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Understanding Critical Information Literacy Through Social Epistemology
Canadian Journal of Academic LIbrarianship (2019)
  • Martin I Nord
Critical theoretical approaches to information literacy are an important part of the growing LIS focus on the context of information. This concern for information’s social environment and the awareness of new models of interaction between learners and librarians open the possibility for using social epistemology to better understand information literacy.

The concept of social epistemology—the study of the ways in which an individual’s knowledge is shaped by their interactions with the world around them—has long been part of epistemology. However, LIS theorists Margaret Egan and Jesse Shera, who coined the term, intended it to address librarianship specifically. This paper argues that social epistemology is well positioned to strengthen the critical practice of information literacy, based on both the social epistemological characteristics of critical theory and the information literacy aspects of the social epistemology stream in the field of philosophy.

A review of the critical theoretical trend in LIS literature on information literacy reveals an already-present social epistemological foundation on which LIS research can build to expand the application of critical theory to information literacy. Placing this literature in conversation with itself illuminates the ways in which engagement with social epistemological concerns is already evolving. This paper then critiques the literature and highlights some concerns. Recognition of these weaknesses in otherwise valuable work alerts us to opportunities for improvement. This paper suggests that future progress will be tied to a better understanding of the social context of knowledge.
  • Critical Information Literacy,
  • Social Epistemology
Publication Date
Citation Information
Martin I Nord. "Understanding Critical Information Literacy Through Social Epistemology" Canadian Journal of Academic LIbrarianship Vol. 5 (2019) p. 1 - 22
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC_BY-NC International License.