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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Spiral of Silence

I came across this interesting sociology term when I was checking out if there was anything new on the Pew Research site.

Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’

My eyes lit up, my mouth went dry, as I read papers on this phenomenon. It was time to get my thoughts down on paper ......

The 'Spiral of Silence' refers to the artificial limiting of public discussion and discourse due to the perceived polarisation of opinions. Community will change their opinions and views of an issue due to what they are reading and listening to in the mass media.

The example given by Pew was the Snowdon affair and people commenting on Facebook and Social Media.

An excellent example in the Australian media at the moment is the 'shiny new' war in Iraq. If you speak out about the issue, you support terrorists. The polarisation of opinions creates an artificial 'spiral of silence' and shuts down valuable discourse about the issue for fear of isolation.

But what if we apply this to education and in particular school libraries. Can we be mindful of this phenomenon as we teach and learn in this environment. Some ideas ....

Impact on Learning
  • In order to encourage discourse in the classroom, an acknowledgement that all points of view need to be valued. Activities should provide a voice to both sides of the argument.
  • Use of the 'six thinking hats' to encourage students to think differently about topics and issues.
  • Use of socratic circles to provide students the opportunity to voice different opinions.
  • Encourage ideas and discussions, turn negative comments into opportunities to engage the student and encourage them to critically think about the topic or issue they are studying.
  • Creating confronting debating topics encourage students to pick apart topics and critically analyse the impact of them.
Impact on Employee Culture
  • If opposing opinions are drowned out by constant communication which projects a wholly positive image of an organisation, then are people who have contrary opinions drowned out by this 'spiral of silence'? 
  • Marketing outside the organisation can project a certain view, but inside the organisation, is discourse and critical thinking encouraged? 
  • Are employees encouraged to challenge the norm? Different from voicing negative opinions, but expressing their concerns and framing them with problem solving intent rather than malicious intent.
  • Do organisations in the way they work create their own 'spiral of silence' because if you speak out you are automatically seen as negative?
Impact on School Libraries
  • What messages are you sending your students through your displays? Are they static or do they encourage active conversation? Have you ever found yourself in a 'Spiral of Silence'?
  • Do they include socratic questioning and challenge accepted beliefs on an issue?
  • Do they encourage socratic rigour around a topic or issue?
  • Are you encouraging a wide range of discourse through your communication
 Have you ever found yourself in a 'Spiral of Silence'?

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