Gorichanaz, T. (2017). The information of story: The genre and information activities of ultrarunning race reports. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 69(4), 460–474.

Abstract. Purpose: This study explores the "race report" as a document genre in the serious-leisure pursuit of ultrarunning. Despite the sport's largely non-documental nature, race reports stand as an anomaly in their importance. This exploration serves as a springboard to investigate the informativeness of story in human life generally. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative survey of the information behavior of ultrarunners was conducted. The 46 participants were runners in a 100-mile footrace in 2016. Responses were first analyzed through phenomenological theme analysis and then were subjected to a deductive audit using a framework of information activities validated for use in serious leisure pursuits. Findings: Race reports are bound up in information activities across the information--communication chain. Race reports help athletes choose races, prepare for races, pre-experience races, communicate their race experiences, gather new ideas, extend their training and, finally, find entertainment. Research limitations/implications: This discussion of genre is synchronic, largely limited to one moment in time, and its findings were limited in depth by the survey method. Further research should investigate race reports historically (diachronically) and infrastructurally. Originality/value: This work points to symbiosis between genre theory and information behavior theory. It also legitimizes narrative reasoning as a legitimate way of knowing, which has been largely unrecognized in information behavior. Some implications of this for information science and technology are discussed.

Story has long been espoused as an essential facet of humanity---a cultural object, an expression of our cognition. Despite this, information science, which works to support human reasoning and the preservation and access of cultural objects, has scarcely considered story. Part of the reason for this lies in the privilege given to logico-scientific ways of knowing in the scientific pursuits. However, today information science is seeking to broaden its scope and impact to further reaches of humanity, and it is finally beginning to acknowledge the informativeness of story.

In this paper, I seek to highlight this emerging---and important---research thread. I present findings from a qualitative survey of the information behavior of ultrarunners as pertains to a genre of story that ultrarunners tell: the race report. Informed by recent work in information behavior and genre theory, I characterize the race report according to the information activities (Hektor, 2001) across the entire span of the information--communication chain (Robinson, 2009). The findings from this study clear common ground between genre theory and information behavior, pointing toward paths for future research and technology to support human flourishing in a holistic way.


Story and Information Behavior

For as long as humans have been around, we have been telling stories. Story has been a part of every human culture (Agosto, 2001). As Jonathan Gotschall (2012) writes in The Storytelling Animal, our penchant for story sets us apart from other animals. Without story, we couldn't be human.

Indeed, Jerome Bruner (1986) argues humans have two modes of reasoning: the logico-scientific mode of abstract, nomothetic thought; and the narrative mode of concrete, idiographic story. Bruner (1986, p. 17) defines story as an account that deals with the vicissitudes of intention. In philosophy, Sarah Worth (2008) has argued that story affords narrative knowledge; whereas philosophers have long recognized "knowing how" and "knowing that" as forms of knowledge, story uniquely allows for knowledge of what something is like. Though story has long been studied in the humanities, it has been underprivileged---or even unrecognized---in the sciences. Bruner (1991) suggests that this is because the sciences tend to focus on objectivity and statistical generalizability. Still, in Bruner's (1986) view, story is a necessary complement to traditional logico-scientific accounts because it ensures scientific findings remain situated in context.

Seeming to validating this observation, story has begun to be studied in the sciences over the past few decades. Research in social psychology suggests that engaging with story can increase empathy (Johnson, Huffman, & Jasper, 2014) and change how we perceive ourselves (Djikic, Oatley, Zoeterman, & Peterson, 2009). Other research, in neuroscience, has shown that story increases the synthesis of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter whose presence improves our perception of social cues and sense of moral efficacy (Barraza & Zak, 2009; Lin, Grewal, Morin, Johnson, & Zak, 2013). Story has also penetrated the public sphere; for instance, it has been lauded as a strategic business tool (Monarth, 2014), as an educational technique (Agosto, 2013), and as a way to improve intra-family relationships (Martin, 2014).

