Digital labour shortage: a new divide in library and information studies education?

Worman, Anthony and Samek, Toni (2011) Digital labour shortage: a new divide in library and information studies education? Information, society and justice journal, 4 (2). pp. 71-82. ISSN 1756-1078


This paper offers a preliminary reflection on the degree to which the concept of 'digital labour' appears in current library and information studies (LIS) education language, including in course titles, course descriptions, and course content. A basis for this paper was established from September 2010 to April 2011 through examination of a global range of online publicly accessible LIS program information. First stage analysis indicates that LIS education language appears to treat digital labour reductively; it fails to account for the labour conditions that frame the work. A tightening of the search examined evidence of critical teaching and learning of digital labour that allow for determinations of how the digital work environment relates to library labour rights and movements. This resulted in a scan of English language and translated information for a total of 121 individual LIS programs. Several trends emerged, which suggest that digital labour is generally, and most often out of necessity, inherently connected to other issues studied in LIS programs. A potential, yet unborn, paradigm in LIS education negates the basic notion of digital labour movement. Recommendations include research into the potential value of teaching and learning about the theory and practice of digital labour, a more sufficient and sophisticated approach to digital labour within LIS education in foundations courses, and a proposed set of possible advanced topics for teaching and learning in LIS education. Limitations of this topical exploration include what might be explained by the unknown factor of what is actually unseen from publicly accessible documents. To test the meaning of our first-stage work, future inquiry might involve interviews with teachers and looking into classroom communication of learners to see how the idea of digital labour is being addressed by them even if it is only in the most subtle manner.

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