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Radical information literacy

Prezi for Drew Whitworth's talk at the QUT LIS Alumni event, 1st May 2013

Drew Whitworth

on 30 September 2013

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Transcript of Radical information literacy

Radical information literacy
What is it and why do we need it?
Andrew Whitworth
The roots of IL
Framing the debate
Information landscapes
(and Bakhtin)

A radical IL?
I haven't just been sat on a beach here in Australia you know...
1st step in the book project: revisit the earliest
days of IL
Zurkowski's view of IL is seminal: but also:
commercial, profit-oriented
1976: Lee Burchinal presents
at the Texas A & M library
IL is recognised as something which can be TAUGHT...

Link made with bibliographic instruction
Also 1976 - Cees Hamelink's paper,
"An alternative to news"
A Freirean conception of literacy

IL as emancipating, the skills and awareness
needed to counter "pushed" information
The effective use of "information banks" was of
economic interest to the US: information literates
could deliver these benefits
This is the branch which grew... particularly after
the publication of "A Nation at Risk" in 1983
Reaction by the library profession to
its omission from the report was led
by Patricia Breivik (left) and led directly
to the ALA standards, first of 1989 and
then developed through the 1990s
The thing is... this is only ONE way of
conceiving of information literacy....
Christine Bruce and other colleagues
here have, over the years, developed
a strongly phenomenographical approach
to the study of IL - and the VARIATION
which exists within it
The argument is not that the idea of a

singular standard is opposed to the
diversity of actual practice.
But I believe it does contribute to an
views of IL - with negative consequences
for the field.
In a content analysis of IL publications in 2010-12:
50% were published as 'LIS', with computer studies next, at 17.5%
61% were about IL in HE (next came K-12, 12%)
52% were at least in part addressing Bruce et al's 'competency' frame: skills, bibliographic instruction, assessment-based (next was learning to learn, at 18%)
Admittedly these are all slightly lower proportions
than in the literature of 2009 and earlier.

Nevertheless IL research and practice is still largely
concentrated around the 'Breivik agenda' of the
Yet there are few who would laud any real breakthroughs in addressing issues of collaboration, and developing capital: except maybe in public health (via EBM).

Susie Andretta (right) went so far in her
JIL editorial in 2011 to speculate whether
IL _itself_ was the obstacle.
I believe that to address these issues we
need to investigate questions of
How is this secured via flows of information
and discourse?
How should these issues shape our idea of what IL is,
and what it could be?
Changes in social structures encounter resistance.

But WHY? It should not
be taken as a given.
Annemaree Lloyd's idea of the diversity of INFORMATION LANDSCAPES is most useful here

Landscapes shape the practices which characterise and help form a social setting - these are the locations for
information exchange in that landscape
To understand this we need a conception of
IL that focuses not only on LEARNING,
Many authors have contributed to the development of
the idea of IL-as-practice - particularly in Scandinavia
and here in Australia
Through everyday discourse, actors in a social setting constantly validate and learn about the practices.
Let's return to Hamelink's ideas...

He is arguing for a "radical infrastructure": channels for the sharing of information in a non-hierarchical way, reversing depersonalisation
It is in DISCOURSE that there is a theoretical link
with the work of Mikhail Bakhtin that I am exploring in my new book.
Bakhtin saw speech genres being
built from the endless, prosaic process
of people making utterances., and replying
to them.
Bakhtin also discusses the nature of
AUTHORITY - as first, literally, the
status of the author.
However, Bakhtin also recognises that discourse can
have a 'centripetal' effect, pulling towards one single
interpretation, 'received wisdom', 'truth'...
Polyphony - not a chaotic diversity, but how multiple perspectives are applied to the empirical process of co-creation...

... the information landscape is a way of conceiving of the outcome of this process: structuring and shaping
interactions, but always with the potential for the new
and unexpected
Landscapes can be 'mined' - the resources within them directed upwards through systems of information exchange that are one-way and hierarchical - instead of reciprocal.
Bakhtin can actually be used to defend the notion that 'outside experts' have a role to play in IL
No community, no discourse, can
continue to evolve if it receives no
external input: this is required to
activate further potentials
But what kind of understanding
of a context can the radical IL
practitioner develop?
Not a standards- and assessment-based understanding: but a CREATIVE UNDERSTANDING in Bakhtin's terms
Are we reflecting on our own practice? Should this change in the light of its encounter with the practices of those we are helping?
Democracy as a lived experience, embodied in practice
Don't apply 'standards' - instead, learn to see the landscape within which the practice has emerged....

...offer advice where necessary, but develop it in context-specific ways
An utterance has a context, it makes a move in discourse
and always contains the potential for a reply: these potentials, when actualised, keep the genre adaptable
Our interpretation of any utterance
changes over time: B. argues that in
great literature, and mature genres,
it is this POTENTIALITY for change that keeps the genre alive
PARADIGMS can form - those who wish to challenge the paradigm may be denied even the most basic resources to do so: including information, even the language with which to make the challenge
Power and influence in society can be maintained through the control over systems of informational exchange; and Bakhtin shows how this happens even with language itself
(See Steve Mann's idea of 'sousveillance':
SCRUTINY over the information landscape
of the powerful and privileged)
Zurkowski's notion of an 'information
bank' is not something which necessarily
contains the human element - the LITERACY
Individuals and communities
are constantly working, one
way or another, on their
information landscapes.

Radical IL is that subset of
practices which contribute
to the autonomous and
self-aware development of
one's own information landscape.

Full transcript