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What everybody knows: embodied information in serious leisure

Andrew M. Cox (Information School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Brian Griffin (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Jenna Hartel (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to reconsider the role of the body in information in serious leisure by reviewing existing work in information behaviour that theorises the role of the body, and by drawing selectively on literature from beyond information studies to extend our understanding.


After finding a lack of attention to the body in most influential works on information behaviour, the paper identifies a number of important authors who do offer theorisations. It then explores what can be learnt by examining studies of embodied information in the hobbies of running, music and the liberal arts, published outside the discipline.


Auto-ethnographic studies influenced by phenomenology show that embodied information is central to the hobby of running, both through the diverse sensory information the runner uses and through the dissemination of information by the body as a sign. Studies of music drawing on the theory of embodied cognition, similarly suggest that it is a key part of amateur music information behaviour. Even when considering the liberal arts hobby, the core activity, reading, has been shown to be in significant ways embodied. The examples reveal how it is not only in more obviously embodied leisure activities such as sports, in which the body must be considered.

Research limitations/implications

Embodied information refers to how the authors receive information from the senses and the way the body is a sign that can be read by others. To fully understand this, more empirical and theoretical work is needed to reconcile insights from practice theory, phenomenology, embodied cognition and sensory studies.


The paper demonstrates how and why the body has been neglected in information behaviour research, reviews current work and identifies perspectives from other disciplines that can begin to fill the gap.



Cox, A.M., Griffin, B. and Hartel, J. (2017), "What everybody knows: embodied information in serious leisure", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 73 No. 3, pp. 386-406.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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