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THE CONSTRUCTION OF EVERYDAY INFORMATION PRACTICES Reijo Savolainen Department of Information Studies University of Tampere, Finland 28 February 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "THE CONSTRUCTION OF EVERYDAY INFORMATION PRACTICES Reijo Savolainen Department of Information Studies University of Tampere, Finland 28 February 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE CONSTRUCTION OF EVERYDAY INFORMATION PRACTICES Reijo Savolainen Department of Information Studies University of Tampere, Finland 28 February 2006

2 Overview of presentation 1. Introducing the concept of everyday information practice 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts 3. The construction of information source horizons 4. Conclusions

3 1. What is meant by information practices? Information practice (IP) is a novel concept IP: socially and culturally constituted ways to identify, seek, assess, use and share information Examples of IP: watching TV news, reading newspapers and searching the Web Information practices are often habitualized and they can be identified both in job- related and non-work contexts

4 1. What is meant by information practices? IP: provides an alternative to the dominating concept of ”information behavior” (IB) IB: “The totality of human behavior in relation to sources and channels, including both active and passive information seeking, and information use” (Tom Wilson, 2000) IB: emphasizes individual information needs as a trigger of information seeking

5 1. What is meant by information practices? Information practice approach: represents “ a more sociologically and contextually oriented line of research ” (Sanna Talja) IP: emphasizes that the processes of information seeking and use are constituted socially and dialogically, rather than based on the needs and motives of individual actors

6 1. What is meant by information practices? All human practices are social, and they originate from interactions between the members of a community The proponents of IP emphasize the role of contextual factors that orient people´s information seeking (as distinct from the individualist approaches that are characteristic of the assumptions of “information behavior”)

7 1. What is meant by information practices? Defining everyday practices, in general (Wanda Orlikowski, 2002) “ Recurrent, materially bounded and situated action engaged in by members of the community ”  Recurrent, repeated (habitualized) action  Embedded in material context of occurrence  Taking place in communities (e.g, workplace) These characteristics are relevant also for IP

8 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts Everyday information practices are ubiquitous For example, reading newspapers, listening to radio and watching television are embedded within everyday practices Media habits are constitutive of one´s daily rhythms

9 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts IP: often embedded in everyday projects (Anders Hektor, 2001)  Generic projects (e.g., household care) are common for all members of society or community  Specific projects (e.g., hobbies) are common only to one individual or sub- community in a particular life-situation

10 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts Specific projects may appear as: Change-projects dealing with managing transitions in life (e.g., moving from a rural village to a major city) Specific projects require focused information seeking about problematic issues at hand Pursuit-projects (e.g., hobbies) are less dependent on immediate needs Opportunities are acted upon where valued information is encountered

11 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts Information practices are embedded in spatio-temporal contexts For example, watching TV news at home in the evening Information seeking habits may serve the needs of maintaining ”ontological security” and give the sense of the ”mastery of life”

12 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts Information practices may also occur in various kinds of ”information grounds”, as suggested by Karen Pettigrew Information grounds can occur anywhere, in any type of temporal setting and they are predicated on the presence of individuals Examples of everyday information grounds: public libraries, cafeterias, pubs, supermarkets, clubs, and clinics

13 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts People gather at information grounds for a primary, instrumental purpose other than information seeking or sharing Social interaction is a primary activity at information grounds and information seeking or sharing is a by-product For example, Pettigrew´s (1999) study on a foot clinic as an information ground

14 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts The clinic provides a social atmosphere that fosters spontaneous and serendipitous seeking and sharing of information Information grounds such as these are virtual: they disappear until the next scheduled meetings between nurses and customers

15 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts The model of information practices (Pamela McKenzie, 2003) Based on the findings of an empirical study: the information seeking practices of women pregnant with twins in Canada The major modes of information seeking practices

16 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts Active seeking (actively seeking contact with an identified source in a specific information ground, for example, a specialist in a medical clinic) Active scanning (identifying a likely source by browsing in a likely information ground, for example, a bookstore or a public library)

17 2. The nature of information practices in non-work contexts Non-directed monitoring (serendipitous encounters with people interested in the same topical issues; these encounters may take place in unspecific places, for example, supermarkets) Information seeking by proxy (someone else, for example, a friend looks for information when visiting a public library)

18 3. The construction of information source horizons Particularly from the constructionist point of view, the concept of information source horizon is central for the study of everyday information practices This horizon indicates the ways in which people´s prefer (or avoid) various kinds of information sources and channels The concept of information horizon was proposed by Diane Sonnenwald (1999)

