Information Experience in Theory and Design

Information Experience in Theory and Design, by Tim Gorichanaz

In my book Information Experience in Theory and Design (2020, Emerald), I seek to reframe the discussion of information engagement through the lens of information experience, an exciting emerging area within information science.

Unlike traditional information behavior research, which is limited to how people need, seek, and search for information, information experience looks at how people understand, use, and are shaped by information. As such, information experience goes beyond identifying information sources to examine how people are informed by information—and not just “informed,” but formed and transformed. Thus, information experience shows the breadth of phenomena that are informative to people, beyond what is traditionally recognized as informative in library and information studies (e.g., books, articles). This means that information experience presents a way to overcome the limitations of earlier paradigms of information behavior. In this way, information experience connects with other human-centered areas of information research and design, including information literacy and human–computer interaction.

Offering a rigorous theoretical foundation for information experience and insights for design, this book brings together research from across the information field as well as philosophy. For researchers or students in any area of the information field, from librarianship to human–computer interaction, this is an exciting new text investigating a fascinating new field of study.

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"Did Not Finish": A Phenomenology of Failure

Gorichanaz, T. (2020). ‘Did Not Finish’: A Phenomenology of Failure. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy.

Abstract. This paper explores what it means to fail in an ultramarathon---be marked DNF, or Did Not Finish---through hermeneutic phenomenology. In today's popular culture, failure holds a paradoxical position: Particularly in the "startup" ethos, failure is touted as a good, but only because it brings one closer to success. On a Heideggerian perspective, this is an inauthentic understanding of failure. This paper proposes that sport, and specifically ultrarunning, is a site for an authentic understanding of failure---and, consonantly, success. The notion of death is a major consideration: Though death is often described as a kind of failure, it is better understood phenomenologically as that which reveals and focuses one's authentic possibilities for success. Failure, on the other hand, is a cutting-off of possibility. Three types of DNF can be discerned, corresponding to a cutting-off in the past, present and future, respectively. In ultrarunning, an athlete exists as being-toward-death, and finishing belongs to the athlete as part of their self and world. When a DNF happens, an athlete is suddenly rendered incomplete, worldless. This is a jarring, painful experience, from which it takes time and effort, and a reconstruction of self, to recover.

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Understanding and Information in the Work of Visual Artists

Gorichanaz, T. (2020). Understanding and information in the work of visual artists. Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, 71(6), 685–695.

Abstract. To better account for information behavior in everyday life, the field must more fully explore information phenomena in the lifeworld, i.e., information experience. This paper shows that one way to do this is through the concept of understanding. Visual art is identified as an illuminating domain for an initial foray into such research. This paper presents findings from a phenomenology-of-practice study of the information behavior of visual artists. Seven local artists documented their experiences creating self-portraits, and semi-structured follow-up interviews were conducted. The findings show how these participants built understanding with information in their work of creating individual self-portraits. These understandings fall into two categories: of the self and of the artistic process. Many forms of information, traditional and novel, contribute to these understandings; examples of the latter include memories, the lived environment, profound experiences, and online browsing. These findings extend the literature on artists' information behavior, connect everyday information behavior to information experience, and illustrate a method for studying understanding empirically in information science. The paper closes by discussing the meaning of these findings for the future of information science, suggesting that the kinds of information employed by artists might be recognized and appreciated more widely throughout society.

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A First-Person Theory of Documentation

Gorichanaz, T. (2019). A first-person theory of documentation. Journal of Documentation, 75(1), 190–212.

Abstract. Purpose: 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. Design/methodology/approach: 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. Findings: 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. Originality/value: 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.

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Information creation and models of information behaviour: grounding synthesis and further research

Gorichanaz, T. Information creation and models of information behaviour: grounding synthesis and further research. Forthcoming in Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 50.

Abstract. This paper contributes to the conceptualization of information creation in the field of information behaviour. To do so, it synthesizes discussions and conceptual models on information creation and related topics, such as communication, design and documentation, which to date have been disconnected. A number of models are discussed, as well as some of the strengths, weaknesses and unique contributions of each with respect to information creation. This discussion leads to a number of paths for further research, both conceptual and empirical, on information creation. In particular, one fruitful site for further research in information creation is art. Drawing on the ground-breaking work of Tidline, it is clear that art is informative, and that the activities involved in and surrounding the creation of art showcase the aspects of information creation that have been highlighted in theoretical models of information behaviour. Further research should consider the information behaviour involved in an artistic task from start to finish.


Over the past decade, information science has become interested in exploring the creation of information, rather than just its organization and retrieval (Kari, 2007; Koh, 2013; Trace, 2007). Conceptually, the area of information creation falls within information behaviour, which strives to account for the totality of ways humans relate to information in their lives (Bates, 2010).

Since the middle of the last century, descriptions of the information–communication chain (a.k.a. information life cycle) have recognized information creation as a concept, but information creation has been little studied within information science (Robinson, 2009). It should be noted that research in other scholarly fields has examined information creation to some extent without using that name; for example, the fields of writing research and drawing research (see the journals Journal of Writing Research and Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice, respectively) explore the creation of what information scientists would refer to as "information artefacts" but generally without reference to the information science literature. This would seem to be a missed opportunity. As Robinson has argued, it is the unique contribution of information science to be able to account for the totality of information–communication chain components, domain analysis approaches and contexts (Bawden and Robinson, 2012; Robinson, 2009; Robinson and Karamuftuoglu, 2010). More recently, this viewpoint has been echoed by Fidel (2012) and Ford (2015). Case and Given (2016), too, after an extensive synthesis of the research in information behaviour, declare:

Despite an effort to examine the fuller context of information behaviour, much of the research still comes down to "who or what do people consult for advice?" This is an old question within the information needs, uses, and seeking literature that continues to dominate the discussion of findings. (Case and Given, 2016: 346)

Based on this, there seems to be ample room for research on the creation and use components of the information–communication chain (Ford, 2015; Robson and Robinson, 2013).

However, clarification is still needed, as some research into information creation has been subsumed under the label "information use." This is problematic, as Jarkko Kari (2010) points out, because this label is used for a panoply of activities, including information practices, search, processing, creation, application and more. For clarity, Kari (2007, 2011) proposes the concepts of "outcomes of information seeking" and "outcomes of information," though care must be taken not to confuse these similar terms. In the present paper, I will not engage with "information use" as such; I focus on information creation, simply noting that aspects of information creation have been hidden within earlier conceptualizations of information use.

The purpose of this exploratory paper is to lend some clarity to the concept of information creation by exploring how it has been approached, however obliquely, in the information behaviour literature. To offer a preliminary definition, I take information creation to be when a person applies some information to create new information. Here "information" should be understood to be material, cognitive and social (Buckland, 1991). However tautological this preliminary definition may seem, it emphasizes that information creation does not occur ex nihilo. Thus, to use Kari's terms, information creation involves both outcomes of information seeking—to include relevance judgment, internalization or engagement with information-as-thing, and outcomes of information (Kari, 2007)—and outcomes of information, which can be cognitive, affective, social, functional and/or autonomous (Kari, 2011).

The research to date in information creation has led to a number of theoretical models seeking to account for it. The most explicit of these is Koh's (2013) model of information creation. A shortcoming of this model is that it was developed in isolation from other models of information behaviour, and thus there is not a strong link to information seeking. There are a number of other information-behaviour models that address information creation tangentially or implicitly, such as Wilson's (2010) model of information sharing, Robson and Robinson's (2013) model linking information seeking to communication, and Lund's (2004, 2009) model of documentation. Additionally, there are a few classic models of information behaviour that do address information creation to some extent, such as the models of Leckie et al. (1996) and Hektor (2001). These strands of research have been largely disconnected; for instance, research using the term "information-creating behaviour" does not seem to engage with research using the term "information creation," and Lund's theory of documentation does not engage with theory in information behaviour.

