Our contemplation of “The Literature” of information behavior continues...
Nearly a decade ago, the first information behavior textbook appeared, Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior (Case, 2002), and is now in its second edition (Case, 2006). It is an important landmark and sign of maturity for a research area to generate a textbook, which is a reference genre designed to systematically introduce a topic to students or other non-expert readers.
The author of Looking for Information (for short) is Donald O. Case, a professor at the College of Communications and Information Studies of the University of Kentucky. He holds an MLS from Syracuse University and a doctorate in communications research from Stanford University. Dr. Case has been involved in the information behavior research specialty since the mid-1980s. I personally have valued his pioneering research into the information behavior of social scientists and humanists (1986), as well as historians (1991a, 1991b). While a specialist in information behavior, Dr. Case has broad interests across information studies and has served as a president of ASIS&T.
In the preface of the 2nd edition of Looking for Information, Dr. Case explains that he decided to write the textbook in the early 2000s when interest in the information behavior research area was growing. Both editions of the book are centered on studies of information behavior (more so than information retrieval or library use), focus on the last two decades of research, and take a person-oriented (versus systems-oriented) perspective. The current edition has 423 pages and is organized as 5 sections and 13 chapters; at Amazon.com you can see the table of contents.
Looking for Information has been very well-received by information behavior scholars. In 2003 the first edition won the ASIS&T “Best Information Science Book of 2002.” A long review of the first edition in JASIS&T surveys the content in detail, remarks upon Dr. Cases’ attempt at a neutral metatheoretical stance, and critiques his application of Sense-Making theory, concluding overall that the text is “ambitious,” “welcome,” and “useful.” (Savolainen, 2003). The more recent second edition was reviewed in Information Research and deemed a “valuable reference source for teachers and students alike” (Wilson, 2007). If you are currently a doctoral student in the information behavior area, you won’t regret having this item on your bookshelf (see mine!).
The next posting on “The Literature” engages a handbook, Theories of Information Behaviour (Fisher, Erdelez, McKechnie, 2005). In the meantime, the ASIS&T annual meeting is just around the corner (October 9-12, New Orleans). There are many great information behavior/SIG-USE events on the agenda. Especially, the keynote is by eminent information behavior scholar Professor Tom Wilson and there is a post-conference workshop on October 12, Where Your World Meets Mine: Information Use Across Domains.
See you in New Orleans!
Case, D. (1986). Collection and organization of written information by social scientists and humanists: A review and exploratory study. Journalof Information Science, 11(3), 97-104.
Case, D. (1991a). Conceptual organization and retrieval of texts by historians: The role of memory and metaphor. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(9),
Case, D. (1991b). The collection and use of information by some American historians: A study of motives and methods. The Library Quarterly, 61(1), 61-82.
Savolainen, R.(2003). Review of book Looking for information: A Survey of research on information seeking, needs and behavior, by D. O. Case. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 54(7), 695-697.
Wilson, T.D. (2007). Review of the book Looking for information: a survey of research on information seeking, needs, and behavior, 2nd ed. by D. O. Case. Information Research, 12(3).
I interrupt the previously scheduled message on “The Literature” of information behavior to draw attention to a debate unfolding in the broader realm of information science. [For new readers: my posts to the SIG-USE mailing list are written with students of information behavior foremost in mind.]
Recently Marcia J. Bates and Birger Hjørland have had an exchange in the pages of JASIS&T that continues a long-running public conversation between the two. It is exciting to witness senior scholars championing their ideas, which serve as excellent fodder for students to discuss late into the night.
Below is an introduction to the situation and then remarks on a few implications for the information behavior research community. While I am an admirer and former student of Professors Bates and Hjørland, this statement does not take sides, has been approved by both participants as accurate, and cannot substitute for careful reading of the original papers (to that end references and hyperlinks are provided).
Marcia J. Bates, professor emerita in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (USA), is the source of many breakthroughs in information science and information behavior specifically, in concepts such as information search tactics (1979) and berrypicking (1989); studies of the information behavior of humanists (1996); and as an editor and author of the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences (Bates & Maack, 2010). In her work, she seeks to illuminate information behavior in ways that integrate the biological, behavioral, and social elements of human interaction with information in he world.
