Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Theoretical and Historical Foundations - Week 1

Hello All,
I’m Zach. This is my first year in SLIS at UW.  Actually, in point of fact, this is my first week… and I am not actually at UW.  I live in Illinois, where I work as a low-level college administrator.  My library work experience consists of two years in the special collections section of my college library as a student worker, but that was a while ago.  As was undergrad.  I am excited to be back in school in general and very excited to be in SLIS specifically – took a while to circle back and pick back up the library trail but I think it is the right path.
I think that the readings this week served their purpose in creating a foundation for thinking about ethical theory.  The Mill reading, in particular, was intriguing given its historical context (despite the effort it took to get through some of the language). Having only a cursory knowledge of ethics theory and no real experience with information ethics I found Fallis’ introduction very helpful.  I wish that I had read it first so it could have informed my reading of the other two.
David Puttnam’s “Citizens of the Information Society” seemed to bring it all together.  Our society of information, convergence, education, entertainment, digital isolation, etc. is trying to find its shape, its defining characteristics, and it is all very dependent upon the priorities, choices, and ethical decisions of those with the information.  If Fallis’ assertion that “…library professionals need to have a good working knowledge of information ethics” (Fallis, pg. 24) needed more in its defense then Fallis’ own arguments, I think that Puttnam’s illustration of how our use of media and information can shape society for better or worse strongly suggests that library professionals, and other keepers and distributors of information, need to be able to make informed and ethical decisions.  

Additionally, I think Fallis and the advocacy of ethical education for library and information professionals are further supported by the choice of the virtue-based Aristotle (as identified by Fallis, pg. 30) that Puttnam leaves us with in the end (Puttnam, pg. 5), at least as it relates to Mill.  The idea that, at least in the case of the young, “… it is most important that the tales which [they] first hear should serve as models of virtuous thought” is potentially contradictory to the utilitarian John Stuart Mill’s call for the free exchange of ideas and information for the benefit of all.  Which ethical theory should supersede the other? I have no idea, but I am glad to have the opportunity to ponder and discuss it.          

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