Critical Information Literacy in the Geographic and Information Sciences

Critical Information Literacy in the Geographic and Information Sciences

Ardis Hanson (University of South Florida, USA) and John Abresch (University of South Florida, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch304
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Background

Traditionally, literacy is defined as the ability to read, write coherently, and think critically. From a global perspective, UNESCO (2005, p. 21) defines literacy as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute, and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.” Literacy is defined further as a continuum of learning, which allows individuals to fully participate in society (UNESCO, 2005). Hence, there is the expectation of a contextualized and situated knowledge based on what an individual needs to be considered literate in his or her society.

New forms of literacy continue to further expand the traditional notion of literacy. In 2003, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) examined three types of literacy: (1) prose literacy; (2) document literacy; and (3) quantitative literacy (Kutner et al., 2007). Prose literacy deals with how one understands whole works, such as articles and book chapters, while document literacy deals with parts of texts, such as maps and tables. Quantitative literacy (numeracy) is the ability to work effectively with numbers and other mathematical concepts. Included in quantitative literacy is statistical literacy, which is the ability to read and interpret summary statistics in the everyday media. Other literacies include social-structural literacy, research literacy, and publishing literacy, which respectively address how information is socially situated and produced, how tools are used to conduct research, and the processes of publication and production of research results.

Tool and resource literacy is the ability to use print/electronic resources and software/hardware and to understand their form, format, and access issues. Spatial literacy is defined as a “state reached through the practice of spatial thinking” and that it is “a continuum, in which expertise develops as part of a process” (Jarvis, 2011, p. 294). There is also an emerging technology literacy, which addresses the adaptation, adoption, and evaluation of information technology in terms of intellectual and social capital and relative costs/benefits of use. These definitions of literacy hinge upon skills to accomplish discrete tasks.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Critical Information Literacy: Examines and questions accepted definitions and notions about information literacy using methodologies from literacy theory ( Elmborg, 2006 ).

Critical GIS Literacy: Understanding and working with multiple epistemologies and methodologies, incorporating spatial technologies to research social, political, and economic inequities.

Public Participation GIS (PPGIS): Use of GIS to broaden public involvement in policymaking and to promote the goals of nongovernmental organizations, grassroots groups, and community-based organizations ( Ghose, 2007 ).

Literacy: “The ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute, and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts” (UNESCO, 2005 AU37: The in-text citation "UNESCO, 2005" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , p. 21).

Participatory GIS (PGIS): Developed from the blending of Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) methods with Geographic Information Technologies (GIT). PGIS combines a variety of geo-spatial information management tools and methods to represent peoples’ spatial knowledge in either virtual or physical formats ( Corbett & Keller, 2006 ; Elwood, 2006 ).

Body of Knowledge: “A particular branch of knowledge or study; a recognized department of learning” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2013 AU34: The in-text citation "Oxford English Dictionary, 2013" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). Also may be referred to as a system of knowledge.

Social Construction: Humans create their own environment through language, which humans produce and reproduce in social practices and everyday encounters ( Berger & Luckmann, 1966 ).

Critical GIS Information Literacy: Requires examining and questioning accepted definitions and notions about information literacy as it is defined, practiced, and researched in the geography, cartography, and information systems of knowledge.

Critical GIS: “A network of knowledge, ideology, and practice that defines, inscribes, and represents environmental and social patterns within a broader economy of signification that calls forth new ways of thinking, acting, and writing” ( Pickles, 1995 , p. 4).

Information Literacy: An information-literate user successfully performs four tasks: recognize when information is needed, locate the needed information, evaluate the suitability of retrieved information, and effectively and appropriately use the needed information. Its emphasis is on behaviors related to specific measurable skills (ALA, 2000 AU36: The in-text citation "ALA, 2000" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Critical Literacy: “Learning to read and write as part of the process of becoming conscious of one's experience as historically constructed within specific power relations” (Anderson & Irvine, 1990 AU35: The in-text citation "Anderson & Irvine, 1990" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , p. 82).

GIS Literacy: Requires the user to work effectively with geospatial data ( Hanson, 2008 ). Understanding spatial concepts, tools used to create representations of geospatial data, and the cognitive processes used to frame questions in a geospatial manner.

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