Given the importance and recent upsurge of interest in story, it is notable that story has seen scant mention in information science---even despite the ongoing turn toward the "pleasurable and profound" loci of information phenomena (Kari & Hartel, 2007). Still, there is a small body of research engaging with story in information science. Principally, this research has unfolded within information retrieval, where researchers have been exploring how a sensitivity to story can guide system design, tagging and indexing (Feinberg, 2011; Lieberman, Rozenweig & Singh, 2001; O'Connor, O'Connor & Abbas, 1999; Rafferty & Albinfalah, 2014). This has been particularly the case in the field of image retrieval, in which it has been understood that narrative plays a large role in how people understand and interpret images (Rafferty & Albinfalah, 2014).

Outside information retrieval, there is a selection of works in what could broadly be considered information behavior that has supported the view of story as a mode of information exchange, outside any particular technological application. On the conceptual ground, Deborah Turner (2009) has developed the concept of orally-based information, which includes story. Putting this in its social context, Annemaree Lloyd (2010) argues that story is a form of social information and is critical in constructing and navigating information worlds; Khazraee and Gasson (2014) argue that story is the mechanism by which networks of practice construct and manage knowledge; Lundh and Dolatkhah (2016) position engaging with story as a dialogic, information-laden practice; and other work has argued for fiction as a site of information behavior (Broussard & Doty, 2016). Offering an institutional perspective, Williams, Grenersen, Edwards and Srinivasan (2009) argued for the sociopolitical importance of story, particularly for indigenous communities. Moreover, story has been harnessed as a research method in information behavior, often called narrative research, promulgating the view that knowledge can be constructed and relayed through story (Bates, 2004).

If story constitutes an important aspect of human reasoning, as Bruner (1986, 1991) and Worth (2008) contend, then surely it plays a role in human information behavior. What is yet to be articulated is the nature of this role. Is there story seeking behavior, just as there is information seeking behavior? When are stories sought, and how? How are stories used? In sum: In what sense are stories informative?

Ultrarunning and Information Behavior

Ultrarunning is an extreme form of long-distance running in which athletes participate in ultramarathons, which are footraces longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). The canonical ultramarathon distances are 50 kilometers, 50 miles, 100 kilometers and 100 miles. Since its birth in the mid-20th century, the sport has been growing quickly in popularity, particularly in the 21st century (Milroy, 2012). In the United States and Canada, there were 1,473 ultramarathons in 2016, whereas before 2012 there were under 1,000 and before 1996 there were less than 100 (UltraRunning Magazine, 2016). For the year 2016, UltraRunning Magazine reports 88,322 race finishes; 67% of finishers were male and 33% female; and the largest age group was 40--49, constituting 33% of finishers (UltraRunning Magazine, 2017).

Ultrarunning is a rich site for information behavior research because it involves a symphony of documentary and non-documentary information sources (Gorichanaz, 2015). I have suggested that this richness contributes to the understanding ultrarunners gain of themselves and their sport through the sport's attendant information activities (Gorichanaz, 2016). Integrating research from other fields on the information activities involved in distance running, Cox, Griffin and Hartel (2017) summarize neatly how the body serves as an information source for oneself and also a sign for others in the act of running.

In order to ensure that information behavior research in serious leisure pursuits such as ultrarunning is able to contribute to theory and practice in a meaningful way, Hartel, Cox and Griffin (2016) suggest the use of the framework of information behavior---and particularly the concept of information activities---developed by Anders Hektor (2001).

Hektor's (2001) work arose through rigorous conceptual and empirical research on everyday information behavior, and it was meant to build upon and synthesize the frameworks proposed by prior researchers. Hektor places the individual within a particular sociocultural environment and information--communication technology setting. The individual goes about life carrying out various projects, which entail diverse information activities:

  • Search and retrieve: locating and accessing of 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 a document in order to impart information
  • Exchange: participating in unfolding and dressing in a bidirectional process
  • Instruct: imparting information
  • 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.

