It’s all relative? Post-truth rhetoric, relativism, and teaching on “Authority as Constructed and Contextual”

Andrea Baer

Abstract

Within the current climate of political polarization and discussions about “post-truth” rhetoric, many academic librarians are debating how the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education1 does or does not address “post-truth” thinking and rhetoric. Most of these discussions have centered on the Authority Is Constructed frame, which describes source authority as determined largely in communities and within specific contexts, rather than as anything absolute or universal. The concept of constructed authority can potentially be understood as an affirmation that authority is purely a matter of opinion or subjective evaluation, or that there are no consistent or objective indicators of credibility. On the other hand, the notion of authority as entirely objective misrepresents the social nature of knowledge creation and renders invisible the sociocultural structures and systems that powerfully share what is considered knowledge.

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