In this paper, I seek to begin to synthesize this work. I will first detail the models described in the previous paragraph for their relevance to the issue of information creation, identifying points of tangent as opportunities for synthesis (e.g., where one model directly addresses shortcomings or gaps in another). I will then consider these diverse models in describing a concrete case of information creation: the work of fine artists, which presents a ripe testbed for theorizing information creation. This discussion is developed through a close reading of the doctoral dissertation of Tonyia Tidline (2003), which presented a narrative Sense-Making study of the information creation (though Tidline did not use this term) of artists. Tidline's chief concern was to demonstrate that art is indeed informative; her admirable work was never published outside her dissertation, but it deserves further attention in light of the unfolding current of research in contemporary information behaviour and information creation.

The notion that art is information may be anywhere from self-evident to outrageously impossible, depending on one's orientation both to art and information. Therefore, I would add a note of clarification. For my purposes, to say that something "is information" is to say that it can be considered informative, i.e. conceptualized as information. To conceptualize something is to bring forward certain of its aspects. Here I follow Floridi's (2011) definition of "information" as diaphoric data that is meaningful, well-formed and true. Thus, to conceptualize something as information is to show: how it has perceptible form (i.e., it is diaphoric data; see Floridi, 2011); how it allows an agent to move forward in their situation (i.e., it is meaningful; see Johnson, 2007); how it can be analysed within a particular syntax and semantics (i.e., it is well-formed; see Goodman, 1976); and how it exemplifies some aspect of reality to contribute to human understanding (i.e., it is true; see Elgin, 2017). It is beyond the scope of this paper to enter into a detailed discussion of these issues; for now, I would simply note that "information" can be much deeper and more complex than how it has traditionally been considered in information science, perhaps because of the field's roots in scientific communication (see Rayward, 1983), and consequently there can be more to information creation than at first might appear. To call art "information" is not to impoverish art; on the contrary, it is to rightly acknowledge it as epistemically-relevant material. The interested reader can refer to my other writings on the topic (Gorichanaz, 2017a, 2017b) and those of other scholars (see Kosciejew, 2017).

The synthesis in this paper moves the field of information behaviour forward in a way that respects its past, integrating the exciting emerging work on information creation with the rich history of information behaviour in general (rather than abandoning it). Previous synthesizing work, such as that by Wilson (1999), has contributed to great advances of clarity in our field. Such clarity should be welcome, as information creation has been identified as a key facet of information literacy that is currently conceptually underdeveloped (Huvila, 2011); and the most recent framework for information literacy developed by the Association of College & Research Libraries (2015) emphasizes the recognition of information creation. This suggests that advances in the understanding of information creation from the perspective of information behaviour can also contribute to information literacy.

Modelling Information Creation

This section reviews a number of models of information behaviour that address, to a greater or lesser extent, information creation. It should be remembered that, as noted above, they generally do not use this term, as the field's interest in information creation is only about a decade old; still, these models are relevant to information creation and should inform future research on the topic. These models were identified through several means: literature searches on the terms "information creation" and "information creating" as well as subsequent chaining, and reading reviews of the information behaviour literature, including Bawden and Robinson (2012), Case and Given (2016), Fidel (2012), Fisher, Erdelez and McKechnie (2005) and Ford (2015) over the course of my years of doctoral study. The only criterion for inclusion was that the model should include, however nominally, reference to information use that may lead to new information—what I am conceptualizing as information creation. This was not a systematic review, and this discussion does not purport to be exhaustive; the models discussed here merely present an initial move toward synthesis that further research can build upon. The models are presented briefly in chronological order. Each subsection offers a brief overview of the model, followed by strengths and weaknesses with reference to accounting for information creation (that is, "strengths" and "weaknesses" should not be interpreted in a broad sense as general critiques).

Leckie, Pettigrew and Sylvain (1996)

The so-called Leckie model is a general model of information behaviour. It was derived from a meta-analysis of the literature on the information seeking of diverse groups of professionals (Leckie et al., 1996). In this model, information seeking results from work tasks, which are formed by work roles and organizational pressures. This model seems to be the first in information behaviour that makes space for outcomes of information—not just seeking and accessing—though the authors do not detail what those outcomes may be. Based on my discussion above, we can surmise that some outcomes involve the creation of new information. In this light, the Leckie model gives the insight that roles and pressures bear on information creation.

Strengths of this model include its application across a variety of settings and its recognition that constraints modulate information behaviour. However, this model does not attempt to offer insight into "outcomes."

Hektor (2001)

Hektor's (2001) model arose through rigorous conceptual and empirical research on everyday information behaviour. It was meant to build upon and synthesize frameworks proposed by prior researchers. In Hektor's model, the individual sits within a particular sociocultural environment and information–communication technology setting. In this environment and setting, the individual goes about life carrying out projects, which entail eight groupings of information activities:

  • Search and retrieve: locating and accessing information in an active and directed way
  • Browse: navigating in an environment with some perceived probability of encountering information of value
  • Monitor: intentionally returning to familiar sources and services on an ongoing basis
  • Unfold: engaging with information in order to take part in it
  • Dress: constructing information to be imparted
  • Exchange: participating in unfolding and dressing in a bidirectional process
  • Instruct: imparting information informally
  • Publish: posting or announcing formally or in public

Stemming from these activities, the individual experiences outcomes and changes, which feed back into their sociocultural environment. This model is among the first to recognize that information behaviour involves the creation of information; information creation here takes the forms of dressing, instructing and publishing. That is, when information is created, it must first be constructed (dressing) and then imparted, either informally (instructing) or formally (publishing).

Strengths of this model include its deep conceptual and empirical grounding, as well as its explicit recognition of information creation. However, it must be remembered that this model was developed some time ago, and these activities may no longer hold up as discretely as they once did. For instance, today's information environment confuses somewhat the distinction between formal and informal imparting; additionally, information today may be imparted even while it is still being dressed.

Shneiderman (2002)

Rooted in education and human–computer interaction, Shneiderman (2002) presents a framework for designing person- and experience-centred technology for social good. Here what Shneiderman calls "design" we can understand as information creation. This framework has four stages:

  • Collect: gathering knowledge, reviewing the literature, exploring
  • Relate: considering how things fit together, working with others
  • Create: making something that extends the current status quo
  • Donate: allowing a creation to be of service; publishing and sharing

Though this framework comes from outside the field of information behaviour, it seems to have synergy with some discussions in information behaviour (Makri & Warwick, 2010). In this framework, "Collect" relates to information seeking and accessing, and "Relate" relates to activities such as Hektor's (2001) "unfold." This framework also shows creation as an outcome of these activities: the designer creates something (an information artefact) that extends the state-of-the-art and also allows that creation to be of service to others.

Strengths of this model are its simplicity and its emphasis on how created information and technology can have ends outside themselves. However, this model is not strictly related to the information behaviour research.

Lund (2004)

In the field of media and documentation studies, Lund (2004) has developed a model for analysing how documents are created. Though the precise relationship of media and documentation studies to information behaviour remains ambiguous, at the very least the fields share a long history of alliance and co-learning (Lund, 2009). On Lund's account, documentation is the creation of a document, and thus documentation can be considered a particular conceptualization of information creation. In Lund's model, documentation entails a producer, a set of instruments (including media) for producing, a mode of using these instruments, and the resulting document. This process unfolds in time and is constrained and enabled by any number of factors, from socioeconomic pressures to individual whims. At all stages, there are three dimensions that can be analysed: physical, mental and social. Lund's model of documentation can be understood as a model of information creation that attends to the physical, social and intellectual aspects of any given information.

A strength of this model is its explicit focus on creation and its recognition of the multidimensionality of information (qua document). However, it is not linked to (other) research in information behaviour.

Makri and Warwick (2010)

In their research on the information behaviour of designers, Makri and Warwick (2010) drew on the earlier work of Ellis (1989). Ellis developed an early model of information-seeking behaviour. This model was originally developed through a study of social scientists and was later extended empirically to other populations and settings (Case and Given, 2016). Today, it is the basis for most research in the information behaviour of designers, as Makri and Warwick contend. Ellis' (1989) original model included six information-seeking behaviours: starting, chaining, browsing, differentiating, monitoring and extracting. Its most recent extension, by Makri and Warwick (2010), also includes outcomes of information, and hence the relevance for information creation. This extended model outlines five high-level behaviours, each of which is associated with a number of actions:

  • Finding: accessing; searching; browsing; encountering; surveying; monitoring; exploring; chaining
  • Assessing: selecting; distinguishing; extracting
  • Interpreting: analysing/synthesizing; visualizing/appropriating; extracting
  • Using: editing; recording
  • Communicating: consulting; sharing/distributing

In this model, the actions of synthesizing, extracting, editing, recording and sharing can be seen as aspects of information creation.