Hartel, Cox and Griffin (2016) present a deductive audit of the specific information activities involved in distance running; for instance, runners monitor when they flip through the latest issue of a running magazine, and they dress when they track their training analytics. Still, the authors highlight "the marginal role of traditional (document-based) information activities in this largely physical pursuit" ("The hobby of running", para. 13). This observation bespeaks the need for a better understanding of the interplay between documentary and non-documentary forms in the information activities of ultrarunning. When is one preferred over the other? What does one give that the other doesn't? Such findings, besides offering further color to our understanding of the informational nature of ultrarunning, could be transferrable to other sites of information behavior in human life.

Race Reports and Genre Theory

An important set of information activities in ultrarunning revolves around race reports. Also called race recaps, race reports are individual runners' written accounts of a given race that take the form of a story and are shared online. Though other aspects of ultrarunning have seen scholarly attention, the race report has yet to do so. Still, the importance of the race report to the sport has been noted in popular discourse within the subculture, such as the blog post "One Thousand and One Race Reports" (Trail Sisters, 2016), published in a column on the ultrarunning media portal iRunFar ([http://irunfar.com]{.underline}). Moreover, the importance of the race report is evidenced by the existence of a published compendium of race reports, edited by Neal Jamison (2003), and recent attempts within the community to provide centralized databases of race reports, such as Race Report Central (http://racereportcentral.com).

Based on my years of experience as an ultrarunner, I can offer a general description of the race report. A race report, in a word, is a story of an athlete's experience of a race. Some race reports also include a summary of their training or place the race in the context of a race season, while others focus only on the race itself. Race reports generally proceed chronologically, sharing the athlete's changing thoughts and feelings as they progress through the miles. Often race reports conclude with lessons learned or overall impressions of their performance, the race venue or other aspects of their experience. A typical race report runs about a thousand words, and many race reports include photographs---either ones the athlete took with a smartphone while participating in the race, or ones that spectators took. Despite these common features, race reports can vary widely in style and form. Some athletes write prosaically, documenting every lived mile, while others report in broad strokes. Race reports may be published digitally on runners' personal blogs, shared commercial blogs, listservs (such as the ULTRA list, which has about 1,900 subscribers) and forums, and they also appear in some print publications, most notably UltraRunning Magazine. As new modes of mediated communication have arisen, the race report has diversified; today, for instance, some runners are publishing video race reports on sites such as YouTube. Though the history of the race report has yet to be articulated, it is clear that the form has evolved historically in dialogue with technological possibilities and community expectations.

The race report is something that everyone who has been acculturated in ultrarunning can recognize. As such, it constitutes a "de facto genre" of the ultrarunning information world. The concept of the de facto genre comes from Carolyn Miller's (1984) groundbreaking paper in genre theory. Miller "insists that the 'de facto' genres, the types we have names for in everyday language, tell us something theoretically important about discourse" (1984, p. 155) and are worth studying. This insight is the same one that sparked a turn in the information science research community toward everyday life information seeking (Savolainen, 2010). Indeed, Marcia Bates' concept of life information, which is "information about how to do many different things in one's culture that will be acceptable and lead to one's survival and emotional satisfaction" (1974, p. 53), closely mirrors Miller's concept of de facto genres, suggesting synergy between the two concepts and research communities.

A key tenet of genre theory after Miller (1984) is that genres should not be determined a priori or based on formal characteristics of documents. Because documents may cross and contradict genres in ways that befuddle formal genre analysis, such conceptions are rife with problems. A document's formal characteristics stem from the genre rather than determine it. Thus, in order to understand (and sometimes identify) a genre, a researcher must study how various actors work together to communicate in ways that make sense within their community. In this light, genre theory is concerned with the human activities involved in the production and use of documents in particular contexts, which would not be possible if one were to begin with the formal qualities of the documents. This is, in effect, similar to Bernd Frohmann's (2004) argument that the informativeness of a given document depends not on the facticity of the document itself, but on the human practices that involve that document. In this sense, genre is different from format or topic; it denotes an evolving constellation of activity that manifests across documents and time.

