Week 5 of Coursera’s Metaliteracy course is entitled “Understanding How Information is Packaged and Shared”. I was initially skeptical of the week, as format is rarely something I have thought much about outside of the mainstream. For example, a blog post vs. a news article, and the likely credibility of the two by default. Kind of like peer-reviewed vs. non-peer-reviewed articles. But as I worked through the readings, and the assignments, I actually found that I liked the content more than I expected.
For example, it talks about it from a creation stand-point. An academic wanting to advance learning in a specific area is likely to follow a traditional route and publish in a peer-reviewed journal using technical language appropriate to the field. By contrast, the same academic might want to make a presentation to students that would make the same information available but tied to more fundamental principles. And equally, the same academic might try to reach out through blogs or popular press articles with infographics to encapsulate similar information. But the same infographic wouldn’t work for the technical crowd. And while all that is obvious, another element hadn’t occurred to me.
That it’s the same process for me with my blog. I am not trying to be the academic talking to the peers, nor am I teaching students. My target for my HR guide and my blog in general is usually the Average Joe on the street. But I usually default to text. I rarely put much thought into infographics which are often a better vehicle for the Average Joe. While I consider many of the same elements, I rarely boil it down so starkly. In particular, one of the readings talked about various formats available for communicating:
A journal article written for scholars in the field
A blog entry that is public
A Facebook message for only one’s friends
A text message
A chart with data
A YouTube video montage
An online timeline containing text, video, and photos
It has started me thinking about my HR Guide in book form and whether that was ever the best format. I’ll likely still do it, but I have my eye on some other formats for subsequent versions.
The first assignment for the week was a simple worksheet that asked you to pick a topic that you could explain to someone else, choose three different formats you could use from the above list to communicate information about it, and then give some strengths and weaknesses for the format, how much the format lends itself to collaboration / feedback / sharing, and whether the format is important to the content.
The second assignment was to reflect on your own role both in critically examining online material (I chose the example of my frequently seeing so-called factual memes or infographics that seem one-sided or misleading and having to dig deeper to get to the truth), what triggers me (i.e. the one-sidedness that seems off), and if it affects you in your own role as producer of information.
And finally the third assignment was to expand on the producer role and how I as a producer use various formats, how I started, whether I considered those other factors, etc.
An interesting week, much better than I expected.