Birger Hjørland, professor at the Royal School of Library and Information Science (Copenhagen, Denmark), is the architect of a socio-cognitive or domain analytic (Hjørland& Albrechtsen, 1995) perspective on information science. In this view information behavior is socially, culturally, and historically constructed (Hjørland, 2000). Hjørland’s writings of late (2011a, 2011b), as a series entitled “The Importance of Theories of Knowledge,” have sought to illuminate, critique, and strengthen the metatheoretical foundations of the field.
The debate between Bates and Hjørland is philosophical and multi-faceted. It concerns the nature of information (as objective and/or social – see Bates, 2005, 2006 and Hjørland, 2007, 2009); the role of information science metatheories (as competing or complementary devices); and the merits of two major metatheories (empirical behavioral research and socio-cognitivism/domain analysis). The most recent volley has explored these issues within the concept of browsing (see Bates, 2007, in press; Hjørland, 2011b, in press).
How is the public conversation between Bates and Hjørland relevant to the information behavior research community?
Followers of this debate are reminded of the importance of metatheory in information research and are exposed to two metatheories that may be used to orient scholarship. (The metatheories, empirical behavioral research and socio-cognitivism/domain analysis, are both influential approaches within the information behavior specialty.) And, readers are shown possible conceptions of “information” as physical, biological, social, objective, or subjective. These various renderings can deepen philosophical understanding of our central phenomenon and/or be used to operationalize a definition of information within empirical information behavior research. Further, these exchanges demonstrate how one concept – browsing – can be an epistemological and ontological hot spot, as can any information behavior notion. Finally, as observers of a public collision of minds we can refine our own communication and argumentation strategies.
Thanks to Professors Bates and Hjørland for these significant learning opportunities!
Other comments are welcome from members of the SIG-USE mailing list and beyond, especially remarks that engage these contested issues substantively (which was not the point here).
The next post, later in September, returns to the theme of “The Literature” of information behavior and features Donald Case’s textbook Looking for Information: Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior, 2nd ed.
[The reference list is in chronological (not alphabetical) order to better reflect the back-and-forth between the two authors]
Bates, M. J. (1979). Information search tactics. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 30, 205-214.
Bates, M. J. (1989). The Design of browsing and berrypicking techniques for the online search interface. Online Review, 13, 407-424.
Hjørland, B., and Albrechtsen, H. (1995). Toward a new horizon in information science: domain analysis. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 46(6), 400-425.
Bates, M. J. (1996). The Getty end-user online searching project in the humanities: Report no. 6: Overview and conclusions. College & Research Libraries, 57, 514-523.
Hjørland, B. (2000). Information seeking behaviour: What should a general theory look like?. New Review of Information Behaviour Research,1, 19–33.
Bates, M. J. (2005). Information and knowledge: An Evolutionary
framework for information Science. Information Research, 10(4)
[available at http://InformationR.net/ir/10-4/paper239.html].
Bates, M. J. (2006). Fundamental forms of information. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57(8), 1033-1045.
Bates, M. J. (2007). What is browsing – really? A model drawing from behavioural science research. Information Research, 12(4) [Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/12-4/paper330.html].
Hjørland, B. (2007). Information: Objective or subjective/situational?. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology,58(10), 1448–1456.
Hjørland, B. (2009). The controversy over the concept of “information”: A rejoinder to Professor Bates. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(3), 643.
Bates, M. J. & Maack, M. N. (Eds.). (2010). Encyclopedia of library and information sciences, 3rd Ed. New York, NY: CRC Press.
Hjørland, B. (2011a). The importance of theories of knowledge: Indexing and information retrieval as an example. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(1), 72–77.
Hjørland, B. (2011b). The importance of theories of knowledge: Browsing as an example. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(3), 594-603.
Bates, M. J. (in press). Birger Hjørland's Manichean misconstruction of Marcia Bates' work. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Currently available in early view online.
Hjørland, B. (in press). Theoretical clarity is not “Manicheanism”: A reply to Marcia Bates. Journal of Information Science. Currently available in early view online.
Jenna Hartel, Associate Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto