Friday, October 10, 2008

Information Literacy in workplace contexts

A final catch up post from the Creating Knowledge conference in August. Annemaree Lloyd (shown right at the reception, with Bill Johnston) gave the first keynote, based on her research into information literacy.
She is interested in IL as a sociocultural information practice, created through engagement with others, including through interaction with text, artifacts and observation of others. Thus information literacy is very grounded in context.

She draws on Lave and Wenger's concepts of Communities of Practice, and also on Shatzki's idea of practice as a "bundle of activities". Important is the role of the body in practice: embodied performance as well as what is internalised. In this way she aims to explore informaton as a practice "underpinned by a range of activities". She is interested in seeing how IL skills can be rearranged to meet workplace demands, and in understanding how information is interpreted and contested in a worlplace community

She talked about her study of the information literacy of firefighters. I have used this article with my information mangement students, in a class mostly to do with knowledge management (KM), as it brings together information literacy, KM and Communities of Practice very nicely. Her research showed that while there was some information and IL developed through formal sources (e.g. manuals), more information was gathered through talk, shared experiences and observation of colleagues "developing fire sense" - so they need to develop the ability to read information from the fire situation and the way in which experienced firefighters move and use their bodies in dangerous situations. "constructed through the bodily experience of firefighting". The textual information prepares novice firefighters to act, but they need to become part of the team to learn how to firefight.
In a second study of ambulance workers Lloyd focused in on the idea of the novice and experienced ambulance workers' experience of information. Similarly she found that novice workers needed to experience the social information practice to become effective. These workers will learn to read information from the bodies of their colleagues and their patients. Also similarly, the formal and written information helped to prepare the novice for the workplace, but this information might later be contested in teh light of exerrience.

"IL is more than just a textual pracice, it has social and physical elements" and IL skills are those valued in the setting. Thus the social aspects of information literacy (know how, tacit knowledge and shared stories that come out of practice) and corporeal modality (embodied understanding and skills) have to be developed along with more familar modes of information literacy which are focused on textual and formal information. Lloyd talked about these as forming a new architecture of information literacy. Her research findings have also had practical implementations in the workplaces she has studied.

She has written numerous articles. One available free on the web is:
Lloyd, A. (2007). "Recasting information literacy as sociocultural practice: Implications for library and information science researchers" Information Research, 12(4) paper colis34.

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