Notes on Looking for Information, Don Case
information studies has shifted away from a focus on sources and searches, toward how individuals encounter and make sense of their environment (4)
defining information: any difference you perceive (4)
shift away from the information system to the information person: finder, creator, interpreter, user (6)
contrasting examples of information behavior research question table 1.1 (7)
MT: If one conceives of an internal information network, information gaps are structural holes. The value of bridges to traverse these holes is one way of looking at network theory and information economics in relation to ISB (8)
Myths of ISB (8-9)
1. Only “objective” information is valuable. People are rational beings who process data from the environment to analyze alternatives and make optimal decisions. Several problems plague this assumption, including our common tendency to rely on easily available sources of information such as our friends. For most tasks and decisions in life, people tend to settle for the first satisfactory
solution to a problem, rather than the best solution.
2. More information is always better. Yet too much information leads to overload and thence to deliberate ignoring of inputs. “Having information” is not the same as “being informed,” so increasing the flow of information does not always result in an informed person.Typically there is not a problem getting enough information but rather with interpreting and understanding
what information there is—an internal, rather than an external, locus of control.
3. Objective information can be transmitted out of context. But people tend to ignore isolated facts when they cannot form a complete picture of them. Leah said sthg about circulation and annotations: it suddenly takes the objectivity out of the experience and out of the object
4. Information can only be acquired through formal sources. This assumption, often made by those in educational institutions, flies in the face of actual behavior. People use formal sources rarely, instead gathering and applying information from informal sources, chiefly friends and family, throughout their lives.
5. There is relevant information for every need. The truth is that mere information cannot satisfy many human needs. People may want information in the sense of learning or understanding; more commonly they need the physical and psychological necessities of daily life, such as food, shelter, clothing, money, and love. Information cannot substitute for many human needs, nor even facilitateall of them.
6. Every need situation has a solution. Institutions such as libraries, medical clinics, and social service agencies are focused on finding solutions to problems. To do so they attempt to map what the client says—the words they use—onto the resources and responses of their system. But sometimes the client is looking for something—a reassurance, an understanding—that does not come in the shape of a canned response. Nevertheless, the system will usually provide an answer of some type, in its own language and logic, whether it is
useful to the client or not.
7. It is always possible to make information available or accessible. Formal information systems are limited in what they can accomplish, at least where the vague, ambiguous, and constantly changing needs of the public are concerned. People will continue to come up with their own answers to their own unique, unpredictable questions without resorting to formal information systems.
"the dark Web" how much of what's out there is accessible?
8. Functional units of information, such as books or TV programs, always fit the needs of individuals. Information systems such as libraries or broadcasters define themselves in terms of their units of storage or production: in the case of libraries, this is books, journals, or Web sites; in the case of broadcasters, it is programs, ads, or public service announcements. But the “functional units”
of the individual are not often these things; rather, they are responses, solutions, instructions ideas, friendships, and so forth. Thus, client requests for help, action, or resources tend to be reinterpreted by institutions as information needs that can be fulfilled with the units that they provide: books, programs, and the like. The client cannot always effectively use these units of
9. Time and space—individual situations—can be ignored in addressing information seeking and use.Yet often it is the individual’s definition of the situation that shapes his or her needs as much as the “real” situation itself. If individuals perceive a lack of predictability and control of an outcome, then they worry.
The worry itself becomes a need.
10. People make easy, conflict-free connections between external information and their internal reality.We tend to assume an ordered universe, in which connections exist between the internal and external. In our research, we tend to ask “what” and “how” rather than “why.” We ask what people read or view, rather than why they do so.We lack understanding about how people inform themselves, how they make connections over time, the sense they make of their
world between significant events. Dervin said that instead of studying what “information does ... for people”we need to focus on “what people do to information” (p. 333).
Dervin argued how all the myths were flawed in relation to everyday information needs, not task-oriented context (9)
Contexts of info behavior investigation
3 ways to consider the literature: theory, methods, context
under 3 general categories: occupation, social role, demographics
- entertainment & info
- passive & accidental
- info sharing among peers
- ignoring & avoiding info
He goes through 6 info skg scenarios:
- passenger cars test results
- MT: he doesn’t say anything about how most people make choices based on what their friends say
- 3 common anomalies
- personal contacts
- affluence and education affect access and attention
- interactions of intellectual content with physical form
- how does she define the scope of her search?
- who tends to pursue versus who tends to retreat? why?
- an example of info skg in groups
- abundance of sources
- decisions from experience
- racehorse betting
- using heuristics to winnow down info
- constantly changing info
- legal search
- relevance and validity
- just finding the info doesn’t solve the problem
- health topic research
- visceral need for info
- information gap
- “Maria did not understand quite everything that she was told by her friend, but understood enough to know that she wanted to know more.” 38
- tendency to avoid until ready
- curiosity motivated by deeply held feelings
Time pressure, motivation, info sources, thoroughness
MT: What about general predispositions like patience, self-confidence, perception of tacit knowledge, short- or long-term outlook???
A truly universal concept of info would need to fulfill at least these:
- allow for common-sense notions of information used in everyday discourse;
- allow for unintentional origins of information (e.g., observations of the natural world) as well as for purposeful communication among people;
- allow for internally generated information (e.g., memories, constructions) as well as externally generated information (e.g., reading a text);
- allow for types of information beyond that needed for “solving a problem” or “making a decision”;
- admit the importance of informal sources (e.g., friends) as well as formal sources (e.g., data or documents); and
- involve the human mind, either in the creation, perception, or interpretation of information; to leave out such a requirement is to declare that anything is information and that would leave us with no focus in our investigations. (74)
- Why do people seek information? discomfort w/not knowing
- What makes information relevant? effect on behavior (evolutionary)
- Can information be found without intentionally searching for it? yes
- Is it possible to have too much information? yes
- Why do people sometimes avoid information? other rewards (ignorance=bliss)
- How does information differ from entertainment? broadly, it doesn't