Information Experience: Approaches to Theory and Practice: Volume 9

Table of contents

(29 chapters)
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Preface

Pages xxi-xxiii
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Abstract

The purpose of this book is to open a conversation on the idea of information experience, which we understand to be a complex, multidimensional engagement with information. In developing the book we invited colleagues to propose a chapter on any aspect of information experience, for example conceptual, methodological or empirical. We invited them to express their interpretation of information experience, to contribute to the development of this concept. The book has thus become a vehicle for interested researchers and practitioners to explore their thinking around information experience, including relationships between information experience, learning experience, user experience and similar constructs. It represents a collective awareness of information experience in contemporary research and practice. Through this sharing of multiple perspectives, our insights into possible ways of interpreting information experience, and its relationship to other concepts in information research and practice, is enhanced. In this chapter, we introduce the idea of information experience. We also outline the book and its chapters, and bring together some emerging alternative views and approaches to this important idea.

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Information experience has emerged as a new and dynamic field of information research in recent years. This chapter will discuss and explore information experience in two distinct ways: (a) as a research object and (b) as a research domain. Two recent studies will provide the context for this exploration. The first study investigated the information experiences of people using social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) during natural disasters. Data was gathered by in-depth semi-structured interviews with 25 participants, from two areas affected by natural disasters (i.e. Brisbane and Townsville). The second study investigated the qualitatively different ways in which people experienced information literacy during a natural disaster. Using phenomenography, data was collected via semi-structured interviews with seven participants. These studies represent two related yet different investigations. Taken together the studies provide a means to critically debate and reflect upon our evolving understandings of information experience, both as a research object and as a research domain. This chapter presents our preliminary reflections and concludes that further research is needed to develop and strengthen our conceptualisation of this emerging area.

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This chapter highlights the varied scope of research in the emerging information experience domain. First, I share my perspective as educator-researcher on information experience and its association with informed learning. Then, in six methodological snapshots I present a selection of qualitative approaches which are suited to investigating information experience. The snapshots feature: action research, constructivist grounded theory, ethnomethodology, expanded critical incident approach, phenomenography and qualitative case study. By way of illustration, six researchers explain how and why they use one of these methods. Finally, I review the key characteristics of the six methods and their respective benefits for information experience research.

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In response to a need for ‘consideration of the conceptual overlap between information seeking and information literacy’ (Julien & Williamson, 2010), this chapter explores their development. Since the 1960s there has been an ongoing stream of research called ‘information behaviour’ (IB). This has taken various forms and shifted its focus in terms of the topic studied and epistemological orientation. Since the 1990s there has been another stream of parallel research focusing on people’s information capabilities called ‘information literacy’ (IL). Both concern the interaction and experience of a person or a group with information. The former focuses on the social, psychological, behavioural and environmental aspects of people’s IB. The latter focuses on the person and the capabilities they need to interact with information which may be studied from a social, psychological, behavioural and environmental perspective. IB has traditionally placed an emphasis on observed or recorded information seeking, within a broad context of factors that may affect behaviour. In contrast, IL research places greater emphasis on specific cognitive and behavioural processes associated with information seeking and use. Both IB and IL throw light on people’s information experience. Over time, shifts in focus have been associated with changes in epistemological orientation. We now see a rich array of approaches for investigating people’s IB and IL. This reflects the multifaceted nature of these domains, that is social, organisational and individual. This chapter charts the relationship between these two fields of research and highlights their complementarity.

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Music and dance are art forms that involve a full mind-body experience, integrating the cognitive, affective and kinaesthetic domains. To engage in creating music and dance is to use information to express oneself and communicate. In this chapter I explore the information experience of two distinct groups: those who compose music for an audience and those who dance socially with a partner.

For the composer, information sources can be a stimulus for creation. Sounds, feelings, moods, images, ideas and life experiences can trigger a creative idea. These ideas are shaped by existing musical styles and structures, and by the composer’s personal aesthetic. The intention of the composer is to communicate their expressive ideas to an audience.

For the social dancer, information sources are those used to communicate with a partner. There is no intention to perform for an audience. A social dancer aims to express the music and style of the dance while creating a strong connection with their partner. Information sources include the music, the partner’s body, the emotions generated by the dance, the position of other couples on the floor and the feeling of the floor.

Use of information in the arts is an under-researched experience. Most information studies are based on the assumption that information is documentary and codified. Subjective and affective information is rarely recognised and legitimised. Information-as-it-is-experienced through creative practice such as music and dance is holistic in acknowledging mind, body and spirit as well as traditional documentary forms of information. This chapter draws on empirical research to illustrate experiencing information as creating and expressing.

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Bodies are central to the information experience, but are not often accounted for as a source of information, that is central to the information literacy experience. Based on research with emergency services personnel and with nurses, this chapter explores the role of the body as a locus for understanding and meaning-making. Drawing from a sociocultural perspective, the author suggests that the concept of information experience as a stand-alone conception is meaningless. A solution is to acknowledge the referencing of embodied experience against social conditions and ways of knowing that inform peoples’ experience of practice, as located within the body. Key questions for researchers considering an information experience approach are posed.

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How is information experienced in creating and sharing content? Is it merely a concrete object? A more abstract idea? This chapter explores how teens experienced information while creating and sharing content in digital communities. Teens engaged in different forms of content creation but had similar experiences of information that included: participation, inspiration, collaboration, process, and artifact. The findings in this chapter are part of a larger whole that defined the information practices of teens, suggesting how information is experienced is a component of information practices and should be understood as such. The information experiences described here emerged through a grounded theory study of teen content creators. The analysis of the data was informed by constructionism, and the emergent theory was informed by practice theory.

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This chapter presents the preliminary results of a phenomenographic study aimed at exploring people’s experience of information literacy during the 2011 flood in Brisbane, Queensland. Phenomenography is a qualitative, interpretive and descriptive approach to research that explores the different ways in which people experience various phenomena and situations in the world around them. In this study, semi-structured interviews with seven adult residents of Brisbane suggested six categories that depicted different ways people experienced information literacy during this natural disaster. Access to timely, accurate and credible information during a natural disaster can save lives, safeguard property, and reduce fear and anxiety; however very little is currently known about citizens’ information literacy during times of natural disaster. Understanding how people use information to learn during times of crisis is a new terrain for community information literacy research, and one that warrants further attention by the information research community and the emergency management sector.

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This chapter presents an interview with Ben Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribal Nation of Native Americans. Ben Sherman’s narrative reveals an information experience that is deeply embedded in the cultural and spiritual traditions of the Lakota people. Ben Sherman progressively and systematically contrasts this strongly with the technology driven information experience associated with our contemporary information systems. This is a richly nuanced discussion on the nature of information experience, which highlights how the nature of what is informing varies across time and sociocultural contexts.

The interview was conducted in Colorado, USA, by Ben Sherman’s colleague Dana Echohawk. Her questions are shown in italics. The main text is Ben Sherman’s narrative response to Dana Echohawk’s questions. Editors have made minor modifications to better suit the written context of the interview without changing the meaning or intent of any of the passages.

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Theorists within and outside LIS observe that neither information nor experience is usefully conceived as stable entities. This chapter focuses instead on experiencing and considers how people respond interactively within situations in flux, using that perspective to explore sense making. Methodologically guided by Dervin, ethnomethodology and practice theory, I spent two years participating in online discussion groups where people discussed experiences of kidney failure. I use content analysis of textual interactions to demonstrate the centrality of experiences in the discussions, followed by thematic analysis to explore why experiencing appeared to be central to sense making. I found that contributors described active and reactive responses to environments, in which emotions, understanding and other forms of experiencing forged and ‘mangled’ each other, processes which I interpret using metaphors from practice theory. These iterative processes, though painful at times, apparently kept contributors’ understandings connected to their experiences of reality. Therefore this chapter extends understandings of the centrality of experiential and embodied aspects of sense making, while also addressing problems with using static metaphors and methods to explore dynamic processes.

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This chapter uses the idea of informed learning, an interpretation of information literacy that focuses on people’s information experiences rather than their skills or attributes, to analyse the character of using information to learn in diverse communities and settings, including digital, faith, indigenous and ethnic communities. While researchers of information behaviour or information seeking and use have investigated people’s information worlds in diverse contexts, this work is still at its earliest stages in the information literacy domain. To date, information literacy research has largely occurred in what might be considered mainstream educational and workplace contexts, with some emerging work in community settings. These have been mostly in academic libraries, schools and government workplaces. What does information literacy look like beyond these environments? How might we understand the experience of effective information use in a range of community settings, from the perspective of empirical research and other sources? The chapter concludes by commenting on the significance of diversifying the range of information experience contexts, for information literacy research and professional practice.

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Every day, businesses are creating information experiences for themselves, their customers and key external stakeholders, which have the potential to promote shared understanding and effective communication, create strong relationships and support the efficient achievement of important business outcomes — or equally, to deliver the exact opposite. In practice, most businesses pay little attention to the information experiences they are creating and are oblivious to the significant negative impacts that result across many different parts of their operations.

Drawing on practical examples from my work as a management consultant specialising in information design, this chapter will provide compelling examples of the poor information experiences that businesses perpetuate, and the significant frustrations, inefficiencies and substantial financial losses that can result for four specific audiences — their customers, staff, leaders and external partners. It will also highlight some of the processes and experiences we have had in creating more effective information experiences by focusing on the needs of the user and applying core principles of information design.

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Informed learning can be enlivened through explicit and persistent attention to using information to learn during collaborative design activities. The resulting information experiences and accompanying information practices in the workplace, when combined with systems principles, can produce transferable individual and group (and, ultimately, organizational) capacity to advance knowledge in ever expanding professional contexts.