In the context of information creation, strengths of this model are its comprehensiveness, the detail it offers into each information behaviour and its refinement over nearly three decades. A weakness in the context of information creation, however, is that it could be argued that this model does not consider the material (physical) aspects of information creation.

Koh (2013)

Koh (2013) has developed a model of information-creating behaviour based on a study of teens learning computer programming. In this model, Koh sees information creating as an information behaviour along with seeking, using, sharing, etc. The process of creating information begins with a need, and proceeds with a combination of remixing, tinkering and visualizing through the stages of content development, organization and presentation. At the point of presentation, if the creator is not satisfied, they can repeat the process until a satisfactory and shareable information product emerges. Thus, this model clearly and explicitly conceptualizes information creation as such. Here information creation is seen as an iterative process.

Strengths of this model include a detailed look at creation. However, information creation in this model is not linked to an overarching framework of information behaviour except in passing.

Robson and Robinson (2013)

Robson and Robinson (2013) present a model linking information behaviour and mass communication. They recognize that most models in information science focus on information seeking and the information user, while those from the field of communications focus on the communicator and the communication process, and they attempt to integrate these perspectives. This model shows how information is sought and processed and then, on its basis, new information is communicated. Thus, information creation occurs in the way new information is formulated after some other information has been sought and found.

Strengths of this model are its comprehensiveness and the way it builds on other models. However, the resulting model is complex, and with its focus on information creation in the context of mass communication, it is questionable whether it can also apply to the information creation of individuals.

Thomson (2017)

Most recently, Thomson (2017) discusses information creation by drawing on research in psychology on creativity. She introduces to the field of information behaviour the 4C model of creativity developed by Kaufman and Beghetto (2009). This model recognizes four sizes of creativity:

  • Mini-c: Intrapersonal development, seeding, original thoughts
  • Little-c: Everyday creativity, deliberate external expressions
  • Pro-C: Substantial contributions to a field, having expertise
  • Big-C: Eminent creativity, revolutionary, depth of knowledge (and luck), global significance

Thomson offers the insight that acts of information creation can be categorized according to this model; that is, some cases of information creation are bigger than others.

This model offers a cohering structure for a broad literature. However, unlike the other models reviewed here, it is not focused on the processes of information behaviour.

Learning from the Models

As I discussed above, information creation as such is an area of only recent interest in the field of information behaviour. Still, there are tendrils of precedent for research and theory on information creation that date back at least to 1996. Those who have begun investigating information creation have tended to do so without reference to these precedents. Thus, a chief aim of this paper was to point out that these historical examples exist, and to encourage future researchers in information creation to consider how they relate to the ongoing questions in this research area. Here I will briefly consider how each of these models contributes to a bigger picture of information creation.

We have seen that information creation involves a number of activities identified by other authors, such as: dressing (Hektor, 2001); synthesizing, extracting, editing, recording and sharing (Makri & Warwick, 2010); and remixing, tinkering and visualizing (Koh, 2013. These activities, and the models they constitute, were developed for different aims and without reference to each other. Now that the field has turned its attention to information creation, there seems to be room for synthesis and extension among these models. If that is of interest, it is a task for future research. For now, the goal is not to create a new model to subsume all existing models, but rather to clarify the unique contribution of each model in light of the others to the question of information creation.

  • To that end, the following list presents a number of observations about information creation that can be gleaned from the above models:
  • Information creation is part of use, drawing on information that was previously found and synthesized (from Leckie et al., 1996)
  • Constraints and pressures from a person's role and setting affect information creation (from Leckie et al., 1996)
  • Information creation can be instructive and is often publicly disseminated (from Hektor, 2001)
  • Information creation can promote social good (from Shneiderman, 2002)
  • Created information has physical (technological), mental (informational) and social (cultural) aspects (from Lund, 2004)
  • Creating information involves iterative remixing, tinkering and visualizing (from Koh, 2013; cf. Makri and Warwick, 2010)
  • Created information can be communicative (from Robson and Robinson, 2013)
  • Information can be created by companies, not just individuals (from Robson and Robinson, 2013)
  • Created information can reflect bigger or smaller creativity (from Thomson, 2017)

Taken together, these observations offer a richer conceptualization of information creation than what has previously been offered. These models have been using different terminology to look at creation and related concepts. For example, some researchers speak of design, while others speak of communication or documentation. At heart, all these are forms of information creation, which does not seem to have been recognized as of yet. If information creation as a concept is to be of continued interest to researchers in information behaviour, these models should be considered for what they contribute to future research with respect to information creation. That is, research in information creation does not need to start from scratch, but should look to what has already been discovered and established, albeit under different names. For any given study of information creation, perhaps only one of these aspects may be of interest. If using these existing models as they are is of interest, then this suggests that one model or another may be better suited to any particular research question. Indeed, it should be remembered that conceptual models are always teleological in this sense.

As I mentioned earlier in this section, a next step may be to develop and test a single model that can speak to all the above-named aspects of information creation. Already there does seem to be an opportunity for such work; for instance, Lund's (2004) and Koh's (2013) models offer a close look at the creation process itself but they do not make reference to information seeking. On the other hand, Makri and Warwick (2010) offer a detailed framework of information seeking and less detail on creation itself. Given these points of tangent, it seems that the models could be combined. Any work in this regard, it stands to note, should remain attentive to the contexts in and for which these models were originally devised, and they should be tested empirically. Additionally, such work would surely benefit from a more systematic review of the information behaviour literature with respect to models, and it should also seek to incorporate relevant models developed in other fields, as I noted briefly in the introduction.

Further work in this matter is beyond the scope of this paper, but it would seem to be a fruitful avenue to pursue. For now, I will illustrate and exemplify the findings presented in the list above through a discussion of visual art, conceptualized as a site of information creation. Indeed, I suggest that the domain of art is particularly well-suited to exploring information creation. This is demonstrated through a close reading of a single study of the information behaviour of artists (Tidline, 2003) in which all the above-named aspects of information creation are visible.

Visual Art as a Site for Empirical Research in Information Creation

As several scholars have argued, further research is needed in information creation. This will deepen our understanding of information behaviour generally and may thereby lead to improved systems for information provision and education.

I suggest that artwork offers a critical site for further study in the creation of information. Uniquely, artwork presents an opportunity to study nonverbal forms of information which will compel scholars to fortify their conceptualizations of meaning, reference, truth, aboutness and other information-related concepts (for a philosophical account, see Goodman, 1976). Moreover, art unavoidably presents a single locus for the material and the epistemic (Day, 2008; Kosciejew, 2017). Other fields, such as media studies, have recognized art as a form of recorded human knowledge and called for the development of literacies around it (Mirzoeff, 2015). Further research into art from an information perspective has the capacity to bring art back into the realm of everyday experience and practice—off the "experts-only" pedestal on which it currently sits. Indeed, it has been argued that taking art seriously as an epistemic practice may counterbalance some of the negative ethical consequences of modern information technology (Dissanayake, 1992; Dreyfus and Kelly, 2011; Heidegger, 1977).

It is true that artwork has been studied to some extent in information science, as reviewed by Hemmig (2008), but mostly this has been only in terms of information seeking. To be sure, "artwork" encompasses a broad range of human expression. Here I concentrate on so-called fine art, specifically visual fine art, but it should be noted that some research in information science has explored other artistic domains, such as music (see Lavranos, Kostagiolas, Martzoukou and Papadatos, 2015), theatre (e.g., Olsson, 2010) and writing (see Desrochers and Pecoskie, 2015). In general, these works also focus on information seeking rather than creation, but an in-depth analysis is beyond the scope of this paper.

