Digital Labor and Metaliteracy: LOEX Fall Focus Sneak Peek

Tomorrow I’m headed to LOEX Fall Focus on the Framework. I’m excited to learn more about how librarians are engaging with the Framework, and I’m going to present on the topic of digital labor. I think there are all kinds of ways that the Framework can reinvigorate the work we’re doing with students in traditional academic contexts, but it also leaves room to consider entirely new possibilities and implications for information literacy in higher education. My presentation is a way of exploring one of those new avenues opened by the Framework.

Digital labor is a term that describes and critiques the ways that companies commodify what users do online. Usually this process of commodification involves companies collecting users’ personal metadata and using it to generate targeted ads.

Metaliteracy emphasizes that students need to critically create and use information in participatory online environments. If this is what we’re advocating, librarians and other educators need to consider the hidden implications of digital creation and find ways to discuss these issues with students. My presentation will focus on the Information has Value frame and start from the idea that students are often taught to devalue online information and their own online participation–which can lead to feelings of apathy and helplessness when (or if) they realize how their personal data is commodified by technology companies. I’ll look at ways discussions of digital labor can help students value information they create online both intentionally (when they generate content like a social media post) and unintentionally (when their personal metadata is attached to all of their online actions).