Library Quarterly 86 (4):403-418 (2016)

E. E. Lawrence
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Richard J. Fry
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Librarians often object to Internet filters on the grounds that filters are prone to overblocking and underblocking. This argument implies that a significant problem with contemporary filters is that they are insufficiently fine-grained. In this article, we posit that present-day filters will always be conceptually capable of failure, regardless of how granular their content analysis becomes. This is because, we argue, objections to content are best understood as objections to problematic interactions between content and particular knowers. We import the concept of the situated knower from feminist epistemology to capture the heterogeneous, socially embedded nature of patrons, about whom we cannot make blunt generalizations for filtering purposes. A successful filter would need information about these differently situated patrons, the content they seek, and the interactions between the two. We conclude that a genuinely successful Internet filter would therefore need to be both mind reading and fortune-telling.
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