I am trying to figure out how to talk about the connections I see between colonialism, industrialization, the lie of democratization in open source, the women in tech issue, and the increasing class divide in our country.
I have been following the Idle No More movement, and I’m so impressed that one of their objectives is to patiently educate people – or maybe more precisely UNeducate people – about issues pertaining to First Nations people in Canada. At least in North America, we have been trained to think certain things about Indian people. This was something I worked hard on while I was at Florida State. It kills me that my alma mater is an information imposter.
I’m resharing this post from September 2009 to put this term (information imposter) out there again for discussion. And also, to show my personal support for the ideals of the Idle No More movement.
I’m writing this as I’m watching the first FSU game of the season. FSU vs. Miami, you can’t get better college football than that.
I’m currently in grad school at FSU – a total distance student since I live in Massachusetts right now. I received my bachelor’s degree from FSU. I grew up in the Florida panhandle. I am a traditional southern girl, I love my college football.
So, what does this have to do with Information stewards and imposters?
Let me set this up for those who don’t know my background. When I was at FSU, some friends and I reinstated the Native American Student Association (NASA). We were a hodge-podged group of descendants from several different nations. Our main goal was to have a place on campus to talk about native things that had nothing to do with the mascot. Before I left I worked hard to turn the group into a union so it couldn’t be eliminated easily.
Those of us who worked on NASA had different personal views on the mascot. I don’t care for the mascot, because the drama the University creates around it sets my alma mater up to be an information imposter.
The definition of an information imposter (from my notes from Elfreda Chatman):
Information impostors are persons within a small group that give the illusion of having knowledge. They jam the information social system with their own psuedo-information, shutting down the information seeking process. In effect, they claim to have given all the information that is necessary, telling members of the small world that they do not need to seek for any more information.
I’m writing this post because of the ESPN hype around this game. This game is epic, and deserves the hype. But the hype around the mascot needs some balance. For instance, if you are going to show the pre-game “Chief Osceola” scene, why not explain what the guy with the flaming spear on the horse supposedly represents.
Osceola, or more correctly Asi-Yahola, was a Muscokgee from Alabama who was forced to emigrate to Spanish-owned Florida as the result of Andrew Jackson’s Creek War settlement. Osceola was never a chief, but a charismatic leader during the Seminole wars. He vehemently fought against removal to Oklahoma.
The pre-game ritual is supposed to pay tribute to Osceola’s actions at the Treaty of Payne’s Landing (1832). This treaty would basically have had the Seminoles cede all their land in Florida to the US, as well as move the entire tribe to Oklahoma – inside of lands already occupied by the Creek nation. No one wanted to go to OK, especially not if they had to live with the enemy Creeks. And the Black Seminoles were certainly not happy to live where they could be taken into slavery just based on their skin color.
During the negotiations at Fort King, Osceola stepped forward, pulled out a knife, plunged it into the treaty that was on the negotiating table and said:
“The only treaty I will ever execute will be this! There remains nothing worth words. If the hail rattles, let the flowers be crushed – the stately oak of the forest will lift its head to the sky and the storm, towering and unscathed.”
So all of this history, from Andrew Jackson’s hatred of Indian people to the mass exodus of indigenous folks from the Southeast to Florida, slave raids, and resistance to removal is now all distilled into pregame highlights.
I love FSU. My undergraduate degree was Information Studies, and I would never have imagined the places that degree would take me, or the worlds it would open up for me. My Master’s will be in Instructional Systems, a program that is a consistently a nationaly top-rated Instructional Design major.
FSU has many top-ranked educational programs such as the two with which I have been involved. We should have a top-ranked Native studies program, just because of where the University sits geographically. But we never will, because for some reason, it is much more important to protect the football legend than it is to educate the people of Florida about the legends that happened on the very ground on which they walk.
I grew up in the Florida panhandle. But I never knew about Osceola outside of FSU. I never knew that Billy Bowlegs was a Seminole. I never knew about the Negro Fort.
But I knew about the FSU Seminoles. How sad.
This is the danger of Information Imposters. Their psuedo-information lulls people into believing there is no other information to be found, so no one launches their own search for information. This is where Information Stewardship comes in. This could help provide checks and balances for the Information Imposters. If the University took up the mantle of Information Steward, even if they always kept the mascot at FSU, the true history of Florida would be just as widely known.
This leads me to think even wider. As educators, or as the people who write, develop, and implement the technical means to distribute and manage information, do we have a broader responsibility to act as Information Stewards? Do we have any moral obligation to make sure that Information Imposters don’t clog the networks with so much irrelevant information that our real shared histories is so obfuscated that is lost?