Thursday, February 19, 2009

Information and Equity

Lievrouw and Farb's “Information Equality,” which appeared in the 2003 ARTIST, is a review of research “on information and social equity and on the digital divide” (500). Most of the chapter is dedicated to the discussion of differences between the vertical perspective and the horizontal perspective, but the authors conclude by proposing that the two perspectives work best when combined. Then, they present five factors that “should be considered in any evaluation of information equity” (527).

According to the authors, the vertical perspective contains the earliest (1949; p 506) and the bulk of the research done on information equity. In this school of thought, information is a commodity, and a person's access to and use of information is the indicator of equity. With this perspective, information equity can be achieved through even distribution of goods.

The horizontal perspective, which evolved more recently out of criticism of the vertical perspective (515), focuses on information as an “intangible public good that is highly subjective and context dependent” (501). It emphasizes a person's ability to use information to meet their desired goals as the indicator of information equity. With this perspective, education, social capital, and context all play a part in achieving equity.

The authors seem to favor the horizontal perspective, but the five elements that they propose at the end of the chapter do include the vertical perspective; they list as their first element “a more even distribution of information resources in society” (528). The remaining elements focus on education and context. Overall, this article does a good (brief) job of explaining the history of information equity research, and, with the five suggested elements, how libraries should proceed. The class might consider how successfully the elements have been adopted by information agencies though identification of concrete examples (or by using examples offered by Slytherin?).

No comments:

Post a Comment