New Directions in Information Behaviour: Volume 1

Cover of New Directions in Information Behaviour

Table of contents

(21 chapters)

This book brings together chapters that present a range of new directions in theories, models and ideas related to information behaviour. The aim of the book has been to draw out and examine new directions in information behaviour research. Information behaviour is conceptualized as complex human information-related processes that are embedded within an individual's everyday social and life processes with evolutionary and developmental foundations. Information behaviour is an important part of the human condition and critical to the development of new approaches to the design of Web and information retrieval (IR) systems. Information behaviour studies are growing as an interdisciplinary area of research that includes studies from information science, social and evolutionary psychology and other behavioural disciplines.

Ever since our cognitive make-up allowed it, human beings have used their information behaviour abilities to help them survive. Information behaviour evolved in response to the need by early humans to benefit from information that could not be immediately accessible in the nearby environment or obtained through communication. Humans developed an information behaviour ability, including processes of information sense making, foraging, seeking, organising and using. Information behaviour brought several benefits to early humans, including greater influence and control over their environment, and the degree in which they could use the environment for their own gain and survival. Information behaviour thus brought several advantages for the survival of early humans, and consequently emerged as a genetically favoured trait (Spink, 2010).

This chapter explores how early theorising about information behaviour and the emergence of conceptual modelling in information behaviour research had its beginnings in thinking that was taking place in the very late 1970s and early 1980s in Europe and the USA. Some of these ideas were presented in papers that are very familiar and much cited, but others in papers which may be less familiar and, consequently, may not be much cited, but which together contribute to explain why the rapid development in conceptual thinking about, as opposed to the simple empirical study of, information behaviour took place from that period to the present. Four dimensions are identified which together underpin the emergence of conceptual modelling in contemporary information behaviour research. The four dimensions are (1) the adoption of a social science perspective, (2) a qualitative as opposed to a quantitative orientation, (3) a focus on the modelling of information behaviour and (4) a concern with empirical validation and exemplification in the development of such models. These four dimensions came together to provide a tacit rather than explicit framework for subsequent theorising about information behaviour, and in particular underpinned studies involved the conceptual modelling of information behaviour. Information behaviour research then began to develop conceptual models very different from the empiricism of earlier studies, and, at the same time exhibited a strong concern for the exemplification or validation of these models in empirical studies. This combination of theoretically based conceptual modelling and empirical exemplification and validation together gave much of the character to information behaviour research from the later 1970s and early 1980s, an influence that extends to the present.

Meta-synthesis of the research evidence adds value to the process of literature reviewing, providing useful knowledge for researchers, practitioners and policymakers. The aim of the chapter is to explain what meta-synthesis involves and how it illuminates our understanding of concepts. Previous papers on meta-synthesis (by the author) have reviewed research strategies in information behaviour research and methods for meta-synthesis, discussed application of meta-synthesis to research on information behaviour of women, and proposed methods suitable for integrating information literacy research. Meta-synthesis methods have been applied to many areas of social science research. The literature review examines how to reduce the risks involved in suitable for integrating qualitative research or qualitative and quantitative research; outlines the main approaches used in meta-synthesis before explaining the processes used in a meta-synthesis of research on information behaviour of women, reflects on the meta-synthesis methods used, and which might have been used, and shows what meta-synthesis achieves. Meta-synthesis should be used more in information behaviour research, but it is a rigorous process, requiring time and effort to get useful results. On the other hand, meta-synthesis provides more new knowledge, and a deeper understanding of our ideas, than a conventional literature review.

Information behaviour has evolved to focus on the dynamic human information interactions (HII) between systems and users, to develop models that encompass user behaviour, cognition and affect, and to understand the ways in which context and tasks motivate information needs and shape information seeking and use. In recent years, user experience (UX) has gained prominence in human–computer interaction (HCI) and may provide further enrichment and new directions in the design and development of HII theories, methodologies, systems and services. This chapter seeks to provide an overview of UX, and to explore the intersection between HII and UX, specifically with respect to the shared emphasis on context, needs and sense making. The overarching aim is to provide new directions for information behaviour by proposing that we view HII through a UX lens as we strive to holistically conceptualize, evaluate and design for human information experiences. Taking a UX approach allows us to imagine information interactions as rich and varied narratives, and to explore information seeking and use as processes within, as well as outcomes and predictors of human experiences.

