Redefining Information Literacy for the Networked World
17/02/2011 § 18 Comments
Please welcome another guest, April Martin!
April L Martin is a second year MLIS student at the University of Washington. Her interests include reference, preservation, anti-Googlization, oral history archives, historical research, Facebook scrabble, reading great books, Nina Simone, talking, and long walks on the beach.
One of the hot topics on the HLS wiki was information literacy — Here’s April’s take on redefining it.
As a fundamental of librarianship, information literacy is pretty well established and has managed to remain so through ambiguity, as in the following ALA definition: “To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” The ambiguity found in this definition allows any informational context to be incorporated or addressed without amendment.
However, traditionally, information literacy is understood to promote the development of skills to critically evaluate information in print and thus resolve issues of credibility, authority, relevance, and currency of that information. This understanding has led to several accompanying and equally important forms of literacy: visual literacy, audio/video literacy, media literacy, cyberliteracy, digital literacy, the list goes on…
Essentially, these literacies have surfaced because of the overwhelming attitude that information literacy does not specifically address the particulars necessary for competency in understanding information found in non-print formats. Likewise, the above definition stresses the “ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively” information.
But what about creation? What about collaboration? What about dissemination? We are not simply passive learners absorbing and citing the information we find. As librarians (and future librarians), we do not promote passive learning. In the age of social media, information sharing is so common and nearly effortless that anyone can be in the information creation and dissemination business which means that we can no longer only look to print publication with evaluative skills. Obviously.
The concept of transliteracy was originally developed by the Transliteracies Project group at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Initially, the concept addressed online reading and ways of adding value to this experience beyond the addition of special features. Now, transliteracy is being embraced in the library world as the new way to think about information literacy for the 21st Century. The ALA Transliteracy Interest Group defines transliteracy as: “the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio, and film, to digital social networks.” In a recent article for C&RL News, Tom Ipri outlined transliteracy’s appropriateness to the library environment and emphasized the way transliteracy, “explores the participatory nature of new means of communicating, which breaks down barriers between academia and the wider community and calls into question standard notions of what constitutes authority by emphasizing the benefits of knowledge sharing via social networks.”
This article and several subsequent discussions with fellow MLISers has led me to question transliteracy’s ultimate goal: is it de-compartmentalizing scholarship and “everyday life” to legitimize information found on internet sources (like social media) or is it really just challenging the “privilege of print?” How does transliteracy intend to promote the specific evaluative skills necessary to read, write, and interact across media types to incorporate the various literacies listed above?
In the January 2011 issue of C&RL, Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson introduced metaliteracy as an approach to this issue that “requires us to recognize the relationships between core information literacy competencies and emergent literacy frameworks. At the same time, however, metaliteracy is a concept that promotes active engagement with emergent technologies and learner-centered production of information.” Through this conceptual approach, differences in skills, technologies, and media formats are not challenged. Instead, metaliteracy is proposed as an umbrella term where all the literacies can coexist equally while maintaining the importance of critical evaluation for each distinctly.
I must admit that my interpretation of metaliteracy comes from a much less cynical place than my interpretation of transliteracy but I am not quite ready to fully embrace either because both have the potential to be only buzzwords: relevant today; passé tomorrow.
What do you think? As MLIS students, do you think that information literacy needs to be/can be redefined to meet the rapidly evolving technology environment? Can information literacy (as a core concept) handle being retooled or is it too closely associated with print to shrug off its limitations? Should transliteracy and/or metaliteracy enter the librarian lexicon?
Editor’s Note: Check out Libraries and Transliteracy for ongoing discussions on this topic as well.
Editor’s Challenge: Give us your visual understanding of metaliteracy and transliteracy (chart, photo, image, sculpture, etc.)