Information literacy as thing, as power, as something else?

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Thu, 08/22/2013 - 10:29

The information literacy track of the CoLIS 8 conference has presented a number of interesting papers on studying and conceptualising various forms of information literacies in different contexts. The concept is complex and not at all easy to use productively because of the number of different understandings of it in the largely passé understanding as a set of measurable skills, of competencies or social practices that (as Anna Lundh and colleagues note) also tend to be largely dependent on the context of the study. The work on workplace information literacies are not only studied using different ideas of practices (as Moring and Lloyd pointed out), but as shown in a couple of papers, based on rather different only partly converging understandings of what information literacy is and could be.

Different theoretical underpinnings play of course a major role in how and why the different understandings of the concept function. Another not so unimportant reason why the differences are so apparent is the role of information literacy as a certain kind of professional artefact and an instrument for maintaining the relevance of library and information profession that Cameron Hoffman (University of Western Ontario) has set out to study. Questioning this premise is undoubtedly useful as if information literacy is actively discussed as a political concept as well as a theoretical one (and a politico-theoretical one) would help to make sense of what information literacies are being discussed and where, and what implications these discussions should have in different contexts. On a practical level, if we accept that we (as human-beings) are inclined to make choices that are sensible (rather than rational in a philosophical sense) for us at a given moment (as in Huvila 2012), information literacy does not make much sense if it is detached from how and where it is used to denote something. Not unsurprisingly, the observation applies to digital literacy as well.