Over the past few decades, genre theory has made its way from rhetoric and communication into information science (Andersen, 2009). Jack Andersen (2015) observes the synergy between genre theory and information science: Both seek an understanding of how people work with and within information, documents and systems. Recognizing genre theory in this field

pulls information studies in a direction toward qualitative or soft > social sciences and the humanities. This direction seems necessary as > the objects of information studies ... are social in nature and > grounded in culture. Information studies are in a deep need for a > language for addressing and understanding these objects as social and > cultural phenomena. (Andersen, 2015, p. 179)

In order to move toward such a language and further scholarship in both genre theory and information science, the principles of genre theory should be applied in relevant subfields of information science. Andersen (2015) has conceptualized knowledge organization through the lens of genre theory, and Melanie Feinberg (2009) has interpreted information retrieval systems with genre theory; analogous work could be done in information behavior.

In this study, we will consider race reports, which are in essence stories, in light of both genre theory and information behavior. Because race reports constitute a genre, we can surmise that, though race reports certainly take particular forms, and those forms have changed over time, what is significant about race reports is how they are used in social interactions. Race reports can also be considered informationally, for how they facilitate human co-understanding. Hektor's (2001) framework, described above, offers a concrete way to conceptualize social interactions within the discourse of human information behavior: as information activities. Describing a document genre through Hektor's (2001) information activities offers a comprehensive and systematic way to investigate genre for information behavior scholarship, which has been lacking up to now. Previous work connecting genres to information behavior has only looked at a subset of information activities. For example, McKenzie and Davies (2012) examined several document genres in everyday life, but only as they related to monitoring. Considering all the activities identified by Hektor (2001) would represent the entire span of the information--communication chain (Robinson, 2009), and thus interrogating a genre through each of these activities will ensure a more comprehensive characterization of that genre.

Based on the above discussion, this study asks the question: How are race reports informative? Through dealing with this question, it seeks to illuminate the informativeness of story. In so doing, it offers a path for further study of genre in information behavior, using the concept of information activities.


This study took the form of an open-response online survey, which was meant to afford a broad view of information behavior of ultrarunners before and after their participation in a race.

This study operates within the metatheory of hermeneutic phenomenology (Vamanu, 2013); it takes a social constructionist position, conceptualizing social reality as being constituted through shared dialogic processes (Talja, Tuominen, & Savolainen, 2005). Hermeneutic phenomenology has been called a method for questioning, rather than for providing answers (van Manen, 2014); as such, a primary goal of this research is to spark further research.

Though phenomenological research does not typically utilize surveys, in this case the survey was an effective method for getting many responses from race participants both before and after the race, given that many runners travel from other states (or countries) to participate. In keeping with the phenomenological metatheory, participants were allowed to express their responses in their own words. In this study, the survey method allowed for a large list of possible human experiences (van Manen, 2014) that extends beyond any one person's biographical experience. During the analysis, there was no attempt made to quantify the results. Rather, the findings from this study should be considered for their analytical generalizability---in other words, for their transferability to other specific cases, on a case-by-case basis (Yin, 2014)---instead of the statistical generalizability that is generally associated with survey research.

The study was conducted with participants in the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run (Kettle 100), held in early June 2016 in southeastern Wisconsin, in the Midwestern United States. As part of a routine pre-race email, the race director forwarded a message to all race registrants inviting them to take part in an online survey and, optionally, participate in a follow-up survey after the race. The surveys solicited free responses to open-ended questions about the participants' running-related information behavior. This included information needs, information sources, outcomes of information seeking (Kari, 2007), and the serious leisure career arc (Hartel, 2010). Questions were designed to elicit stories (e.g., "Tell me about a time when..."). In all, 46 participated in the pre-race survey, 27 of whom also participated in the follow-up survey.

