See, Hear, and Speak No Evil

By Chu, Clara M. | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

See, Hear, and Speak No Evil


Chu, Clara M., Reference & User Services Quarterly


A Content Approach to Evaluating Multicultural Multimedia Materials

In this article, I offer evaluation criteria for librarians, teachers, parents, and others who are responsible for selecting and providing multicultural multimedia materials (text, sound, and graphics). These criteria can be used to evaluate multicultural content in the context of building library collections, developing programs and readers' advisories, providing Internet links or bookmarking World Wide Web pages, weeding collections, and other activities that entail the assessment of the quality of multicultural multimedia. Previously published guidelines and criteria available to evaluate multicultural materials, whether print or multimedia, were developed for specific types of materials, audiences, or multicultural content and, as such, are limited in their usefulness. The proposed criteria require the examination of four components: objectivity, language, subject mastery, and resources. These criteria are designed to be applied broadly in evaluating multicultural content of any multimedia, for any audience and level of coverage, and in any language.

With the greater availability of multicultural multimedia materials, libraries have been increasing their multicultural multimedia collections. Multimedia content incorporates multisensory data (text, sound, and graphics) and includes both recent formats, such as CD-ROM products, distributed resources (Internet and online), and laser disks, and older formats, such as videocassettes, floppy disks, films (8 mm and 16 mm), and mixed-media kits.

Multicultural multimedia materials focus on one or more cultures or languages. Multiculturalism is broadly defined as the inclusion of all cultures, where culture includes racial, religious, or social groups and is manifested in customary behaviors, cultural assumptions and values, patterns of thinking, and communicative style.

Currently, libraries lack criteria for evaluating multicultural multimedia materials. The few publications on this topic are limited to specific media, such as software and film. Reference and collection development courses focus on the broader, and often technological, issues of multimedia selection; few courses exist for multicultural resources and services, thus leaving librarians with limited training in developing multicultural multimedia collections. In addition, libraries often do not tap local resources (the multicultural expertise available in our respective communities).

I aim to help remedy this situation with this article. Here I offer criteria that can be used to evaluate the multicultural content of multimedia materials in the context of building library collections, developing programs and readers' advisories, providing Internet links or bookmarking Web pages, weeding collections, developing multimedia resource lists, and other activities that focus on analyzing and determining the multicultural quality of multimedia. The criteria are intended for librarians, teachers, parents, and others who are responsible for providing multicultural information. I have not incorporated technological factors, because such information is readily found in works on evaluating and building multimedia collections.

A note about the producers of multicultural multimedia is needed in order to understand the non-neutrality of these media and their need to be scrutinized. Currently, much of the multicultural multimedia materials are developed in the western world, especially if we consider information on the World Wide Web (Web or Internet). Of these, a significant number use the English language and are generated in the United States by middle-class white males. Thus, these individuals have developed the new digital technologies and products, and their view of the world is represented in them. Educators have expressed concern that educational software generated within a society's dominant culture will not only contain a very limited selection of the universe of knowledge but will embody a particular vision of legitimate knowledge and culture. …

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See, Hear, and Speak No Evil
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