metaliteracy conference prep

Mackey, T. P., & Jacobson, T. E. (2011). Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy. College & Research Libraries, 72, 1.

Tomorrow I’m attending a one-day workshop by the authors of this article on this very topic, so I thought I’d review it. My initial skim two years ago influenced my thinking about information literacy, but this will be my first in-depth read of the text.

I do remember this quote: “Standard definitions of information literacy are insufficient for the revolutionary social technologies currently prevalent online”  (pg. 63). It seemed self-evident to me at the time (with the ACRL standards being my main exhibit) despite not being necessarily familiar with many of the other conversations.

I’m also seeing now that this article is probably where I got the phrase “more than a set of discrete skills” (pg. 64)–a major criticism of current information literacy standards. It became my mantra for a while actually, but I’m getting off-topic.

Mackey and Jacobson argue for an “overarching, self-referential, and comprehensive framework that informs other literacy types” (pg. 70). In other words, digital literacy, visual literacy, and media literacy are really just different ways of understanding emerging technologies and the ways users interact (or should interact) with them, and what underlies them or should connect them are the critical thinking principles central to information literacy, and thus information literacy should really be a metaliteracy.

The staging area for disciplinary research (because information literacy is already de-contextualized) changes into something that truly considers what the online information environment offers (I would say that in some ways, it also obfuscates), whether it’s having students produce their own multimedia products or being an active participant in Web communities.  At the same time, it apparently also doesn’t conflict with other literacies or unifying theories and works in tandem with them. Or so claimed.

What this means in practice is not only understanding the ambiguous boundaries of evolving information landscapes online when seeking and evaluating information, but being more active producers and sharers of content in collaborative settings. Pages 70-75 covers the primary pillars of the proposed metaliteracy framework:

  • Understand Format Type and Delivery Mode
  • Evaluate User Feedback as Active Researcher
  • Create a Context for User-generated information
  • Evaluate Dynamic Content Critically
  • Produce Original Content in Multiple Media Formats
  • Understand Personal Privacy, Information Ethics and Intellectual Property Issues
  • Share Information in Participatory Environments

I think considerations they discuss for each competency are compelling examples, such as the need for students to refine their skills in contextualizing “information with a decentered environment” (pg. 73). In fact, I’m somewhat inspired in how I might present some content to my students.

But I’m not here to criticize as much as understand. And one of the things that still puzzles me is why it needs to be renamed or called a “metaliteracy.” There are those who already consider it to be an umbrella literacy. Introducing another name almost detracts from the sell (personally). Despite even my own misgivings about IL as a term, it’s still the prevalent one. I’d rather redefine it (ironically) than rename it. It could be also that metaliteracy makes me think of other things, but I guess I could see it as a good term.

It also claims that in this model, “information is not a static object… It is a dynamic entity that is produced and shared collaboratively…” This sounds a little funny. From my perspective, the difference has to do with how we interact with it. It’s not that it’s now being produced and shared collaboratively (that’s always been done), but that it changes more rapidly in today’s age. Nothing is set in stone any longer, and more people are empowered to manipulate and distribute information. This is the real change, in my viewpoint, that necessitates a reframing of information literacy.

Anyway, these are my initial thoughts from revisiting this text. I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned and reflected on in a few days.

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