The survey responses were analyzed in two stages. Both stages of analysis were undergirded by my own experience as an athlete and researcher in the ultrarunning community (e.g., familiarity with jargon and race logistics). This experience opened me to meanings that may have been hidden to an outside researcher; still, I made a conscious effort to consider rival explanations (Maxwell, 2013) in my analysis such that I did not over-interpret or misread the participants' words. For example, some participants discussed activities relating to "blogs"; while in the context of this study it would be easy to assume that they were talking about race reports (many race reports are published on blogs), in each case I considered the participant's words in the context of their entire survey and remained attentive to their words as written. The first stage of analysis proceeded holistically, and before the particular focus on race reports was identified, according to the guidelines of phenomenological theme analysis articulated by Max van Manen (2014).

In this initial analysis, it was notable how many of the participants mentioned race reports in their answers to different questions. To explore this further, the statements involving race reports were subjected to additional analysis. First, I coded these statements according to the eight information activities given by Hektor (2001), methodologically drawing from Hartel, Cox and Griffin (2016). As mentioned above, the focus on information activities offered a concrete and systematic way to explore aspects of the race report as a genre. Some of the statements (for instance, those simply listing information sources) did not offer any activity-related context and were removed from my analysis. The other statements offered enough context to fall clearly into one or more activities (for instance, some statements demonstrated both monitor and exchange). Once the statements were coded, I revisited them holistically to get a sense of how the race report is bound up in activities along the information--communication chain.


Though this survey did not specifically mention race reports in any questions, many participants brought them up. In a question asking what running-related information sources participants refer to, 20 of the 46 participants specifically mentioned race reports. Additionally, 12 (outside of those 20) mentioned UltraRunning Magazine, which devotes about half of every issue to race reports. (Any runner can submit their race report to the magazine for consideration for publication.)

Many of those who mentioned race reports in the question on information sources described in their other answers the activities they took part in involving race reports. Below I describe these activities under the framework of Hektor's (2001) information activities, with additional contextual description where prudent, which draws from my own experience and understanding as an ultrarunner.

Searching and Retrieving

In search and retrieval, an individual engages with some sort of information system in order to obtain information. In this study, the statements that exemplify information search and retrieval were all responses to two of the questions:

  • Do you seek out different information at different points in your training cycles? If so, explain.
  • Have you sought out specific information in preparation for this 100 Mile?

Answers to both questions demonstrated the same activity: As a race draws nearer, participants seek race reports from runners in previous years. This seeking generally takes place in a general Web search engine, and the race reports themselves are generally hosted on public blog platforms.


When an individual browses, they look for information in a more general way than in search and retrieval; it can be thought of as a semi-directed search that may have many acceptable avenues. Part of being an ultrarunner is choosing and planning future races. One participant described relying "on other people's stories" while considering whether to run a particular race. In this sense, browsing for race reports can happen as part of the primary task of choosing a race. Such behavior is supported by many race websites linking to race reports. The possibility of browsing for race reports demonstrates that race reports are shared in places where they can be expected to be found.


In monitoring, an individual continually refers to the same general sources (e.g., particular magazines) to keep an eye out for relevant or interesting information. In the ultrarunning information landscape, there are many places for monitoring. UltraRunning Magazine is the premiere magazine for the sport, with 6,100 active subscribers and an additional 2,000 issues sold via retail (UltraRunning Magazine, n.d.), and it regularly publishes race reports. There are also a number of online media portals, Facebook groups (one in particular with over 51,000 members), and a longstanding mailing list dedicated to the sport.


When unfolding, an individual engages with particular pieces or conglomerations of information. This is what Kari (2007) refers to as "internalizing information-as-thing." Participants described the activity of engaging with race reports as a means of vicariously experiencing the race. As one participant wrote, "I try to read race reports before signing up for races and then again later to understand the course and conditions." Others described learning from other people's experiences and stories.

