The public sphere and discursive activities: information literacy as sociopolitical skills

Jack Andersen (Department of Information Studies, Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 1 March 2006

Abstract

Purpose

To provide some theoretical considerations concerning information literacy so as to contribute to a theoretically informed point of departure for understanding information literacy and to argue that to be an information literate person is to have knowledge about information sources and that searching and using them is determined by an insight into how knowledge is socially organized in society.

Design/methodology/approach

Using concepts from composition studies that deal with the question of what a writer needs to know in order to produce a text, the paper outlines some ideas and key concepts in order to show how these ideas and concepts are useful to our understanding of information literacy. To demonstrate how information‐literacy is to have knowledge about information sources and that searching and using them is determined by an insight into how knowledge is socially organized in society, the paper takes a point of departure in Habermas' theory of the public sphere.

Findings

Concludes that information seeking competence is a sociopolitical skill, like reading and writing skills, connected to human activity. Searching for documents in information systems is a complex and sociopolitical activity. As an expression of human activity we might say that searching for documents and reading and writing constitutes each other. The genre knowledge necessary in reading and writing does also apply when seeking information in systems of organized knowledge as the forms of information determine what can be expected and found in these systems. Information literacy covers, then, the ability to read society and its textually and genre‐mediated structures. Information literacy represents an understanding of society and its textual mediation.

Research limitations/implications

Locating an understanding of information literacy in a broader discursive framework requires us to rethink our hitherto concepts and understandings of information literacy as socio‐political skills and not mere technical search skills

Originality/value

Rarely is information literacy discussed and understood from social‐theoretical perspectives. This article illuminates how an analysis of information literacy from the perspective of the theory of the public sphere can open up for an understanding of information literacy socio‐political skills. Thus, the article has contributed with a new interpretation of information literacy.

Keywords

Citation

Andersen, J. (2006), "The public sphere and discursive activities: information literacy as sociopolitical skills", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 62 No. 2, pp. 213-228. https://doi.org/10.1108/00220410610653307

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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