In development in North America since 2003, the Informed Systems Approach incorporates principles of systems thinking and informed learning though an inclusive, participatory design process that fosters information exchange, reflective dialogue, knowledge creation, and conceptual change in workplace organizations. It also furthers expression of collaborative information practices that enrich information experiences by simultaneously advancing both situated domain knowledge and transferable learning capacity. Integrated design activities support participants’ developing awareness of the conceptions of information experience and informed learning, in a cyclical and iterative fashion that promotes and sustains continuous learning.

A shared learning focus evolves through intentional use of information to learn, including collective reflection on information sources, collaborative practices, and systems functionalities, which further participants’ topical understandings and enrich their information experiences. In addition, an action-oriented intention and inclusive participatory disposition ensures improvements of real world situations.

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The concept of “information experience” is rather new in information research. Conceptually, it draws from user-centered approaches to information studies. When applied to research on legislators, it could take the form of a social approach, espoused by Chatman, where context is inalienable from human action. In analyzing legislators’ constituency information practices, context constituted political, social, and economic circumstances, and these provided mitigating factors in information activities. Gender manifested in the sexual division of labor, the unequal expectations of female MPs and interactions in the home. This had implications for information acquisition. Large constituency and gender concerns had an impact on women’s information activities and experience of representation.

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Expert searchers engage with information in a variety of professional settings, as information brokers, reference librarians, information architects and faculty who teach advanced searching. As my recent research shows, the expert searcher’s information experience is defined by profound discernment of critical concepts about information, and a fluid ability to apply this knowledge to their engagement with the information environment. The information experience of the expert searcher means active and intentional participation with the processes and players that created that information environment. Expert searchers become an integral and seamless part of their information environment and also play a role in facilitating the information experiences of others.

In this chapter, after discussing my understanding of the concept of information experience, I outline how I used threshold concept theory to explore the information experience of expert searchers. Through the findings, I identify four threshold concepts in the acquisition of search expertise that provide new perspectives on the information experience of the expert searcher. These new perspectives have implications for search engine design and how advanced search skills are taught. Finally, I consider how the fresh insights about the expert searcher’s experiences contribute to wider understanding about information experience.

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This chapter discusses using phenomenography to study information experience. Phenomenographers aim to investigate people’s experiences of the world around them, which is comprised of the interrelationship between an individual and a phenomenon they are focusing on. Phenomenography has been identified as a research approach suited to the study of information experience. Phenomenographic research investigating experiences of using information in different contexts has led to the development of informed learning, which is an approach to information literacy that emphasizes learning as an outcome of using information. Recent research focusing on information experience has been referred to as informed learning research. The preliminary findings from a current informed learning study illustrate the educative benefits of researching information experience. This study investigates a classroom lesson, in which a teacher outlines an assignment that requires the students to understand a language and gender topic by investigating the evolution of research on the topic. The lesson is experienced in multiple ways by the students and the analysis suggests a way of enhancing the lesson to enable more students to experience it in the way intended by the teacher.

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This chapter discusses individual differences in information experiences, with particular focus on emotional aspects. It reports findings from two studies that explored K12 and mature students’ experiences of uncertainty in the information search process. These experiences were related to the respondents’ personality traits and approaches to studying. The studies found that intrinsic motivation and openness to experience increased the likelihood of a pleasant information experience in a study context, while extrinsic motivation and insecurity often resulted in a negative one. Conscientious and systematic searchers tended to be foremost goal-oriented, whereby the affective tone of a search depended on the amount of progress towards the goal. Patterns of explorative or systematic searching were found both during a specific inquiry process and as broader conceptions of regularly occurring information experiences.

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This chapter presents insights about prospective students’ information experience when using social media to support their decision-making concerning which university to attend. When choosing a university, prospective students experience different ways of using information, engaging with a variety of sources, which have changed rapidly from traditional print and mass media, exhibitions and road shows, to the Internet and university websites. Increasingly, prospective students use information via diverse social media platforms where they can engage, participate and collaborate as information users on the social web. As a result, their information experience is expanding beyond information seeking to engagement with social media and participation in a dynamic online community.

Drawing on a literature review and my own research, I demonstrate that prospective students’ information experience involves collaboration, engagement and communities via social media. I present findings that contrast prospective students’ dynamic and wider multidimensional information experience of the social web, with static and unidimensional information seeking of traditional sources. In particular, I demonstrate that prospective students can now ‘experience’ the university and seek peer advice by collaborating in online communities. In this way, they gain tangible as well as intangible university information.

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In this closing chapter the editors review key themes that have emerged through the book. We recognize the varied and dynamic nature of information experience across multiple contexts, and present our own conceptualization of information experience. Finally, we consider possible future directions for information experience research.

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About the Authors

Pages 321-325
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Index

Pages 327-338
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DOI
10.1108/S1876-056220149
Publication date
2014-08-12
Book series
Library and Information Science
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78350-815-0
eISBN
978-1-78350-816-7
Book series ISSN
1876-0562