Reading Response: Danah Boyd’s “Information Access in a Networked World”

In her talk about the changing landscape of information access in the digital era, particularly for American youth, Danah Boyd categorizes the ways in which information is acquired in three simple domains: push, pull, and osmosis. Information learned via osmosis is information that people acquire accidentally; for teens, a huge source of osmotic learning is overhearing what their parents talk about/watch on television at home. Information learned via push is a bit more active, yet not fully intentional. The reading sites classroom learning as a source of push technology; students are required to show up to class and learn whatever their teachers want to present. They are forced to be active learners, yet they don’t have a say in what information is presented. In pull learning, we become activer hunters for information. Pull learning is the most exciting part of learning in the digital era, because a vast wealth of information exists online, and pulled knowledge is knowledge that we’re passionate enough about to actively seek out.

In her discussion of pull acquisition, Danah discusses Wikipedia and argues that teachers need to get better about adopting less traditional, more collaborative and open-sourced texts for classroom learning. And I completely agree. Reflecting back on my Stanford career, most of my classes assigned very traditional, scholarly readings. A small percentage of my professors (including Professor Rheingold) have adopted more forward-thinking ways of assigning reading and have included blog posts, TedTalks, and more “pop-culture-y” types of information sources on the syllabus. And I’ve found that I’ve retained much more of the information from these readings/posts/articles over time. Perhaps it is simply that these texts are more approachable, perhaps they’re more engaging, or perhaps they’re just concise/entertaining enough to make reading pleasurable, but perhaps there’s a more scientific explanation for what’s going on. What types of readings have you guys found “stick in your head” the most? What types of classroom readings do you prefer?