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Thursday, June 8 • 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Rebuilding the Future Together: Subverting Standards of Practice with Speculative Design

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What are the limits of professional standards and best practices? Though often useful, when do such standards begin to hinder creative growth? How can we learn from visual practitioners to challenge orthodoxies within our areas of expertise, and envision alternative futures? This 90-minute workshop will consider the limits and opportunities of professional standards and, collaborating across fields, explore approaches such as critical design and avant-garde art movements, and ultimately challenge conventionality by posing troublesome problems that encourage reflection and prompt consideration of alternative futures in education.

The Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (2016) is a set of six threshold concepts that aim to help learners understand information production, use, and value. Though primarily used by library practitioners teaching information and media literacy, the concepts outlined in the Framework support learning about the use and creation of information across disciplines. This learning is most effective when facilitated by library practitioners in close collaboration with course instructors, and to ensure a rich conversation the workshop facilitators (all academic librarians) encourage broad participation from beyond the library field.

Facilitators of this workshop have utilized the Framework in concert with non-traditional structures and methods, to envision an alternative future for informational professionals. As part of the Speculative Library Futures Post-Pandemic Libraries, a yearlong exploration of speculative design and libraries, they collaborated to create a Speculative Card Deck of prompts and actions to generate situations that disrupt the traditional use value assigned to the library. Using this deck in professional spaces has opened up new avenues for inquiry, critical conversations, and a reimagination of how we approach information literacy in higher education.

While claiming to emphasize the ethical use and creation of information through critical self-reflection, the ACRL Framework implies a passive, individualized learning agenda that maintains a focus on textual media. By applying the perspective of critical information literacy (“a theory and practice that considers the sociopolitical dimensions of information and production of knowledge, and critiques the ways in which systems of power shape the creation, distribution, and reception of information”), the workshop facilitators will guide participants in collectively re-imaginingthe ACRL Frames to assert social responsibility, to acknowledge critical making as information seeking, and to grapple with how emerging technologies are shifting the information economy.

The workshop will begin with an introduction to the ACRL Framework, critical information literacy, and manifestos and principles created by art and design organizations such as Design Justice Network, BlackSpace, design studio Dunne & Raby, and the Fluxus movement. A review of critical design and the Situationist International idea of the dérive will position our workshop practice as a disruption to information literacy. Participants will then work in small groups to discuss the Framework through their disciplinary perspectives and according to their own pedagogical practices.
Inspired by the futurities envisioned by these manifestos, designers, and artists, the groups will engage in ideation and serious play through the creation of a card deck. Decks are used in art and design fields as a game-based methodology for stakeholder participatory collaboration. They function both as a tool for speculation and as a set of illustrations that visualize creative thinking. A classic example is the deck Oblique Strategies, designed and originally published in 1975 by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt. Each card in the Oblique Strategies deck offers suggestions such as “Ask your body,” “Try faking it!,” and “Use an old idea” that are intended to help users break through a creative dilemma. In the introduction to the 5th edition (2001), Eno and Schmidt explain, “These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognised in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated.”

Many decks now emphasize practices like social justice or equity and they require no particular skill or specialized knowledge to use. The objects and stories derived from these practices act as prompts for discussion and debate about hypothetical, but perhaps possible, realities. For instance, The Black School, which is an experimental art school teaching radical Black history, created a Process Deck that helps activists brainstorm projects, considering how art can prompt local change. Similarly, the Instant Archetypes Deck from design firm Superflux, responds to "the world of tech-saturated late capitalism" through reimagined tarot cards.

The card prompts generated in this workshop will derive from participants’ reflection about how the information literacy Frames are typically applied in their own disciplinary contexts. They will consider the standards and assumptions underlying how information is created, used, valued, and shared by practitioners in their respective fields of study. For example, one of the Frames, Scholarship as Conversation, asserts that learners who are developing their information literate abilities “identify barriers to entering scholarly conversation via various venues.” In the context of a visual art practice, interrogating this assertion might entail identifying what a “scholarly conversation” looks like in a given visual arts field, and if barriers to entering it might look differently from those that impact conversations in more text-oriented disciplines. How can visual arts scholars and practitioners creatively re-envision these conversations, and identify participatory barriers in order to collectively dismantle them? When re-formulated as card deck prompts, these standards and assumptions become imaginative exercises that can disrupt traditional information literacy principles and imagine alternative approaches.

At the conclusion of the workshop, participants will share their card prompts with the facilitators, who will collate them into a Speculative Information Literacy deck that will be shared digitally. This will enable participants to use, remix, and share their prompts beyond the workshop space.
1. Speculative Library Futures: https://www.derekzoladz.com/project/tedsig_futures/
2. Drabinski, Emily, and Eamon Tewell: "Critical information literacy."
3. Oblique Strategies: https://www.enoshop.co.uk/product/oblique-strategies?filter=Oblique%20Strategies
4. Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: https://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework

avatar for Mackenzie Salisbury

Mackenzie Salisbury

Information Literacy Librarian, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
avatar for Ashley Peterson

Ashley Peterson

Research & Instruction Librarian, Media & Data Literacy, UCLA

Shannon Robinson

University of Southern California

Thursday June 8, 2023 3:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
PS 406 (Design Center)