Education Systems – Access to Information
by Rose Hill
Last week we discussed access to education. On a similar but slightly different note is the average access to information. People might be trained to their job, but how much are they told outside of that? How does the information get passed? There are many possibilities:
- News articles
- Social media
- Scientific Journals
- Town criers
- Travelling merchants
How much access does the average person have to information?
Does the average person have access to a search engine, that can look up anything? Are they like a modern or future person with a smartphone in their pocket? Just because someone lives in the future doesn’t mean they have such access. Think of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is very clear from the questions he asks that he does not have access to Google or Urban Dictionary.
People in pre-modern fantasy might have other access to information. Are there public libraries? Are there private libraries? Who, exactly, are the private libraries restricted to? Are there books? Are the books printed or handwritten? Before the invention of the printing press, books were a long, painstaking, and expensive process. They were not the sort of thing your average person would have access to. After the invention of the printing press, literacy increased because books were cheaper and more accessible.
In places without books, there could still be other options, such as scrolls and tablets. Information could be painted or carved on walls and other stone objects.
In a non-literate culture, looking up information pretty much becomes impossible, but sharing information becomes a social activity. The problem arises when the person seeking knowledge doesn’t know who to go to in order to ask the question. If you need obscure information, there’s no real way to look it up if you don’t know who to go to.
Is information limited by any other factors? The larger a government is, the more control they can have over the amount of information available.
What, if any, information is restricted?
Information about the royal family? Sacred Mysteries of a religious cult? Prior heresies? Prior revolutions?
Generally, information is restricted if it is considered dangerous. Why might the restricted information be dangerous? How might the information be used that people would consider it dangerous?
Battle plans are often kept secret so the enemy cannot effectively plan a counterattack, or even launch a pre-emptive strike. Similarly, the location of important individuals might be kept secret for similar reasons. Matters of national importance are often restricted, but try to think of minor things too. What do people want to keep secret? What lengths will they go to in order to keep that information secret?
And just as importantly–who is doing the restricting? Is it government officials? Does the restriction have government sanction or not? Is it a religious organization? Are there competing religious (or other) organizations that want to keep the information available? If so, which organization has more power socially and politically? Is it one lone person systematically going through and destroying and/or hiding information? Do they have any special powers or technology that helps them accomplish their task? (Mind-wiping powers, time travel, locator powers, etc..)
Is anyone countering the restricted information? How sanctioned are these groups? What sort of punishment exists for those who spread restricted information? How is that information spread?
- Deep web?
- Subversive art?
- Telepathic link?
- Bound familiar servants?
- Dream messages?
What, if any, information are people allowed to keep private?
This ties in directly to the question above. If information is kept private it is, pretty much by definition, restricted from general access. But levels of restriction could still vary depending on one’s need to know. Criminal information is usually kept private, but jobs still request it to see if the applicant will be a risk to the company. Medical information is generally private, but is still sent to doctors, pharmacies, and insurance companies.
In places where information is not recorded and tracked as much as it is in the modern era, more information can be kept private. In more futuristic times, it might be harder to keep information private if people are tapped into the Internet at all times. Similarly, there might be little privacy available in a telepathic culture.