highly participative series of art-life-politics games… This is the best tradition of the student-teacher relationship ; what as come to be known as ‘the community of scholars’” (Lipton, 1970).
The Blueprint will guide us as we map human rights, information, and their intersection throughout this semester. Our maps may chart the language of human rights, the documents of human rights, the values of moral rights and any interaction among these groupings. The outcome may be very different from what I am imagining right now, depending greatly on student input. In the end it will, by design or by necessity be “left open-ended for constant change as the needs of the times require and the community of scholars decide” (Lipton, 1970).
I hope that creating a blueprint for information and human rights will create a new kind of learning experience for students, one that give meaning to some over used phrases, such as “critical thinking”. To quote Gillmor “People are always learning things the way they’ve been taught to learn things. Here they are going to have to make their own decisions” (Dialogue, 1970).
Special thanks to Thomas Hill, art librarian at Vassar College who first brought the Blueprint to my attention
The course description is as follows and the syllabus is available here619_syllabus_SP18. Hope it goes well.
Information and Human Rights – Spring 2018
As the name implies, this course is at the intersection of information and human rights, and in this way its origins are bi-disciplinary. We will begin by gaining a better understanding of human rights – the theories, scope, laws and ethics of human rights, through readings and seminar-study discussions. We will learn of related terms such as development and globalization and their relation to human rights. Next we will introduce the concept of information, including its many variants such as disinformation. Our main goal in to examine the ways in which information professionals can support human rights work.
We will take a critical perspective and examine some of the questionable sides of human rights work, such as the corruption in many aid organizations, the give-us-trade-not-aid movement, the role of the media, and more.
This will be covered in the first 5-6 weeks of the semester.
The second part of the semester will be devoted to the application of information to human rights through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) also called the UN 2030 Agenda. There are 17 goals and 167 Targets spanning economic, environmental and social development in the SDG, and of these four focus narrowly on information. Each week we will question and understand how the role of information is defined in the SDGs, whether through readings and case studies, and how information contributes to development, and how we as information professionals can personally contribute.
We will be using a unique pedagogy called Blueprint for Counter Education. Originally published in 1970, this curriculum-in-a-box supported the Critical Studies curriculum at CalArts. The box (2016 edition) includes two booklets and 3 posters that map the intellectual thought, thinkers and philosophies in postmodern thought. In class, we will work to map the field of information and human rights along lines that reflect its intellectual and ethical foundation. The Blueprint encourages critical, non-linear, conceptual, and design thinking approach to education.
The outcome of this second part of the semester (UN 2030 Agenda) is an individual project that contributes to human rights with the use of information. This can be a research paper, a website, a visualization, a video, a green-paper, using methods such as literature review, data collection, data analysis, storytelling techniques and more.
Winter is back with a vengeance, spring and summer seem far away, but at the School of Information we are all planning for the Fall 2017 semester. It will be interesting, challenging and probably very frustrating to teach Information Policy and Government Information this fall and will require many revisions to the existing curriculum as many policies are changing and sources are no longer available. More details and updated syllabi will be available this summer. I am off to a good start with the flyers created by our wonderful office assistant that so very accurately reflect the content of these two courses.
Students in my Information Policies and Politics course are preparing for their #infoshow16 presentation next week
We had a dress rehearsal during the last class, and as you can see from the photos, we were indeed dressed for the roles
We are divided into three groups:
Five students act as judge, jury and court recorders and they are also putting together the trial website.
We also have the Prosecution and Defense teams and of course Edward Snowden
The dress rehearsal ended in a hung jury and the judge declared a mistrial. During the #inforshow16 the audience acts as jury and will decide the outcome.
Is Edward Snowden guilty of
1.Theft of Government Property,
2.Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information
3.Willful Communication of Classified Communications Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person
Have a sneak peek at the Prosecution questioning Snowden from here
Tu. May 17, 5pm room 609
Photo/video credits: Samantha Levin
The March 18 print issue of the book reviews from the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, includes a few columns on the value, insights and lessons to be gleaned from what we tend to think of as ephemeral publications.
Ariana Melamed writes about telephone directories. In the young state of Israel (est. 1948) the wait for a telephone was 10-15 years and the directories of the first decade read like the social registry of Israeli society. It included the old guard and the names listed were those of judges, members of Knesset, physicians and others of the well-connected elite. Up until the mid 1960’s it served as a who’s who of Israeli society and could be used to track social mobility, gentrification and changes in family structure.
Yuval Albashan writes about public records, specifically foreclosure cases. He deconstructs the tedious legalize of these documents down to their essence: Mr. S and his family were evicted from their house for a debt of about $2100, which includes fines and eviction charges. Everything is by the book, all the paperwork accurate, everything follows the letter of the law. The legal fees to the state for this eviction are close to $7000. You do the math.
Udi Orman begins by reminiscing on Ernest Hemingway who (allegedly?) wrote a six-word story on a napkin in the Algonquin hotel (For sale: baby shoes, never worn) and then goes on to write in praise of notes in the pre-twitter age. The kind we used to leave parents (dad, wake me up at 5:30, I need to study for a math test) or roommates (I paid the phone bill, you owe me half). Some notes were more elaborate, like the micro writing on the crib sheets for the world history exam.
The strongest social statement is made by Vered Lee who describes the business cards to be found all over Tel-Aviv advertising the services of call-girls, massage parlors and similar businesses. She quotes Henri Bergson (who quote Un modéré par habitude, un libéral par instinct is part of my signature file) who said that chaos is order we can’t see. Lee sees in these business cards proof to the silent institutionalizing of these services and protests the sharp contrast between illusion and reality. The prevailing color is pink, the images fairy-tale like, the language suggestive, and the solicitation indirect. And what is missing? No word on abuse, violence, depression, stigma, addiction, fatigue, malaise, and shorter than average life expectancy. Small pink business cards scattered all over the sidewalks, concealing the lives of the women who are really the ones out on the street.
As someone who teaches reference, I am well aware of the value of these publications, especially for future research. We regularly receive requests for high school yearbooks, business and telephone directories, old newspaper ads and more. We librarians struggle to capture, preserve, digitize and make these drafts of history available to future generations.