As a case in point, we can look to the doctoral dissertation of Tonyia Tidline (2003), which was the first in information science to explore the creation of art and conceptualize art as information. This narrative Sense-Making study explored the meaning of art for artists, the informational processes at play in the art world, the reception of art in galleries, and the in-situ process of art-making of two fine artists. Tidline's findings "indicate that visual art making involves information and knowledge processes" (Tidline, 2003: 7). Her study had three essential findings: in art, the medium is part of the overall piece's informational qualities; art permits intra- and interpersonal connections for communication and comprehension; and art is as informative as written text, just through a different symbol system.

Given a close reading of Tidline's (2003) work, evidence can be found that art addresses all of the aspects of information creation described above. First, making art is clearly part of a broad web of information behaviours that extend beyond the finished piece of art itself. As Tidline writes of one participant, "The artist did copious research and writing in preparing to explain the mural's purpose to the children in the school ... The painter became involved in a lengthy and frustrating pursuit of copyright to be able to use images from children's stories" (Tidline, 2003: 127). These processes are influenced by certain constraints and pressures; this came up directly in Tidline's study, as access to space and time to do artwork determined what was possible for one of her artist participants (p. 103), and another participant was assigned space where the artwork would be created (p. 71). Tidline discusses the case of a mural being painted in an elementary school, which is instructive and public—"a significant element of the mural story was that she wanted to demonstrate the importance of reading" (Tidline, 2003: 71)—and was conceived as a social good—"the mural was commissioned to commemorate a newborn of one of the teachers in the school" (Tidline, 2003: 71). Throughout all Tidline's examples, the physical, mental and social aspects of art show up as informative. As evidence of the physical, Tidline observed: "The interior & exterior gloss enamel paint the artist had to use for the mural was selected for its durability: it had to look fresh throughout the years" (Tidline, 2003: 84). And the mental: "One artist likes to create things that amuse her and retrieve from memory pleasant childhood events" (Tidline, 2003: 98). And the social: "The sense of community that motivated the watercolor painter to make the elementary school mural also caused her to try really hard to connect the images to the school environment." (Tidline, 2003: 99). The work Tidline describes is iterative and dynamic, which comes up explicitly in the case of the mural artist working on an evolving composition in the planning stages. Again and again, Tidline's work shows that the decisions artists make are meant to be communicative, such as to convey the sense of an experience that the artist had (Tidline, 2003: 85). Finally, it is notable that art can involve bigger and smaller forms of creativity. To this end, one of Tidline's participants speaks poignantly:

I'm talking about art, but I'm also talking about, just the things that we see everyday. ... I think it's really significant to notice those things ... a plant coming out of a crack and that kind of interesting juxtaposition, to the sky and how cloud formations are and things like that. ... Just subtle, little things that it's very easy to miss, but also are just these beautiful, visual moments. And to actually take the time to enjoy that. (Tidline, 2003: 118)

Discussion and Conclusion

This paper has sought to bring some further clarity to the concept of information creation, chiefly through bringing together heretofore-disparate strands of the information science literature. This involved a brief historical and conceptual discussion, followed by a review of a number of models of information behaviour for their relevance to information creation, followed by a brief empirical illustration of this budding conceptualization of information creation through the work of Tidline (2003).

One contribution of the present paper is that it has showcased how a number of models of information behaviour have already addressed different aspects of information creation, though in discussions of information creation itself this does not seem to have been appreciated. Thus, further research into information creation can draw on existing models to shed light on particular aspects of information creation. Which model is "best" depends on the particular aspects of information creation that are of interest to a researcher. To be sure, additional research into particular cases of information creation are needed for further granularity. This may lead to further clarity on the theoretical issues emerging around information creation. For instance, how is information creation distinct from information sharing, communication and knowledge creation? This is but one question that further work could take up. Moreover, additional synthesis and translational research remains to be done; research in various academic disciplines on artistic practice, creativity and design could be brought to bear on this discussion.

Another contribution of this work is to point out that visual art is a fruitful site for further research into information creation. Drawing on the ground-breaking work of Tidline (2003), it is clear that art is informative, and that the activities involved in and surrounding the creation of art showcase the aspects of information creation that have been highlighted in theoretical models of information behaviour. Further research should consider the information behaviour involved in an artistic task from start to finish. This has been explored to some extent in the field of design research (Makri and Warwick, 2010), but this research would benefit from being integrated with the rich tradition of information behaviour. To this end, in another paper I have begun to sketch a framework for thinking of art-making as a kind of documentation (Gorichanaz, 2017b), and this framework can be extended by taking into account the discussion presented here as well as concrete empirical investigations.

Finally, this paper has opened the door for much further work on information creation. As noted in the introduction, there is an important opportunity to connect work on this topic done in information science to allied fields working on this topic, such as writing research and drawing research.


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Information Experience in Personally Meaningful Activities

Gorichanaz, T. (2019). Information experience in personally meaningful activities. Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, 70(12), 1302–1310.

Abstract. Information behavior in activities that are freely chosen has been little explored. This paper conceptualizes personally meaningful activities as a site for information behavior research. Personal meaning is discussed as a necessity for human being. In the information age, there is an ethical directive for developers of information technology to promote and afford personally meaningful activities. This paper builds on discussions of the pleasurable and profound in information science conceptually and empirically. First, it argues for the necessity of phenomenology in these discussions, which heretofore has been mostly absent. Next, it presents results from a qualitative, empirical study on information in personally meaningful activities. The empirical study uses interpretative phenomenological analysis to examine information experience in three domains of personal meaning: Bible reading, ultramarathon running, and art-making. The following themes emerge and are discussed: identity, central practice, curiosity, and presence. Opportunities for technological development and further research are outlined.

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Information Experience in Personally Meaningful Activities

Gorichanaz, T. (2019). Information experience in personally meaningful activities. Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, 70.

Abstract. Information behavior in activities that are freely chosen has been little explored. This paper conceptualizes personally meaningful activities as a site for information behavior research. Personal meaning is discussed as a necessity for human being. In the information age, there is an ethical directive for developers of information technology to promote and afford personally meaningful activities. This paper builds on discussions of the pleasurable and profound in information science conceptually and empirically. First, it argues for the necessity of phenomenology in these discussions, which heretofore has been mostly absent. Next, it presents results from a qualitative, empirical study on information in personally meaningful activities. The empirical study uses interpretative phenomenological analysis to examine information experience in three domains of personal meaning: Bible reading, ultramarathon running, and art-making. The following themes emerge and are discussed: identity, central practice, curiosity, and presence. Opportunities for technological development and further research are outlined.


Oftentimes we engage with information because we have to, not because we want to. Concomitantly, the preponderance of research in information behavior has focused on information activities that people are to a greater or lesser extent compelled to undertake. But what about those activities which are freely chosen?

Friedrich Schiller (1795/2004, p. 80) maintained that "Man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man, and he is only wholly Man when he is playing." Playing here is not being frivolous; rather, it is engaging with the world—discovering personal meaning. These are the sort of activities we live for, to be completely ourselves, and so a complete account of information behavior must contend with them as well. Moreover, the promotion of such activities can be interpreted as an ethical directive, one rooted in the landscape of evolutionary psychology; thus the field of information behavior should be concerned with such information activities if it is to be concerned with ethical action.

In this paper, I attempt a move in that direction. I conceptualize the information activities we choose as personally meaningful information activities, building principally on the landmark paper of Kari and Hartel (2007), "Information and the Higher Things in Life." Crucially, I argue that phenomenology is necessary for this concept to be coherent—that is, we must look at information experience. This discussion grounds a study of three different personally meaningful information activities, from which shared themes emerge.

First, a terminological note. I understand meaning to be coordinating action toward goals, following Floridi (2011). Meaning is thus a property of a system. To speak of human experience, meaning can be described as the way patterns of neural activity "evoke feeling-thinking responses in us" (Johnson, 2007, p. 243). Personal meaning, then, is that meaning which contributes to one's being a person. I understand person, in turn, following Harré (1998, p. 73), to be "a word for a human being as a social and psychological being, as a human organism having a sense of its place among others of its kind, a sense of its own history and beliefs about at least some of its attributes." So personal meaning is found in a situation that contributes to such factors as well-being and uniqueness (Harré, 1998). Though it has not yet, to my knowledge, been discussed in information science, the concept of personal meaning has a significant lineage in psychology and allied fields (Frankl, 1946/2006; Peterson, 1999). Given the central role that information technology plays in modern life, it seems clear that it is a topic of interest to information science as well.

