The three domains of value: Why IL practitioners must take a holistic approach

How to Cite

Whitworth, A. (2010). The three domains of value: Why IL practitioners must take a holistic approach. Nordic Journal of Information Literacy in Higher Education, 3(1).


Many definitions of IL focus on the subjective value of information - the learner expected to be the initiator, agent and evaluator of an information search. However, we must also judge information against the objective domain: without it, we risk what Damian Thompson has called ‘counterknowledge’, the spread of unscientific worldviews like conspiracy theories, pseudohistory and so on. There is also the intersubjective domain, the field of laws, morals, economics and community standards. Without this domain we may collapse into relativism. But the subjective domain remains valuable, as otherwise we would suffer from ‘groupthink’, becoming merely the instrument of organisations and ‘the system’. All three domains of value are thus essential if the informational resources on which we draw are to be sustainable, healthy and open, and if we are to respond to the challenges posed by diversity and highlighted by this conference.

Why, then, is so little IL teaching thinking about its subject in this way? I suggest the answers lie in how governments and other influential educational stakeholders conceive of their ‘product’. Not every educational stakeholder wants to see the kind of critical, creative thinkers which holistic IL is oriented to producing. Addressing this paradox is a significant policy challenge facing IL as it matures in the 21st century.

Copyright (c) 2011 Andrew Whitworth

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