ECIL2021: Information literacy in a post-truth era

Yesterday was the last day of the ECIL 2021 conference, which took place between 20-23 September in a range of virtual locations such as Tallinn, Prague, Istanbul, Saint-Malo, and Dubrovnik. Coincidentally, these are all locations where the conference has taken place in-person before – it’s a nice touch by the conference organisers to name the conference mirrors after familiar locations! The ECIL conference was originally going to be in Bamberg, Germany (hence the choice of the header photo above, which features a popular sculpture in Bamberg called “Centurione”).

The theme of the conference was ‘Information literacy in a post-truth era’ and it opened with a session on information discernment in the post-truth world. This set the tone for the rest of the conference and put forth key questions for information literacy researchers and practitioners such as: Why does misinformation find such traction nowadays? And how can we protect society against its adverse consequences? One of the fundamental causes of misinformation, as echoed in sentiments expressed throughout other conference sessions, is the sheer overabundance of information that is being produced every day by a range of actors. Some of these actors may have good intentions, some of them may have malicious intentions, and some of them may strive for neutrality; nevertheless, even with good intentions, one may unwillingly spread misinformation. And often, those who have the greatest power, influence, and access to information (social media giants – we’re looking at you!), and who are in a position to take decisive action to stop misinformation, do very little to combat it. That leaves the responsibility for spotting dodgy information practices to individuals who end up – as Markus Behmer and Till Krause put it on Wednesday – ‘overnewsed but underinformed’. This is why information literacy is so important!

On Wednesday, I presented my doctoral work at the ECIL doctoral colloquium, which was chaired by Sheila Webber and attended by 10 information literacy specialists working in different areas. We were also joined by PhD student Carolin Keller, who joined us from Germany, and who introduced us to her work on the role of information specialists in literature reviews. There was ample time for questions after our presentations, so both Carolin and I benefitted from engaging in discussions with our attendees and session chair. I particularly enjoyed the discussions we had about lifelong information literacy, the digital aspects of information literacy, and the complexities around conceptualising these. Below, you can find my slides from the session. The full-text version of the paper associated with the presentation is available to read here.

New information literacy horizons: Making the case for career information literacy

Three of my colleagues from the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI) – Dr David Brazier, Dr Bruce Ryan, and Rachel Salzano – presented at the ECIL 2021 conference as well. You can read more about their work and see their poster here.

This year, all poster and paper presentations were pre-recorded and played during the sessions, and most recordings will be uploaded to the ECIL 2021 Youtube channel shortly after the conference. Videos are already being uploaded on the channel, with many more to come.

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