‘Informed’, ‘active’ and ‘engaged’? Understanding and enacting information literacy from a UK citizenship perspective

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Simon Paul Cloudesley


Information literacy (IL) has been considered by Library and Information Studies (LIS) research and praxis to be vital in helping citizens be ‘informed’, ‘active’ and ‘engaged’ within society. LIS discourse has explored different conceptions of citizenship and its relationship with IL within the paradigm of liberal democratic societies. Critical IL approaches have in turn promoted a citizenship of personal agency, empowerment, challenging the status quo and the pursuit of social justice, as well as focusing on what has been termed ‘political literacy’. However, critical information literacy has also problematised some of the approaches to citizenship found in LIS discourse. Despite the complexity of the subject, empirical study into these issues is still severely lacking. This research moves to start addressing this need by investigating how IL is understood and enacted from the perspective of UK citizenship. Using a qualitative approach of semi-structured interviews with five UK citizens based in Oxford, UK, in the summer of 2019, it set out to establish the relationship between IL and citizenship in a personal context. It was found to be understood and enacted through the development of socially-constructed personal citizenship information landscapes, oriented to a personal sense of citizenship, agency, motivation and empowerment. These personal landscapes challenge some of the established IL paradigms of ‘informed’, ‘active’ and ‘engaged’ citizens, as well as related concepts of information ‘wealth’ and ‘poverty’. They also raise questions of the role of personal ethics in decision making as citizens and potential tensions with ‘acceptable’ norms. These findings help to further problematise the dynamic between IL and citizenship, and challenge LIS research and praxis not just to promote specific values and goals, but also to work towards a greater understanding of the personal contexts shaping that dynamic.

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CLOUDESLEY, Simon Paul. ‘Informed’, ‘active’ and ‘engaged’? Understanding and enacting information literacy from a UK citizenship perspective. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 15, n. 3, p. 20-40, dec. 2021. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/JIL/article/view/PRA-V15-I3-2>. Date accessed: 14 aug. 2022. doi: https://doi.org/10.11645/15.3.2934.
Research articles (peer-reviewed articles)