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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