Digital Catacombs, Information Literacy, and my Recent Hiking Adventure

Last week I returned from a week in Denver and the surrounding mountains, where I had my own personal hiking guide, cook, and camping coordinator as a result of speaking about AI at the annual Digital Catacombs Conference (well, they also paid me, but for me the hiking was the real incentive).

For me, the real take-home point from the conference, which I didn’t quite expect, is the widespread interest in information literacy that is growing among the public. For newcomers to my website, information literacy refers to the skills, dispositions, and habits constitutive to sound judgment when retrieving and working with information, and it includes competency in answering questions like, “how can we conduct due diligence on an information source?” and “what are the epistemic virtues necessary when engaging in information retrieval and evaluation activities?” In education and the media there has been such a push to give students IT skills that the skills and virtues for information retrieval, evaluation, and behavior, tend to get eclipsed even among classical educators.

As a Christian, I believe information literacy has a strong missional component given that I observed during qualitative research that low levels of information literacy tend to be correlated with cynicism, subjectivism, and various post-truth epistemologies such as relativism, perspectivism, and standpoint epistemology. (For more about that see here and here.) During the last year I’ve been doing a lot of work on information literacy at the University of Oklahoma, Gonzaga University, Salvo Magazine, and SVSP, but what I didn’t realize until the conference is how much hunger there is for good instruction on this among Christian laity and clergy. During the panel discussion with the other presenters, the audience and speakers kept hammering me with questions about information literacy despite no lack of other interesting things to talk about. I am very encouraged that, whatever problems machine learning may pose to our world, new AI-based retrieval methods are being sufficiently disruptive to highlight the need for information literacy and epistemic virtue.

Here are pictures from the hiking I did following the conference. Out of consideration for privacy, I have removed pictures of my new friends, but it was a joy to be joined by Pastor Melius and his family for some of the camping, and to be so warmly welcomed by the Denver Lutheran community.

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Here are some pictures from the hiking and camping:

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