Information Ethics and Personal Meaning

From the perspective of information ethics, one of the purposes of human life is flourishing. This viewpoint can be traced back to Wiener (1954), to say nothing of the philosophical discourse on the matter that predates information ethics or cybernetics. According to Wiener, for human beings to flourish they must be free to engage in creative and flexible actions that allow the fullest realization of their potential as intelligent, decision-making agents. Wiener distills this vision in his great principle for justice, which articulates a need for individual liberty to pursue those aims that one finds personally meaningful. In the psychological framework developed by Baumeister (1991), personal meaning can be described along four dimensions: purpose, efficacy, value and self-worth. The pursuit of personal meaning, to be sure, relies on information access, processing and understanding, as well as a particular experiential dimension of information activities.

Some may hope for a utopia where people are free to do only that which they find personally meaningful. Others, surely, would caution that the very idea of utopia is incoherent. Regardless, it seems to be the case that today many people spend much of their lives engaged in information activities that they do not find personally meaningful. Mills (1953), for example, identified a trend toward the meaninglessness of work in American society, particularly as it became more information-based: less and less were people allowed to decide for themselves what to do at work and how to do it. For Mills, this led to the separation of work from everyday life. In this world people are "working for the weekend," as the pop song goes. This split endures even today, as we tend to conceptually separate work from everyday life; in our field, this is visible in the discourse on everyday life information activities, which are distinguished from those related to work (see Savolainen, 1995).

Mills (1953) suggests that work can be made more personally meaningful if it can be infused with a craft ethic. In Mills' time, such an ethic already characterized the work of a privileged few, such as intellectuals and artists; decades later, Csikszentmihalyi (1975/2000) would show this in his research on flow experiences, which challenged the separation between "work" and "play" in many domains. Hammell (2004), in the field of occupational therapy, concurs that it is possible for a person's occupation to contribute to personal meaning and quality of life, even though research has tended to emphasize only how occupations meet extrinsic needs (e.g., monetary success). On Mills' view, however, this craft ethic should be made much more broadly accessible. Csikszentmihalyi, Hammell and Wiener would seem to agree. Thus, in reaching for a more ethical information society, we should seek to infuse more of our information activities with deeper personal meaning. This requires understanding better what makes some information activities personally meaningful.

To this end, Dreyfus and Kelly (2011) discuss how personal meaning can be cultivated. Finding meaning, in their view, is a matter of nurturing the skill for encountering the sacred in the world. They invoke the Greek concept of poiesis—craft, or "making," though not in the sense of techne—which entails both passive and active components: passively, poiesis denotes being receptive to what is given in the world; actively, it involves the trained judgment of decision-making. Dreyfus and Kelly argue that opportunities for poiesis abound, even in what may seem to be drudgery, and that seizing them is our prerogative. As an example, they describe the making of one's morning coffee. As an everyday task, relegated by many to Mr. Coffee or Starbucks, making coffee could easily be mindless and meaningless. But, with poietic attention—that is, with a craft ethic—making coffee could alternatively be a site for personal meaning: selecting particular beans, grinding them in a certain way, preparing the coffee in a distinct manner, etc., all offer opportunities for poiesis both passive and active. Then, drinking the coffee presents another host of opportunities: sitting in a comfortable place and manner, using a special vessel, savoring the aroma, appreciating the color, etc. Conceptually, what can make coffee (or anything) a site for poiesis is a person's learning to make distinctions that matter to them:

When one has learned these skills and cultivated one's environment so that it is precisely suited to them, then one has a ritual rather than a routine, a meaningful celebration of oneself and one's environment rather than a generic and meaningless performance of function. (Dreyfus & Kelly, 2011, pp. 218–219)

Thus personal meaning can emerge from the craft ethic: applying a particular mindset to a task at hand. This can be applied even to work, which may otherwise be devoid of personal meaning. Recently, in a book on business productivity for a general audience, Newport (2016) describes how a craft ethic can be applied to mastering a wide variety of skills through deliberate practice and focused "deep work," which improves one's sense of personal meaning.

If this can be accomplished, then people would be able to develop their selves in a more integrated way. This constitutes a move toward self-care, which is an important ethical directive in the information society (see Capurro, 2000; Floridi, 2013; Foucault, 1988). This is not a solipsistic or egotistical claim; rather, it is the recognition that without a good self, good work for others is not possible, as formulated in the Christian maxim to remove the log from your own eye before fussing over the speck in your brother's (Matt. 7:5), as well as the airline injunction to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others; it is the recognition that all beings are connected (in an ontic trust; see Floridi, 2013), but that certain actions must be directed by agents toward themselves for the subsequent betterment of all. As an aside, it may be worth noting that this idea has footing in many philosophical schools besides information ethics, such as (to name a few) in the spiritual exercises of antiquity (Hadot, 1995), transcendentalism (Cafaro, 2004), and recent synthesizing work by Wright (2016).

Personal Meaning and Information Behavior

Starting with the Pleasurable and Profound

Kari and Hartel (2007) identified that information activities occur in contexts that can be categorized as lower and higher. Lower contexts include everyday life (in the sense of "going with the flow") and problem solving, and they are neutral or negative in nature. Higher contexts include pleasurable and profound activities; they "are the special 'ingredients' that make human life meaningful, shape our very identity, and give us the reason to live in the first place" (Kari & Hartel, 2007, p. 1133). According to Kari and Hartel, information science has historically been preoccupied with investigating information in the lower contexts to the exclusion of the higher ones. Kari and Hartel aim to stoke research on information in the higher things. As part of their conceptual analysis, they present a number of themes they find to be characteristic of higher-context activities, including internal motivation, achievement, projects, meaning, and interest.

Kari and Hartel (2007) recognize that "there is in all likelihood nothing inherently higher or lower about information as such. Rather, its 'height' is determined by its content, source, channel, and context" (p. 1139). They do not go into detail on how these factors contribute to "height," but they do offer an illustration that "from an objective vantage" (p. 1140) would seem to be lower-context information, but which could in fact be higher-context if the person "circulates the message of his own accord, as a part of his life mission" (p. 1140).

The Role of Phenomenology

What Kari and Hartel (2007) thus imply but do not name explicitly is that the "height" of information is a phenomenological description. That is, it must be understood from the first-person perspective of the agent beholding that information, taking into account their lived situation. In other words, it is an experiential description. To take Kari and Hartel's work further, the phenomenological aspects of their theory should be brought to the fore and further developed. This can bring clarity to how information and knowledge can be keys to a better life (on this point they cite Nicholson, 2002), which Kari and Hartel say is not understood well.

At the time of Kari and Hartel's writing, there was not a very strong tradition of phenomenology in information science (much less information behavior) research. This is not to overlook the early conceptual work by scholars such as Budd (1995, 2005), but simply to point out that it had not yet percolated into the broader consciousness of the information science research community. In the past decade, there has been a smattering of phenomenological information research, and interest in the metatheory seems to be increasing. A panel at the 2016 installment of the Conceptions of Library and Information Science conference (Vamanu, Gorichanaz, Latham & Suorsa, 2016) brought together some of the literature on the topic in grounding a discussion meant to foment further phenomenological research. It is beyond the scope of this article to survey all this research; it should be noted, simply, that the contribution of phenomenology to information science has long been overlooked by the majority, and that this is beginning to be recognized. This article contributes to this current of understanding.

