Information and Emotion: The Emergent Affective Paradigm in Information Behavior Research and Theory

Niels Ole Pors (Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




Ole Pors, N. (2008), "Information and Emotion: The Emergent Affective Paradigm in Information Behavior Research and Theory", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 64 No. 3, pp. 467-469.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The book is in four parts and it includes both a subject and an author index. It also has short biographies of the contributors and a very useful bibliography of nearly 30 pages consisting of the material the papers are based on. The four themes in the book contain 17 research papers.

The book starts with a comprehensive introduction by Diane Nahl in which she introduces the background for and the state‐of‐the‐art research into affections and sentiments in information behaviour and she also introduces every single paper and puts them in context. The four themes or parts of the anthology are theoretical frameworks. The second part is named macro‐emotional information environment, and the third is micro‐emotional environment. The last part is called special information environment.

It is not possible to mention every contribution in this review but they are all worth reading and there should be topics for nearly everyone interested in different aspects of information behaviour research.

It is obvious that emotions and sentiments are very important for the study of information behaviour. We have all been moved by fiction, felt frustrations in our interactions with information systems, felt anger at the break down of our net bank, and taken some kind of avoidance decisions, and with amazement observed other peoples' behaviour in different kinds of online communities. These few illustrations also indicate that the potential areas for research into the affective dimensions of information behaviour are indeed a very broad and diversified area.

The first paper in the theoretical part is written by Diane Nahl and it gives a very comprehensive overview of the theoretical underpinnings of the field of emotions and information. This paper is about modelling and theoretical justification of the emphasis on the affective dimension in information behaviour research and its main concern is with the intersection zones of the information environment consisting of technology, human biology and social structures defining practices and values. It is evident that Nahl has a very comprehensive and ambitious research goal. However, the paper is very well documented and argued and it provides the reader with several useful models and examples. It also includes a brief history of the field together with very thoughtful methodological discourses. It is not an easy paper to read but it is rewarding and it sets the theoretical field very convincingly. The section with theoretical frameworks contains three other interesting papers. Dervin and Reinhard present a theoretical exposition of the relationship between emotions and sense‐making and they present an exemplar study consisting of 409 informants evaluating 2,030 situations that elicit information about the relationship between emotions and sense‐making. It is a very well conducted study that points to possible future directions for research both in relation to sense‐making and to the relationship between emotions and information behaviour. D. Bilal presents her research about child development and system design. She outlines some of the major theories of child development and discusses the implications for design of information system and she also points to a number of relevant studies. Parker and Berryman looks into the phenomenon of “enough” or satisficing. They identify through an interview investigation into students' seeking behaviour a number of points where students felt enough and they identified a number of situations that tricked the affective feeling of enough. It is obvious that the concept of enough is a very complex one. The perception of enough is very complex and the empirical study indicated six different types of enough.

The second part of the book is concerned with the macro‐emotional information environment and it consists of five papers in a wide variety of topics like information literacy, nurses' information interactions and children's book reviews in a digital library, undergraduates' information behaviour and the rogue user in web‐communities. All the papers in this section are worth a read and they are all very good examples of the diversity of research approaches one can employ while undertaking studies in the affective dimensions of information behaviour. Farmer's paper is the only one in the book that explicitly introduces the concept of personality in relation to the affective dimensions of information behaviour. Farmer explores correlations between personality traits and information behaviour through an exemplary use of triangulated assessment instruments. It is also very interesting to read the more qualitative‐oriented study of nurses and their frustrations in relation to information. Given's paper on information ecology points to a very promising research agenda exploring students' use of information and their construction of reality. It is probably in this paper that the division between the macro‐ and micro‐level of information environment is best founded. The paper on rogue behaviour or a kind of violations of proper online behaviour is very interesting and it points to both practical solutions and indicate a further research area that probably could include trust and social capital as useful concepts.

The third part of the book is concerned with the micro‐emotional information environment and it consists of five papers dealing with topics like reading, memory of frustrating experiences, information behaviour of stay‐at‐home mothers, critical thinking dispositions and library anxiety and affective experiences of information literacy.

The fourth part is concerned with special information environments. The keyword is disturbances and it consists of three papers dealing with a small world perspective on information behaviour, blind people's information seeking and cross‐cultural learning processes of international students.

It must be noted that the distinction between the so‐called macro‐emotional environment and the micro‐emotional environment is not quite clear and there is a question as to whether the distinction is fruitful. The reviewer failed to see marked differences in approaches, topics and methodologies in the two sections.

Overall, this is probably one of the most rewarding books that have come out in the field of library and information science during the last year. It is not often one sees a volume with seventeen contributions, all of them interesting, well researched and with an abundance of both practical and research perspectives. The book is highly recommended.

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