Participants described the utility of race reports in unfolding as ways to get new ideas (e.g., regarding technique, equipment or nutrition), as well as to answer tacit questions. For instance, one participant recounted a story from a previous race in which they suspected they got hypothermia. Only after coming across another runner's race report of a different race which described similar conditions and symptoms was that self-diagnosis confirmed, along with a solution for next time: using a rain poncho.


Unfold refers to engagement with preexisting information, dress refers to the creation of new information, and exchange refers to the bidirectional interplay between unfold and dress. There were several examples of this among the responses, such as when an individual read about a technique in a race report and went to try it out for themselves, then using the body as an information source in assessing that technique. In another example, a participant had read a race report about the course markers being difficult to see (and it therefore being easy to get lost) in a particular race, and so the participant described being "very aware of looking for course markers."

Dressing, Instructing and Publishing

Besides the examples of dress that were included in exchange, described above, there were some examples of dress, instruct and publish. All are forms of information creation: dressing involves putting thought and experience into exosomatic form; instructing involves imparting information to others orally or informally; and publishing involves disseminating information more widely or formally.

In the case of race reports, these three are difficult to disentangle; writing and publishing a race report constitutes dressing and publishing, and many race reports also include an element of instructing (e.g., explicating lessons learned, for the sake of others to follow the example). Still, some participants, in the post-race survey, mentioned they either had written or were in the process of writing a race report on their experience at Kettle 100.


The findings presented above provide new insight into the race report as a document genre, highlight new lines of research at the intersection of genre theory and information behavior, shed light on the way in which stories can be considered a form of information, and provoke design implications regarding story-based ways of knowing. These ramifications are important for both scholars and practitioners in information science and ultrarunning.

Insight Into the Race Report

Given that the predominant information activity in ultrarunning is, predictably, running---which is decidedly non-documental in nature---it is remarkable that any document could play such an important role in the sport. The precise nature of that role, however, has not been clear, even to ultrarunners themselves (Trail Sisters, 2016). By subjecting the race report to the prism of information activities, we can see how race reports are involved in a range of information activities that support the predominant information activity of ultrarunning---that is, running.

These findings can be contextualized along the temporal arcs that suffuse the ultrarunning hobby (Gorichanaz, 2016; Hartel, 2010). On the single-race temporal arc, race reports are important in choosing races, getting tips for a specific race, understanding what a given race will be like and communicating the race experience. They are also useful on the career or lifetime temporal arc because they support getting new ideas, supplement training and provide entertainment.

The race report shines most brightly in the activity of unfolding---which is also among the least examined in information science (Case & O'Connor, 2016). In this activity, the race report gives the reader the chance to, in a vicarious sense, pre-experience the race. This is of utilitarian value because it potentially allays some of the immense uncertainty that accompanies embarking on any 100-mile run. But it's more: In a hermeneutic phenomenological perspective, being alive is engaging with unfolding spaces of possibilities, and reading stories brings that engagement to the forefront (Meretoja, 2016). Thus, for the ultrarunner, reading a race report offers a chance for authentic being outside the traditional boundaries of the sport.

These findings have cleared some ground for considering the race report as a genre---that is, at the confluence of typified activity. The race report is what in part regulates, coordinates and gives meaning to the sport of ultrarunning as such; "ultrarunning" implies more than the simple act of going for a long run; it implies participation in a complex of mediated and typified activities. The shared features in the particular forms of the race report arise naturally and in constant dialogue with the interests and expectations of the ultrarunning community (for example, the expectation that race reports offer a glimpse at the terrain of a given course pressures race report writers to provide such details in their own reports) and the cultural tools that are available.