19 3. The construction of information source horizons Savolainen & Kari (2004) suggest a slightly modified concept of information source horizon (ISH) ISH: an imaginary field which opens before the "mind´s eye" of the onlooker, for example, information seeker Sources deemed most significant are placed nearest to the onlooker in this field, and the less significant ones farther away

20 3. The construction of information source horizons Information source horizons are created in a broader context which may defined as a perceived information environment When construing an information source horizon, the actor judges the relevance of information sources available in the perceived information environment and selects a set of sources and channels

21 3. The construction of information source horizons Due to the selective approach to information sources, the horizon covers only a part of the actual information environment The construction of information source horizons is a result of complex interplay of judgments e.g. concerning the accessibility and quality of information sources The judgments enable people to put infor- mation sources in their "own" place

22 3. The construction of information source horizons

23 An empirical study on the construction information source horizons (Savolainen & Kari, 2004) Participants: 18 persons interested in personal delf-development (interviewed in Tampere, Finland, ) The informants described their ways to use the Internet in information seeking as a part of their everyday information practice

24 3. The construction of information source horizons They were also asked to draw a picture describing their source preferences with regard to seeking information for issues of self-development At this point, they were given a diagram with three nested circles (cf. Figure shown above)

25 3. The construction of information source horizons The most important sources were placed in Zone 1, the second most important in Zone 2 and the least important in Zone 3 At the same time, the informants were asked to think aloud in order to explain the preferences concerning each source

26 3. The construction of information source horizons The interviewees mentioned altogether 49 different information sources or channels Some sources - for example, WWW - were mentioned more than once: the total number of the sources being mentioned was 111

27 3. The construction of information source horizons Of the sources being mentioned: 26% were human sources 23% printed media 18% networked sources 12% broadcast media 10% as organizational sources 12% other sources (e.g., music)

28 3. The construction of information source horizons Information sources positioned in Zone 1 Human sources were most popular (31.4%) (for example, friends, colleagues, and experts) Networked sources (28.6%) (Internet, WWW) Printed media (25.7%) (Books, literature, newspapers, magazines)

29 3. The construction of information source horizons Zone 1, cont´d Organizational sources (8.6.%) (for example, associations, school, university) Other sources (5.7% (for example, arts, philosophy) Rich variety of information sources Human and networked sources were preferred

30 3. The construction of information source horizons The high priority given to the Internet was often explained by referring to concrete benefits reaped from the use of the networked services. The Internet is seen to greatly facilitate everyday life and save time The Internet opens access to new kinds of information sources previously unavailable

31 3. The construction of information source horizons Zone 2: information resources that were given a secondary place in the information source horizon Again, a broad repertoire of sources was identified Human sources and the printed media were mentioned most often The share of the networked sources remained quite modest

32 3. The construction of information source horizons Zone 3: peripheral sources All source types were mentioned almost equally, including the networked sources  People tend to value a limited number of really important sources (Zone 1) and the number of sources deemed peripheral (Zone 3) remains low because there is no particular interest to specify them

33 3. The construction of information source horizons Characteristic of everyday life information seeking practices, people tend to draw on only a few sources that are familiar and easily accessible Human sources, such as friends, and printed media such as dictionaries on the bookshelf at home, and WWW exemplify information sources of this type

34 3. The construction of information source horizons Broadcast media are also deemed as easily available and accessible sources Information supplied through them rarely focuses on the information need at hand, and thus, they tend to be favored less Organizational sources are ranked relatively low, due to efforts required to visit a public library, for example

35 3. The construction of information source horizons Our study focused on the Internet users in the context of personal self-development Hence, one should be cautious in the generalization of the findings! For example, the role of public libraries might have been more central in information source horizons if the study had focused on other kinds of information practices, e.g., reading for pleasure

36 4. Conclusions The concept of information practice provides a contextually sensitive viewpoint to understand how people seek, use and share information as an integral part of their everyday activities Many of these practices are habitual and deeply embedded in daily routine and one´s way of living Thus, these practices tend to be “ invisible ” for information seekers themselves, as well as researchers interested in these phenomena

37 4. Conclusions There is a need to elaborate the conceptual issues of information practice and to analyze its theoretical and methodological potential, as compared to the dominating approach of information behavior The approaches of information behavior and information practice should not be conceived as hostile rivals; rather, they complement each other

38 4. Conclusions There is a need to explore everyday information practices empirically both in job-related and non-work contexts For example, the nature of collaborative information seeking practices in various professional groups is an intriguing research topic

39 4. Conclusions In non-work contexts, many relevant issues sensitive to everyday information practice are waiting for further research For example, seeking and sharing information in the context of “ change- or pursuit-projects ” or within various kinds of “ information grounds ”

40 Conclusion Thank you for your attention!


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