Conceptualizing Personally Meaningful Information Activities

Based on the discussion so far, we can define personally meaningful information activities as those information activities that a person carries out freely and for their own purposes, and which reinforce the person's senses of efficacy, value and self-worth. Given that Kari and Hartel (2007) bisected the higher contexts into the pleasurable and profound, we might ask how these two concepts relate to personal meaning. It seems to me that all higher contexts are personally meaningful, and thus "personally meaningful information" could be equated with "higher information." Profound and pleasurable are certainly descriptors of some personally meaningful activities. An activity could be profound without being pleasurable, but probably not without being personally meaningful (e.g., grieving); an activity could be pleasurable without being personally meaningful or profound (e.g., pure hedonism); and an activity could be personally meaningful without being pleasurable (e.g., extreme physical exertion) or profound (e.g., a small activity, such as deciding to buy a handmade notebook rather than a mass-produced one). Thus we find ourselves with a conceptual scheme such as that in Figure 1. This shows that Kari and Hartel (2007) did identify a sweet spot in looking at the overlap of the pleasurable and profound. However, it also suggests that there may be additional concepts within the umbrella of personally meaningful that are waiting to be uncovered. In my view, this uncovering will require further research using phenomenology. This paper is a start.

Figure 1. Relationship of the concepts of personally meaningful, profound and pleasurable.

One might ask how this discussion relates to other categories of information behavior, such as leisure. Recall that personal meaning is a phenomenological description. Over the past several decades, the view of information science as a social science has predominated (Buckland, 2012). Concomitantly, many concepts in information science can be understood as sociological descriptions; leisure, and specifically the serious leisure perspective, are examples. For example, Hartel (2014) outlines possibilities for information research in the liberal arts hobbies (forms of serious leisure) taking a social perspective.

A Review of the Literature

To be sure, there is a large body of research examining what amounts to personally meaningful information activities from a sociological perspective, though these studies have not yet been theorized in that way. Studies of information in liberal arts hobbies fit that description (see Hartel, 2014). That research will not be reviewed here. Rather, I focus on the smaller body of research that does recognize to some extent the phenomenological nature of personally meaningful information activities.

First, at least two other scholars have voiced the need for phenomenology in this research area. Kari (2007) is one, who, in a review of the literature on spirituality and information, finds that identifying "the spiritual" in information has a defining experiential aspect, though he does not explicitly connect this to phenomenology. Keilty (2012) does. In an essay on browsing for online pornography, Keilty remarks that other research has ignored embodiment and desire—indeed, the lion's share of subjective experience—as aspects of information behavior. Keilty seeks to remedy that by bringing phenomenology into the discussion.

Some other research has been attuned phenomenologically to these questions, with varying degrees of metatheoretical reflection. Some of this research has focused on information seeking, while some of it has shed light on the outcomes of information seeking. To speak first of seeking, Ross' (1999) study on book selection for pleasure reading certainly bears mentioning. While her study did include some sociological aspects, she found that people choose books based on experiences they desire, and that processes of browsing, monitoring and serendipity play into their discovering new books. Frank (1999) found that visual artists, too, emphasize browsing in their information seeking, and Mougenot et al. (2008) likewise describe the information seeking of designers through personally-curated sets of information sources as they look for certain moods (which, it bears mentioning, may not be articulable as a text query). In a different vein, Clemens and Cushing (2010) present two studies on information seeking in \"situations involving personal crisis, legal barriers to information, social stigma and/or significant life-long impact\" (p. 9). Specifically, they look at mothers who relinquished a child for adoption in one study and the offspring of sperm donors in a second study. It should be noted that, though the information seeking in these studies is personally meaningful, it is not necessarily pleasurable. Indeed, their results seem to show the negative aspects of these situations, perhaps because of the social stigma and secrecy involved. Clemens and Cushing find that existing models of everyday life information seeking do not capture the particularities of these experiences—unfamiliarity, isolation and other emotions, and the pursuant coping strategies—but they do not yet venture to offer a constructive model.

For research on the outcomes of information seeking in personally meaningful contexts, we can first return to Ross' (1999) study. In addition to examining how readers select books, Ross looked at people's experiences of being transformed by books. Ross found that books awaken new perspectives, model an art of life, offer solace and connection, etc. Moreover, she found that the practice of reading over the course of a lifetime shapes one's self. In another study of engaging with information-as-thing, Latham (2009) studied numinous experiences with museum objects, uncovering themes: unity of the moment, object link, being transported and connections beyond the self. To speak of other outcomes of information, Sköld (2015) presents a study of memory practices in an online gaming community, wherein people share screen captures from their game and associated stories as modes of reminiscing and constructing knowledge. Finally, Tinto and Ruthven (2016) give an example regarding information sharing; they explored the methods and factors of sharing so-called happy information (i.e., that which creates a sense of happiness when shared). Though these practices are rooted in pleasure, which is at risk of being classified as mere hedonism, Tinto and Ruthven discuss how sharing happy information can enhance human relationships, and be shared with that intent, thus constituting deeper personal meaning than at first may appear.

Research Question

As we have seen, there has been some research in personally meaningful information activities taking the phenomenological perspective. However, this research has not yet led to the theorization of personally meaningful information activities as such. That is, these empirical results have not yet led to any greater findings. As an illustration, we can look to the paper by Clemens and Cushing (2010), in which the findings from the two studies are discussed separately even though they are, in my view, mutually relevant. This seems to be a missed opportunity. (They should not be faulted, however, as only so much can be done in an exploratory conference paper.) A next step, then, in this research trajectory, is to discover how we can understand the results from all these studies together. In keeping with the necessary phenomenological position, in this study I pose the research question: How do people experience information in personally meaningful activities?


For the past several years, I have been engaged in research on diverse domains of personal meaning. I conducted one study on Bible reading among Catholics (Gorichanaz, 2016), another on hobbyist ultra-distance running (Gorichanaz, 2017), and another on visual artists' self-portraiture (Gorichanaz, 2018). These studies were conducted, analyzed and published separately, furnishing empirical findings on each of these domains. In light of the discussion so far in this paper, however, there is an opportunity to understand these three studies together as types of personally meaningful information activities. Thus, in this study, I analyze anew the empirical material collected over the years under a single research question.

This study uses interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), an empirical, phenomenological methodology designed for understanding particular experiences (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009). IPA has been used by many scholars in information science to address a variety of experience-related questions (see VanScoy & Evenstad, 2015). IPA seeks to value each individual participant's experience while also drawing out characteristics that are shared across participants. In general, IPA studies are guided by research questions but not pre-established theories; through inductive and abductive reasoning, a theory (typically descriptive) is devised through interpretation from the empirical material in light of the research question. This theory generally takes the form of a number of themes that are explicated and linked together through narrative.

In my study, as is typical of IPA, empirical material was gathered through semi-structured interviews with individual participants. I transcribed these interviews and then open-coded each one for emergent themes that characterize the experience. I did so with each interview. Then, I considered how each individual's experience does and does not commensurate with that of the group. Pursuant to IPA, I iterated between the group and the individuals, allowing themes to coalesce and emerge. Generally, IPA studies involve only one group of participants. This one, however, has three groups, and so my analysis involved an additional stage of comparing the findings from each group to those of all the participants together (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Participants and groupings.

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The full details regarding recruitment and the participants can be found in my prior publications (Gorichanaz, 2016, 2017, 2018), so here I will give only a brief overview. The first group, Bible readers, was comprised of 6 individuals in Philadelphia who identified as Catholic; there were 2 men and 4 women, ranging in age from their mid-20s to 60s. The second group, ultra-distance runners, was comprised of 5 individuals who participated in a 100-mile footrace that took place in Wisconsin in 2016; there were 3 men and 2 women, ranging in age from their 20s to 50s. The third group, visual artists, was comprised of 7 individuals in Philadelphia who identified as artists; there were 2 men and 5 women, ranging in age from 18 to 65. Thus, all said, this study included 18 individuals. IPA studies vary greatly in their sample sizes; the mean sample size is reportedly 15 participants (Reid, Flowers & Larkin, 2005), though Smith et al. (2009) mention that a group of 3–6 is sufficient for drawing out meaningful findings and emphasize that the value of even single-case studies should not be overlooked. In the present study, the participants in the first (Bible reading) group were given pseudonyms inspired by herbs; those in the second (ultrarunning) group were given pseudonyms inspired by the Trojan War; and those in the third (self-portraiture) group elected to use their real names.

The empirical material in this study come from the interviews I conducted with these participants. The interviews with the first group centered around the last time the individual read the Bible; those in the second group centered around the last 100-mile race the individual took part in; those in the third group centered around the self-portrait the individual created as part of my study; in all cases, the interview also touched on more general matters of information behavior (spanning needs, seeking and use) regarding the Bible, running and art, respectively.


