How power relations affect the distribution of authority implications for information literacy pedagogy

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Lee Webster Helen Gunter


In this article we report on the distribution of authority over information practices observed in a postgraduate taught course at a large research university located in the UK. The course was designed using principles from information literacy (IL) pedagogy and represents the operationalisation of Radical Information Literacy (RIL) theory. By analysing course documentation, assessed online discussion board posts and through interviews with teaching staff and students we examine how and why the distribution of authority is a complex matter; not least that the liberatory intentions of the Programme Director actually contain repressive dimensions in practice. We identify that students are subjected to techniques of disciplinary power, including surveillance and normalisation, and that they resist these by communicating outside of official discussion board spaces. Such resistance is not necessarily problematic, as it enables learning. Notably, students demonstrate development of IL practices through, for example, shaping their information landscapes, digital stewardship and critical reflection.

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WEBSTER, Lee; GUNTER, Helen. How power relations affect the distribution of authority. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 1, p. 68-85, june 2018. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 mar. 2023. doi:
Research articles (peer-reviewed articles)