Thanks to David for challenging the precepts of transliteracy in his inimitable style. I LOL'd at the find and replace screen in which "Library 2.0" is completely replaced by "transliteracy."
Yes, we should be cautious about a heedless embrace of buzzwords. And yes, the "sloppy use of langauge betrays sloppy thinking" (a point David echoes from this post by Scott.)
All that said, David goes too far in his highly conservative defense of the English language. Just this week, thanks to Google Book Search, we learned of at least 500,000 English words that are not in any dictionaries. So this idea that we need to keep a tight lid on the language, or even that this is possible, is foolhardy. I'm all for crisp and clear thinking, but given that led the words run riot.
Of course, that's David's real critique--that "transliteracy" represents sloppy thinking. I was thinking so too, until coming across this post by Lane Wilkinson (which was prompted by David's critique.)
Here is my favorite passage from Wilkinson: "Transliteracy comes into play as a pedagogical method, a way to break down the barrier between the student and the library. It encompasses established methods like transfer of learning and analogical reasoning in the library classroom. It’s using Wikipedia to find keywords for a search in CINAHL. It’s reading an academic journal article and then looking up the author’s personal blog for more context. It’s comparing hashtags to subject headings and Amazon reviews to abstracts."
I can see the criticism coming a mile away. "This is old news! We are ON THIS! My library has offered well-attended workshops on Wikipedia since 2005. We live for hashtags!" etc. etc.
Fine. That's great, and there is no doubt that many people are already teaching this way. But I'd argue that our conceptual notion of information literacy remains stuck in time. Sometimes we come dangerously close to suggesting that people blow the 1/2 inch of dust off the top of the Britannica and then read it, because this, dear students, is an "authoritative resource."
Yes, I jest. And yes, I exaggerate. But not by as much as I'd like. We still lionize peer reviewed articles despite their manifold flaws, and keep an arms length view of Wikipedia and communally developed resources in general. Of course I support sharp and incisive critique of Wikipedia entries. But I don't support the idea that Wikipedia is something other, alien or foreign.
In that light, it seems to me that transliteracy, as a concept, is an attempt to label what we are already doing--linking up traditional notions of authority with the realities of how people obtain information today. This is valuable, and much less overblown than the Library 2.0 hooha back in the day.
[Note: The title of this blog post is deliberately sloppy]