Frame of the Day: Information Has Value

Posted: May 28, 2019 9:00:00 AM CDT

Today we're talking about the third Frame of Information Literacy, which is Information Has Value. By the way, these frames aren't organized by importance —it's just alphabetical.

There are a lot of different ways we value things. Some things, like money, are valuable to us because we can exchange them for goods and services. On the other hand, some things, like a skill, are valuable to use because we can exchange them for money (which we exchange for more goods and services). Some things are valuable to us for sentimental reasons, like a photograph or a letter. Some things, like our time, are valuable because they are finite.

Information has all different kinds of value.

One kind is monetary. If I write a book and it gets published, I'm probably going to make some money off that (though not as much money as the publishing company will make). So that's valuable to me.

But I'm also getting my name out into the world, and that's just as valuable to me. It means that when I apply for a job or apply for a grant, someone can google me and think, “Oh look! She wrote a book! That means she has follow-through and will probably work hard for us!” That kind of recognition is a sort of social value. That social value, by the way, can also become monetary value. If I've produced information, a university might give me a job or an organization might fund my research. If I've invented something, that patent could be worth a lot of money.

Using a more altruistic slant, information is also valuable on a societal level. When we have more information about political candidates, for example, it influences how we vote, who we elect, and how our country is governed. That's some really valuable information right there. That's information that has an effect on the whole world (plus outer space, if we elect someone who's super into space exploration). If someone is trying to keep information hidden or secret, or if they're spreading misinformation to confuse people, it's probably a sign that the information they're hiding is important, which is to say, valuable.

Hos[ital emergency room building entranceOn a much smaller scale, think about the information on food packages. If you're presented with calorie counts, you might make a different decision about the food you buy. If you're presented with an item's allergens, you might avoid that product and not end up in an Emergency Room with anaphylactic shock. You know what's super valuable to me? NOT being in an Emergency Room!

But if you do end up in the Emergency Room, the information that doctors and nurses will use to treat your allergic reaction is extremely valuable. The value of that information is equal to the lives it's saved.

When we create our own information by writing papers and blog posts and giving Power Point presentations, it's really important that we give credit to the information sources we used to create our new information product for a couple of reasons.

First, someone worked really hard to create something, let's say an article. And that article's information is valuable enough to you to use in your own paper or presentation. By citing the author properly, you're giving the author credit for their work which is valuable to them. The more their article is cited, the more valuable it becomes because they're more likely to get scholarly recognition and jobs and promotions.

Second, by showing where you're getting your information, you're boosting the value of your new information product. On the most basic level, you'll get a higher grade on your paper which is valuable to you. But you're also telling your audience, whether it's your professor or your boss or your YouTube subscribers, that you aren't just making stuff up—you did the work of researching and citing, and that makes your audience trust you more. It makes the audience value your information more.

This ties into the other information literacy frames, Information Creation as a Process and Authority as Constructed and Contextual. When I see you've cited your sources of information, then I, as the audience, think you're more authoritative than someone who doesn't cite their sources. I also can look at your information product and evaluate the effort you've put into it. If you wrote a tweet, which takes little time and effort, I'll generally value it less than if you wrote a book, which took a lot of time and effort to create. I know that time is valuable, so seeing that you were willing to dedicate your time to create this information product makes me feel like it's more valuable.

The Takeaway:

Information is valuable because of what goes into its creation (time and effort) and what comes from it (an informed society). If we didn't value information we wouldn't be moving forward as a society, we'd probably have died out thousands of years ago as creatures who never figured out how to use tools or start a fire.

Guerilla sitting in grassSo continue to value information, because it improves your life, your audiences' lives, and the lives of other information creators. More importantly, if we stop valuing information, a smarter species will eventually take over and it'll be a whole Planet of the Apes thing and I just can't deal with that right now.

By: Emily Metcalf

Category: Library Hacks