All this notwithstanding, a clear limitation of this study is in the relative brevity of the online survey responses collected (particularly compared to the depth that typifies phenomenological research), and the synchronic focus. These were artifacts of discovering the importance of the race report in the context of a more general inquiry into ultrarunners' information behavior. Indeed, it could be argued that the breadth of the survey gave space for the race report to emerge as a topic of interest. This study sought to shine a humble light on the race report as a story-based document genre that is critical to ultrarunning. Future research can and should explore in greater depth the activities and meanings bound up in race reports, and at diverse scales from the individual to the subculture---for example, how people comment on them, share them, etc., and how these practices in turn shape the genre and the writing of individual future race reports.

Additionally, further studies should investigate how race reports unfold within broader cultural practices, mediated infrastructures and historical processes---for instance, digital storytelling in general. Xiqiao Wang (2013) explored how digital storytelling at large constitutes a genre; the perspective of information behavior and other areas of information science, with a more nuanced view of technology, could further this account. In particular, a more robust genre analysis should take into account the historical unfolding of the race report; this study offered only a synchronic view, which is to say how the race report existed in one historic moment for this group of participants.

New Roads for Genre Theory in Information Science

Auditing a given genre through a range of information activities worked well to characterize the synchronic meaning of that genre. The richness of the findings presented here validates the approach that was tacitly suggested in previous literature.

It also paves the ground for further application of genre theory in information behavior. Besides Hektor's (2001), there are many theories and models that highlight different aspects of human--information relations. Another view could be developed by considering document genres diachronically, rather than merely synchronically as I have done here; there is clear space to incorporate historical methods into discussions of human information behavior, and genre theory provides a framework for such findings to be considered in rich context. As mentioned above, because genres are rooted in social action, they necessarily emerge, change and fade over time, and so a diachronic perspective would likely yield useful findings. Such research could also be combined with broader examinations of genres, following the approach of McKenzie and Davies (2012), who examined genre sets and genre systems to get an understanding of how documents and people work together in dynamic systems.

Armed with the fundamental principles of genre theory, an information behavior researcher has an arsenal for exploring the diversity of genres in human life. However, as Andersen (2015) suggests, information science does not have to be an acquiescent user of genre theory; instead, information scientists deploying genre theory have the chance to contribute to genre theory itself. This is fertile ground for cross-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary collaboration, which is growing ever more important.

Finally, this paper has pulled on the thread connecting genre and story by utilizing the race report as a metatheoretical boundary object---the race report is an example of story on one hand and an example of a genre on the other. However, it may not be self-evident how genre and story are related. Of course, genre and story have long been connected in that the concept of genre has served to group stories in categories (e.g., fables) based on their formal characteristics. But the conceptualization of genre as social action opens story up to a richer form of analysis: Stories involve particular types of interactions. People use story to achieve things and to exchange information. In the case of race reports, people use story to encapsulate and process their experiences, in addition to getting more particulate, factual information. If it is accepted that story is a mode of human reasoning and is used in the production and dissemination of knowledge, then further research at the intersection of story and genre would be welcome, given that genre facilitates theorization of how human knowing---both epistemological and experiential---is manifest through evolving cultural practices (Bazerman, 1997; Kamberelis, 1995). Considering the link between genre and story provokes a deeper consideration of what "counts" as knowledge.

Stories As Information: Alternative Ways of Knowing

This study asked the question of how race reports are informative, and the preliminary answers to that question discussed in this paper shed light on how story, in general, is informative.

The word informative, by derivation, means that something transmits or affords information. Though we generally equate information to proof or evidence (Buckland, 1991), information can also relate to truth in the sense of emotional or inceptual unconcealment (see Gorichanaz, 2017). This unconcealment is at the kernel of Worth's (2008) conception of narrative knowledge, as well as what van Manen (2014) calls "pathic knowledge" and James Taylor (1998) calls "poetic knowledge.\" Indeed it seems to be the case that all three concepts point to the same sort of knowledge, though they stem from different discourse communities (philosophy, methodology and education, respectively). All three authors, along with Bruner (1991), suggest that this type of knowledge has been under-recognized and under-appreciated across all fields of scholarship, even though it is a vital part of humanity.