The findings from this study take the form of themes that characterize the experience of information in personally meaningful activities. The themes are: identity, central practice, curiosity and presence. Here I present these themes along with some illustrative quotations from the participants.

In this paper I will focus on themes that were shared among all or most of the participants, though they certainly manifested in slightly different ways across groups and even from participant to participant within a single group. This contrasts with typical IPA studies, which generally give equal attention to the particularities of each case and those aspects of participants' experiences that don't fit into the themes. I take this approach because the goal of this paper is to draw lessons for personally meaningful information activities as such, taking a step back from the idiosyncrasies of each case. More detailed findings can be found in my prior individual publications on these topics.

Identity ——–

In all cases, the information activities were experienced as part of the person's identity. That is, doing these activities was inextricable from who the person is. Concomitantly, the information involved is part of what makes up that person.

It should be noted that personal identity here can be more granular than group identity. For instance, though the Bible readers all identified as members of the community of Catholics, their reading of the Bible was experienced as a matter of one-to-one engagement with God. Indeed, most of the participants expressed that Bible reading is not a typical activity for Catholics.

Another note of interest is that in most cases, the activity was not part of the person's identity for their whole life; rather, it is something that they discovered at some point and cultivated as a personally meaningful activity to the extent that it now forms part of their self-concept. Helen's account of running illustrates this poignantly:

I started running about 7 years ago, just to get out of the house, really. I had two little children, and I was pushing them in the stroller and just trying to get some space in my head to think. I always noticed I was pushing them as fast as I could, and then I just started gradually running. It just grew. You think you can't do it, and you start running from one sign to the next, and then you enter a race.

Helen, like the other runners, described her trajectory in terms of taking on progressively greater challenges. Similarly, the Bible readers conceptualized their practice as "a journey." For the artists, this journey was a matter of developing their personal style through deliberate practice and experimentation.

Central Practice —————-

The information activities in this study involved a central practice along with a number of periphery activities that supported or enhanced it. Bible readers, for example, not only read the Bible, but also read commentaries and meditations on particular passages and also conduct searches for additional information (e.g., historical context). Runners not only run races and training runs, but also read race reports and magazines, engage in social media discussions, and research new products to support their running. Artists not only create particular artworks, but also doodle, read widely and monitor social media for inspiration.

These periphery practices come to bear on the central practice, sometimes in unexpected ways. For example, during the months when Justin was working on his self-portrait, a photographer visited his studio for a photo shoot, and soon after he went on a hiking trip to Colorado to experience the full solar eclipse. These events unexpectedly affected his self-portrait. As he explains:

It took me a while since our initial meeting to formulate what I wanted to do. I sat on it for a while, just thinking. I would say months and months of thought went into the initial concept of it. The length of time from concept to finish even then was a few months. I was putting—not pressure, but... I took this trip to Colorado, and then these photoshoots, seemed to motivate me to finish it while I had this idea of who I am and what I'm trying to do, if that makes any sense. That pushed it over the edge for me to really finish it, because it was very fresh, my point of view of myself was so fresh, and the artwork showed. Like it went from slow concept build to the attempts and once those photoshoots happened and this trip I took that seemed to be very important to me, as soon as I got back it was done within that week. [...] It gave me the confidence as an artist and to achieve my goal. I had a goal to climb that mountain, and I achieved it. And that gave me the confidence to trust my instincts on it and use what I did, and have the confidence that it was gonna be fine and that I was gonna be satisfied with it. [...] And the perception of it, I was concerned about the perception of how other people would look at it and see me as, but once that trip happened, that went away, if that makes sense.

This demonstrates that, though these information activities can be analytically isolated and conceptualized, they are always playing out in the lifeworld, and they can be enriched, challenged, replaced, etc., by other goings-on. To speak of replacement, Emily's account provides a good example; she began her self-portrait as a photographic collage, but as the months passed she left photography behind and moved to oil painting. Her painting was restarted many times, and she stopped to work on other paintings throughout the process as inspiration struck her.

Curiosity ———

All the participants were guided in their information activities by curiosity. This is not curiosity in Heidegger's (1927/2010) sense of curiosity as "lust for the new," but rather a focused curiosity, wherein the participants let themselves wander with respect to a particular topic or question. This involved regularly monitoring certain information sources, ranging from Facebook and Pinterest to daily devotional texts, and seeking further information on topics that sparked the person's interest. Oftentimes this was a matter of being open to engaging with the information that is already tacit in the person's lived experience. This is an openness to being informed, or in-formed. This was conceptualized in various ways; for instance, the artists talked about this as finding inspiration, whereas the Bible readers talked about it as being guided by God. As Willow put it:

I always think the Lord leads you, because you'll read something, and He leads you to that, and then you start investigating, and you read more, and you go deeper and deeper ... And it takes you to another scripture ... It's like a little journey.

Following one's curiosity in these personally meaningful activities led to a personal progression which was, generally, transparent to the person. The Bible readers described their engagement with the Bible as central to their "journey" in life. All my participants in the Bible study were born and raised Catholic, but they went through periods of little interest in religion, typically beginning in the teenage years and lasting for a decade. In their case, their journey seems to be a matter of blooming faith; within this, participants cultivated an appreciation for the ritual, a deeper relationship with God, and inner peace. For the ultrarunners, this progression took the form of continually growing challenges. As an ultrarunner grows in their athletic career, they typically pursue longer races, faster times, and/or new settings.

Nestor described this well in his interview:

I definitely want to continue reaching higher and higher. There is a quote that really resonated with me, and I've got it posted on my wall at home. It's from that book Born to Run, and there's a section in it that says, "Why the hell would you run a 100 mile race?" and the guy's response was, "Why does anybody ever climb Everest? It's because it's there." So the quote on my wall is "Because it's there." I'm here right now. So what else can my body do? What's actually possible? How far can I push myself? What are my actual limits? Continuing to find those and continuing to improve. What am I absolutely capable of?

As for the artists, their progression entailed developing and exploring their personal style, gaining skill with their chosen media, and trying new techniques and materials. For the professional artists, an important part of their progression was becoming financially independent as artists.

Of course, this progression is not a journey in the sense of having had a destination predetermined from the outset. Rather, it is a cumulating response at every juncture, taking into account where one has already been and the present situation. The trajectory can only be seen in hindsight; as Kierkegaard wrote in one of his journals, \"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

Presence ——–

Finally, all the participants expressed that presence is an essential aspect of their personally meaningful activities. Indeed, they made choices with regard to information technology that encouraged them or helped them to be more engaged in the present experience. For example, the Bible readers described conscientiously using print versions of the Bible when their goal was meditation and prayer, whereas a digital version may suffice if they were, say, looking for the wording of a particular passage. Jasmine said:

The biggest difference with me is when I'm sitting there with the hard copy and it's in my private time with the Lord, I feel much more relaxed. Much more like we're there together. When I'm on this thing [gesturing to her phone], it's like, "Okay, be quick." I get distracted easily. If I'm on the computer at work, say, and we're talking, and I say, "Wait, wait, let me look that up." But then, "Okay, wait, I gotta get this," and, "Oh, yeah, can I help you?" When I'm there with the hard Bible ... it's just me and Him. I don't find it so on the electronics. I'm distracted more easily.

The runners, too, made judicious use of technology so as to enhance their running experience with respect to their goals. Today, there are any number of gadgets available for runners' self-tracking of heart rate, cadence, speed, distance, altitude, etc., and for listening to music, podcasts or other programming, all of which modulate the running experience. The ways in which the various gadgets constrain or afford presence seem, to some extent, to be personal. For instance, Ajax expressed that any technology was a distraction and he prefers to "run by feel," whereas Nestor and Odysseus found that using a heart rate monitor helped them stay attuned to their body and remain more present. Both Nestor and Odysseus contrasted the heart rate monitor with GPS tracking, which they found to be a distraction. As Odysseus said:

I don't find a GPS to be helpful because I'm much more in tune with how I feel. If I had a GPS and I start paying attention to my GPS splits, I find it much harder to maintain an appropriate pace and much easier to overdo it, because I want to hit that 8-minute mile here and maintain it when my body is telling me don't do that.

