We are undertaking a piece of work at my institution to develop a framework of digital literacies, or capabilities or competencies. The jury is still out on the terminology and definitions and many, many people have already developed these frameworks and written about them. So what new have I got to say?

I’ve been reflecting on the relationship, of digital literacy (DL) to information literacy (IL) and how the two are related, but distinct. Many of the existing models have IL as a capability within DL, but how does that work for the IL skills that are, in fact, nothing to do with the digital world at all? For example, is being able to understand and define the information need a digital capability? – I wouldn’t have said so. Likewise, is being able to critically analyse what I’m reading, in order to evaluate and synthesise the information, dependent on having digital capabilities? I don’t think so.

With an alternate view, is digital literacy then a sub-capability of being information literate? Is it possible to be one without the other? Well, there are many elements within existing DL frameworks that, to my mind, sit outside information literacy. Examples of these include digital identity and wellbeing, digital creation and collaboration, and ICT proficiency.

So this leads me to thinking there is actually a sub-literacy, but it is a mashup of both, and that is to be digitally information literate (DIL). What this looks like to me is being able to navigate the digital world to find what you need to create new understanding and knowledge. This includes things like searching, evaluation, sense-making etc, but also understanding of licences, IP and copyright in the digital world (ethical use of digital information), and digital dissemination strategies for new knowledge and the like. These are the elements that are specifically about finding and using information in a digital context.

Bring on the old Venn Diagram!


I expect that as the world moves more and more toward digital the overlap will grow, but my reflection at the moment is that these are two distinct sets of capabilities and by putting one above the other (in either direction), we run the risk of losing some important nuance.

Heather Lamond

Associate University Library, Client Services – Massey University