By going so long without recognizing narrative/pathic/poetic knowledge, information science in particular has suffered an overly-limited sense of epistemology and sense of what sorts of phenomena are informative (Gorichanaz, 2017). The present discussion has shown how this sort of knowledge is bound up in the information activities of a pragmatic hobby, providing grounds for further research.

I contend that wider recognition of the informativeness of story in information science will lead to a more human information science. Sylvain Cibangu (2015) has argued that, though nominally "people" figure largely in information science research and practice, the notion of personhood or humanity has scarcely been treated. As a result, the discipline has been meandering, not fulfilling its potential as a human science (see also Warner, 2009). Cibangu envisions a future where information science contributes materially to human flourishing and fight against the machinery of oppression and vulnerability. While this is, of course, a mammoth task, it will not be possible without first recognizing the importance of story. This is because story is, quintessentially, human.

Designing Systems for Story

Up to now, information systems have largely been conceptualized as, in essence, technology for retrieving facts. Such a conceptualization serves well enough for the techno-scientific modes of human reasoning, but if information science is to take story seriously, then a conceptualization of information systems that support narrative reasoning should be developed.

Some headway has already been made. Regarding conceptualizations of information systems, Julian Warner (2009) has rallied for a human-centered view of information retrieval. In a similar vein, Feinberg (2009, 2011) has laid a foundation for thinking of information systems as rhetorical and communicative in themselves, for instance in the way authorial voice inheres in the way they select and organize information.

Regarding particular systems, as mentioned previously, some work has been ongoing within information retrieval, such as the development of methods for annotating images by automatically parsing stories (Lieberman, Rozenweig & Singh, 2001) and exploring the narrative richness that people ascribe to images for the purpose of developing robust indexing strategies (Rafferty & Albinfalah, 2014). Besides this, Yearwood and Stranieri (2012) have been working on models for narrative reasoning that can be employed in information systems for the purpose of generating stories as a way to connect with and foreground the mechanisms of human reasoning in communities of practice. In terms of system development, Wille, Lofi and Balke (2015) report on Narrex, a search engine interface that returns assists users in constructing narratives from the unstructured results. In both cases, these efforts are in their early stages of development.

An important insight to be understood by systems designers is that stories may lose their story when they are summarized or fragmented. This stands in stark antithesis to the way logico-scientific facts have been conceptualized in information system development since the early 20th century (Otlet, 1934). Even in the case of true stories, such as race reports, which could uncharitably be characterized as a string of facts, the real power of the story is not in the "knowing that" which the facts furnish, but in the "knowing what it is like" furnished by story.

Thus the development of an information system for stories should be approached somewhat differently than one for facts. For instance, consider the development of a system for ultrarunning race reports. Based on the information activities involved with race reports, we know some of the metadata that would be important for retrieval---for instance, stories dealing with chafing or hypothermia, or those in which the athlete suffers a particular injury but still manages to finish the race. This can go a long way in constructing a metadata scheme, but there is something beyond these simple facts that goes into determining whether a given race report is relevant to a searcher. That is, the conceptualization of experiential or narrative relevance should be different from that of logico-scientific relevance. By attending more closely to how stories inform, we will be able to uncover the nature of narrative relevance. Another mammoth task.


This study examined the race report, a document-based genre of story in the serious-leisure hobby of ultrarunning. Given the sport's largely non-documental nature, race reports have stood as an anomaly in their importance. The nature of the race report was illuminated through subjecting genre theory to an information behavior audit using Hektor's (2001) eight information activities as categories. Race reports are bound up in all eight information activities, demonstrating their lifespan along the information--communication chain. Race reports help athletes choose races, prepare for races, pre-experience races, communicate their race experience, gather new ideas, extend their training and, finally, find entertainment. These findings demonstrate symbiosis between genre theory and information behavior, offering a systematic way to explore a genre synchronically, and calling for more research in information behavior that considers genre both synchronically and diachronically, pointing toward further information science research and technical development that respects the humanity and importance of story.


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