This chapter examines adolescent metacognitive knowledge in a fresh light and answers some methodological questions related to the investigation of the deepest layers of thinking during the information search. It does so by presenting a study that used an ethnographic approach to investigate the metacognitive knowledge of 10 adolescents, aged 16 to 18, over the course of four months, and in a variety of settings –– home, school, public libraries –– as they searched for, collected, and then used information for a school project. The study was framed by Flavel's model of metacognition (1977) and Kuhlthau's information search process (ISP) model, a six-stage, multidimensional model of information problem solving (1991, 2004). The chapter begins with a discussion about the ISP, metacognitive knowledge, and its potential for information seeking. The chapter then presents the findings of the study as a set of gaps and strengths of adolescent metacognitive knowledge, and concludes with commentary about the challenges and rewards related to conducting research with young people and suggestions for future areas of research.

This chapter reviews the study of individual differences in information behaviour; those differences which are not due to demographic factors such as age, gender, education or occupation, but rather to personality factors and to learning and thinking styles. It examines studies of patterns in information behaviour and of personality and similar factors in groups of information-focused occupations, as well as studies which have explicitly sought to relate information behaviour to such factors. The aim of the chapter is to assess how far we have come in being able to identify and measure ‘information style’, a quality different from any other categorisation of personality or of intellectual styles. If this goal were achieved, it would be a valuable concept for the academic study of information-related behaviours, as well as being of practical usefulness for the design of information systems and services, the evaluation of the effectiveness of such systems and the training of users. It could also allow a tailored provision of information, particularly for creative or innovative purposes.

This chapter details the theory of information worlds and its relation to studies of information behaviour, providing a framework for examining information behaviour in a variety of settings. Since information and its related technologies impact every aspect of life in advanced societies, it is of great importance to create a stronger theoretical understanding of information beahviours across social contexts. Information behaviour is simultaneously shaped by immediate influences, such as friends, family and other trusted small world sources, and by larger social influences, including public sphere institutions, media, technology and politics. Information behaviours of all sorts are situated and contextualized, given meaning by the multi-tiered contexts within which they occur. Drawing on the works of Jürgen Habermas, who studied information flow across the largest social structures, and Elfreda Chatman, who focused on the smallest social units, the theory explores information behaviour across all of the levels –– the small worlds of everyday life, mediating social institutions and technologies, the concerns of an entire society and broad political and economic forces. After detailing antecedents and exploring the theory's core concepts, the chapter investigates the theory's relevance for research on information behaviour and discusses the theory in light of other approaches to studying information behaviour, arguing that it provides a strong foundation for understanding and analysing the complex interwoven contexts within which we interact with information.

This chapter introduces the Person-in-Environment (PIE) framework, a research design and a nationwide empirical study, developed by the author, to measure the relative impacts of socio-structural and personal factors on individual-level information behaviours (IB) and outcomes. The IB field needs to tackle two questions: (1) In a particular situation, how much of an individual's IB is influenced by personal characteristics? and (2) How much of this behaviour is shaped by one's environment, such as socio-structural barriers? PIE is a beginning effort to address this agency–structure debate, which is a topic that confronts many social scientists. This chapter first outlines IB research relevant to agency–structure integration. It then presents six principles of the PIE framework. Personal characteristics (e.g. cognitive and affective factors) and socio-structural factors (e.g. information resources distribution) are conceptualised as interrelated. Thus, these need to be tested simultaneously. Previously, it was difficult to link individual- and societal-level datasets because their units of observation often vary. To overcome these methodological challenges, this author purposed a research design that employs secondary analysis, geographic information systems techniques and structural equation modelling. An empirical study of the library usage by 13,000 American 12th graders is presented to demonstrate PIE's applicability. Discussions on the future directions of PIE studies conclude the chapter. The PIE framework can contribute to conceptual and methodological development in IB research. It also offers scholars and policymakers a way to empirically assess the contributions of information services on an individual's life, while taking personal differences into account.

