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A first-person theory of documentation

Tim Gorichanaz (Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 6 November 2018

Issue publication date: 7 January 2019




The purpose of this paper is to first articulate and then illustrate a descriptive theoretical model of documentation (i.e. document creation) suitable for analysis of the experiential, first-person perspective.


Three models of documentation in the literature are presented and synthesized into a new model. This model is then used to understand the findings from a phenomenology-of-practice study of the work of seven visual artists as they each created a self-portrait, understood here as a form of documentation.


A number of themes are found to express the first-person experience of art-making in these examples, including communicating, memories, reference materials, taking breaks and stepping back. The themes are discussed with an eye toward articulating what is shared and unique in these experiences. Finally, the themes are mapped successfully to the theoretical model.

Research limitations/implications

The study involved artists creating self-portraits, and further research will be required to determine if the thematic findings are unique to self-portraiture or apply as well to art-making, to documentation generally, etc. Still, the theoretical model developed here seems useful for analyzing documentation experiences.

Practical implications

As many activities and tasks in contemporary life can be conceptualized as documentation, this model provides a valuable analytical tool for better understanding those experiences. This can ground education and management decisions for those involved.


This paper makes conceptual and empirical contributions to document theory and the study of the information behavior of artists, particularly furthering discussions of information and document experience.



Gorichanaz, T. (2019), "A first-person theory of documentation", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 1, pp. 190-212.



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