Learning in a designed world

Information literacy from rock carvings to apps


  • Roger Säljö University of Gothenburg




learning, technology, information literacy



Human beings have an incredible talent for learning and for converting the insights they make into technologies. Some of these technologies (hammers, knives, bicycles etc.) transform our bodily capacities; they change the way we interact with the world when we repair an object or move between places. Other technologies (numbers, writing systems, texts, calculators) transform our capacities to think, remember, solve problems and communicate with fellow human beings. These symbolic technologies, as the evolutionary psychologist Merlin Donald calls them, play a decisive role for our capacity to learn, to preserve information and, more generally, to think at the individual as well as collective level. And these technologies are restless, they change continuously. In a designed world, our intellectual capacities are dependent on our abilities to productively utilize such external resources in what we do. What we know is no longer exclusively beneath the skin or between our ears.

Author Biography

Roger Säljö, University of Gothenburg

Roger Säljö, Ph. D., Dr. h. c. mult., specializes in research on learning, interaction and human development in a sociocultural and interdisciplinary perspective. Much of this work relates to the development of symbolic technologies (writing, number systems, computers etc.). He has been a Finland Distinguished Professor of the Academy of Finland , and he is an honorary doctor at the University of Turku and the University of Agder, and honorary professor at the University of Bath. He has been visiting professor at several universities, including Universität Konstanz, University of California San Diego, Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, University of Oslo, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, University of Agder, University of Stavanger. He has supervised 50 Ph. D. candidates at six different faculties to their degrees.