As for the artists, they seemed to choose materials and work situations that helped them be more present in their art-making. In some cases they carved out time from their daily schedules in order to make art, and they did so in places where they wouldn't be interrupted. Again, these decisions are personal. Brianna, for instance, found that she was most productive in art-making late at night in her home studio, where and when she wouldn't be bothered by other people or be distracted by other obligations later in the day. Emily specifically described her artistic practice as "very slow and meditative," by choice. For her and the other participants from all three groups, the personally meaningful activity was seen as a respite from the rest of daily life.

Discussion and Conclusion

This study has conceptualized personally meaningful information activities and presented an investigation into some of their phenomenological themes. As I have described in the previous section, personally meaningful activities play a role in a person\'s development of their identity, or self-concept. This identity coheres over time, through a personal progression which is guided by a focused form of curiosity, which continually brings new elements into a central practice. This central practice is characterized by by presence. Thus we can see how these themes are linked together and overlap, though they were analytically separated for the purposes of presenting the findings.

Though, as I have discussed in the literature review, personally meaningful information activities have not yet been conceptualized or investigated as such, there has been some relevant research, and the present study seems to corroborate those findings while also bringing them into context around the concept of personally meaningful information. Ross (1999), for example, found a form of focused curiosity in her readers. As Ross says, readers are open to their environment for new reading possibilities and connections, and some reading material contributed to one's sense of identity. On the note of identity, Clemens and Cushing (2010) found that information sought in emotional and personal situations comes to be part of one's identity. As their participant Kate said, "I'm searching for answers in my own identity" (Clemens & Cushing, 2010, p. 9). Considered from a more general philosophical perspective, this demonstrates Floridi's (2013) assertion that you are your information. Additionally, the theme of presence seems to have surfaced in Latham's (2009) study of numinous experiences in museums as her theme of unity of the moment. As she indicates, there is more to presence than just the present moment; presence is the experience that the past, present and future are coextensive and in harmony. In my study, this is perhaps best seen in the art-making experience of Brian, who, in a meditative state, conjured memories from the past, processed them, and brought them forward materially into his artwork, bringing him to his next move.

In addition to conceptualizing personally meaningful information activities, this study contributes to information behavior theory more generally. Like some other studies, it presents a challenge to the idea that information seeking is necessarily problematic and negative (see Kari & Hartel, 2007). However, this study also complicates dualistic discussions of emotional valence. It is tempting to think in terms of positive and negative: good/bad, happy/sad, etc. Recognizing the concept of meaningfulness in information behavior is a reminder that lived situations are not that simple. It is in this vein that Baumeister (2005) differentiates meaning from happiness; having personal meaning does not necessarily entail happiness. A quotation from filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki illustrates this well: "I don't ever feel happy in my daily life. Really, isn't that how it is? How could that ever be our ultimate goal? Filmmaking only brings suffering. I can't believe I actually want to do another one" (Kawakami & Sunada, 2013).

All this has a number of implications for technology. Tacitly, we seem to assume that technology should make things easier for people. As I have written previously on the topic of building understanding, this may not always be for the best (Gorichanaz, 2016). Just as with building understanding, it may turn out to be necessary to slow down and undergo struggle to cultivate deep personal meaning. If meaning is truly an essential aspect of human life, as many thinkers contend, then technologists should engage with the question of how particular technological interventions contribute to or detract from opportunities for meaning. Indeed, meaning is not a given, but something that is consciously cultivated. We are beginning to see effects of technologies that ignore the essential nature of meaning. For example, a psychological study by Verduyn et al. (2015) suggests that aimlessly browsing social media undermines well-being; in the context of my discussion here, this is because the aimless activity is meaningless. In contrast, finding meaning in one's life has been associated with positive well-being (Zika & Chamberlain, 1992). More recent research has, moreover, supported the hypothesis that personal meaning indeed leads to positive well-being (García–Alandete, 2015). We have seen that personal meaning is somewhat idiosyncratic; however, it is not totally random and inscrutable. The themes of identity, central and peripheral practice, curiosity and presence described in this paper provide a locus for developing technologies that encourage the cultivation of meaning.

The findings of this study also set the stage for further research. Van Manen (2014, p. 29) reminds us that "Phenomenology is primarily a philosophic method for questioning, not a method for answering or discovering or drawing determinate conclusions." That is, the present study is valuable insomuch as it sparks further research questions. Future research should explore other sorts of personally meaningful information activities in a continued attempt to discern what it is about them that makes them so. Additionally, research can look more deeply at particular aspects of information behavior (e.g., seeking) or particular slices of information practices for a more granular look, whereas this study has cast a wide net for understanding.


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Lifeworld as "Unit of Analysis"

Gorichanaz, T. (2017). Lifeworld as "unit of analysis.". Journal of Documentation, 74(4), 880–893.

Abstract. Purpose: We discuss the lifeworld as a research concept for the field of information behaviour, which serves to problematize the concept of unit of analysis. In so doing, we demonstrate how the lifeworld can be adopted as a unit of analysis in information behaviour research---that is, how research can be based in the lifeworld rather than merely looking at the lifeworld. Design/methodology/approach: We first situate our discussion in the current of information behaviour scholarship. We then introduce the concepts of lifeworld and unit of analysis and consider how they intersect. Next, to show the importance of the lifeworld, we present two recent studies in which the lifeworld emerged. Finally, we discuss how lifeworld-based research can be conducted more conscientiously. Findings: Though many research approaches deal with lived experience in one way or another, they tend not to fully grasp these experiences. As opposed to units of analysis such as individual, social group, person-in-situation, etc., using lifeworld as a unit of analysis allows phenomena to be researched holistically and without reductionism. Research limitations/implications: We limit our discussion to the concept of the lifeworld as developed by Husserl, the concept's originator. The lifeworld has been discussed and extended by other authors since, but this work is not considered here. Our viewpoint is offered as a supplementary perspective, meant to be enriching to our field of study, rather than divisive. Originality/value: This is the first time the concept of the lifeworld has been fully explicated in information science. As we discuss, two recent information behaviour studies that "discovered" the lifeworld through their analysis. Future studies that attend to the lifeworld from the start have the capacity to build on this work and extend the horizons of information science.

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Applied Epistemology and Understanding in Information Studies

Gorichanaz, T. (2017). Applied epistemology and understanding in information studies. Information Research, 22(4), paper 776.

Abstract. Introduction: Applied epistemology allows information studies to benefit from developments in philosophy. In information studies, epistemic concepts are rarely considered in detail. This paper offers a review of several epistemic concepts, focusing on understanding, as a call for further work in applied epistemology in information studies. Method: A hermeneutic literature review was conducted on epistemic concepts in information studies and philosophy. Relevant research was retrieved and reviewed iteratively as the research area was refined. Analysis: A conceptual analysis was conducted to determine the nature and relationships of the concepts surveyed, with an eye toward synthesizing conceptualizations of understanding and opening future research directions. Results: The epistemic aim of understanding is emerging as a key research frontier for information studies. Two modes of understanding (hermeneutic and epistemological) were brought into a common framework. Conclusions: Research on the concept of understanding in information studies will further naturalistic information research and provide coherence to several strands of philosophic thought.

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Collaborative Connections: Designing Library Services for the Urban Poor

Turner, D., and Gorichanaz, T. (2018). Collaborative connections: Designing library services for the urban poor. The Library Quarterly, 88(3), 237–255.


In response to the increasing predominance of online information, urban public libraries have effected many changes, such as redesigning their interiors to add more computer stations and revamping their reference and instruction services to provide technology support. At the same time, library staffing and service hours have been reduced. Library users continue to have access to expert assistance, but this is increasingly only available via self-service and online resources. Though these changes have met the needs of many library users, research over the past forty years maintains that significant populations prefer to interact with information by talking, and these populations have been disenfranchised by certain changes in the library world. These underserved populations include families in poverty, individuals with disabilities, senior citizens, and residents of all ages unable to access digital library services because of geographic, linguistic, technological and socioeconomic barriers.

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