Originally grounded in library and information science, the majority of information behaviour and information-seeking theories focus on task-based scenarios where users try to resolve information needs. While other theories exist, such as how people unexpectedly encounter information, for example, they are typically related back to tasks, motivated by work or personal goals. This chapter, however, focuses on casual-leisure scenarios that are typically motivated by hedonistic needs rather than information needs, where people engage in searching behaviours for pleasure rather than to find information. This chapter describes two studies on (1) television information behaviour and (2) the casual information behaviours described by users of Twitter. The first study focuses on a specific casual-leisure domain that is familiar to many, while the second indicates that our findings generalise to many other casual-leisure scenarios. The results of these two studies are then used to define an initial model of casual-leisure information behaviour, which highlights the key differences between casual-leisure scenarios and typical information behaviour theory. The chapter concludes by discussing how this new model of casual-leisure information behaviour challenges the way we design information systems, measure their value and consequently evaluate their support for users.

This chapter explores new and emerging dimensions in our understanding of how information behaviour develops in early childhood. Spink (2010) proposed that information behaviour — when we engage in behaviours to make sense of, seek, avoid, forage, use and organise information — is (1) shaped by both instinctive and environmental dimensions that are as essential to the lives of our prehistoric ancestors as they are for people today and (2) emerges in early childhood. This chapter explores what we currently know about the development of cognitive, language, social and information behaviour abilities in early childhood. Drawing on research from cognitive and developmental psychology, and findings from two studies of different aspects of young children's information behaviours, including Web searching (Spink, et al., 2010) and library information categorisation (Cooper, 2004), the chapter discusses information behaviour development in early childhood. The connection between general cognitive development and information behaviour are discussed, and further research suggested.

The basic idea of this chapter is to utilize spiritual information in empirically exploring how its purported source beings view the impacts of such information upon various phenomena. This chapter aims at discovering and describing the most central effect dimensions in this context and, by so doing, at building theoretical constructs. The empirical work was done during 2005–2009 in Finland. Because of the relative novelty of the research topic, an inductive approach was applied. The research data were composed of a representative sample of 62 spiritual texts (printed books and articles, as well as Web and e-mail articles). The chapter examines the discovered categories and their subcategories, shows the most salient connections between them and discusses the findings in the context of previous research. The investigation explored two dimensions: the targets and actuality of the impacts of spiritual information. The impact targets were classified as organisms (human individuals, human communities, extraterrestrials, spirits), things (parts of beings, objects, information, situations), processes (events, practices, life) and spaces (areas, Earth, universe). The actuality of the impacts of spiritual information fell under these categories: desired (implicitly desired, intended, explicitly desired, requisitioned) impacts, real (possible, believed, factual, alternative) impacts, nonexistent (hypothetical, no) impacts, as well as conditional (on supernatural sender, information, humans, situation) and unconditional impacts. This inquiry revealed several new varieties of information impact and even built whole new typologies, because quite little was known about both the targets and actuality of the impacts of information before the present study.

A sign of maturity of a scientific field is its theoretical growth that is based on an increased depth of understanding and a broadening of the contexts and issues addressed. Information behaviour research has grown substantially over the last 10 years, expanding from a focused exploration of utilitarian features such as problem-focused, work-related information behaviour to inclusion of aspects such as leisurely information needs and impact of spiritual information. Exploring new concepts and contexts helps to build an increasingly thorough and holistic understanding of information behaviour, which, in turn, lifts the field to a higher theoretical level.

David Bawden is professor of information science at City University London, UK. He has a first degree in organic chemistry (Liverpool University) and masters and doctoral degrees in information science (Sheffield University). He worked in research information services in the pharmaceutical industry before joining City University in 1990. His academic interests include the history and philosophy of the information sciences, information-related behaviour, knowledge organisation, scientific information, digital literacy and academic-practitioner research collaboration. He is editor of the Journal of Documentation, the leading European journal of library/information science, and is a member of the board of EUCLID, the European Association for Library and Information Teaching and Research. His interests in individual differences in information behaviour stem from studies of ‘information for creativity’ in the 1980s, and he has a particularly interest in ways of understanding individual attitudes and preferences as a way of improving information provision. His email address is

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Library and Information Science
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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