Using Scoop.it to curate information while considering the filter bubble

I have been following Scoop.it for a little while now, and especially the curation being done by Judy O’Connell and Buffy Hamilton. Finally taking my courage in my hands, I plunged in yesterday, choosing the topic of Personal Learning Networks for Librarians (PLNs), as it has been on my mind again since SLANZA Conference. I consider that my PLN is well developed now, but still a focus for continual growth and change – that’s the thing about a PLN, it is never done!

If you understand a PLN as being the network of people, online and in the flesh, who contribute to your personal growth and professional development, and that it is a network that you specifically and strategically cultivate, you are halfway there. The other part of the equation is finding the right connections for you, and managing the flow of information and learning that results from those connections. That then becomes a matter of synthesis and curation – the best part is when other people start seeing you as a connection in their PLN, and they start following what you do in order to support their professional growth.  A lovely synergy can result, and a sense of being truly connected to people with similar interests and passions, and of contributing to a professional body of knowledge.

Scoop.it is a relatively new tool, still in beta, which allows you to create a topic of interest, enter your own search terms, and begin to curate information and articles, tweets, and links of interest within that topic area.  It all sounds lovely, and is indeed very simple to do, on the face of it.  I’m not sure that we should all be jumping on board and clapping our hands just yet, though, and that is because of two things.

The first thing is that I’m not convinced there is much of the Boolean search apparent in the results put forward for potential inclusion.  As a librarian, that bothers me more than a little.  I specifically chose the search terms in order to narrow the results, and find matters of interest which are relevant to my particular topic.  In most cases, the results I see produced by Scoop.it are related to only one of my search terms.  So there is still a lot of ephemeral data in the search results, which wastes a fair amount of my time in filtering them out.

My second concern is that I know that I’m in a filter bubble here, as much as if I was just performing a standard search using Google.  I can, and do, go elsewhere to find information which is outside my Google filter bubble, but it seems unlikely to me that many folk who take up curation using tools like these will be conscious of the filter bubble, or prepared to take the time to attempt to burst it.  In order to break the filter bubble in Scoop.it, you will need to attend to ‘scooping’ information while outside of the Scoop environment.  Again, not difficult, so long as you are aware of the bubble, and occasionally use other search interfaces, such as Duckduckgo.

So, as in all use of the web and the fabulous tools available out there, it is still a case of buyer beware – know the limitations of the tools you use for curation, be vigilant in bursting your filter bubble for your own benefit, and the benefit of your readers.  Scoop.it has huge potential in the library and education contexts, but while we use it as a tool for encouraging transliteracy, let’s make sure we specifically talk about filter bubbles and critical literacy.

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