After a respite of several weeks I am returning to regular posts on the SIG-USE mailing list, in an effort to stimulate community and conversation. My messages are geared to all enthusiasts of our specialty with students top of mind, and take the form of themes. The first theme (August-December, 2011) was The Literature and is archived on my website/blog; the next theme is The History of information behavior.
DO NOT yawn or press delete! Information behavior research has a rich history spanning one hundred years and it should be celebrated. In the upcoming posts I will not attempt any historical survey; that would be a massive undertaking. Instead, I will briefly highlight noteworthy happenings (one per post) within the information behavior tradition from the past century that all aficionados should appreciate.
At the get-go of this theme it is necessary to acknowledge and bemoan the dearth of historical materials on information behavior. There are countless scattered historical snippets embedded in theoretical, methodological, or empirical articles but few dedicated historical works with gravitas. In my opinion, it would be a great project for SIG-USE to enlist students to develop better historical resources, perhaps starting with timelines and bibliographies and then encouraging more sophisticated historical dissertations.
As a point of departure, I will first list the few historical writings of which I am aware. ARIST chapters (covered in Message #3) are not included because they address information behavior publications and trends over relatively short periods of time.
* Bates' article on "Information behavior" (Bates, 2010) in the Encylopedia of Library and Information Sciences opens with a long historical section; subsequent discussions of "technology" and the "range of topics" also follow historical arcs.
* Case's textbook Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Needs, Seeking, and Behavior includes a chronicle of "The History of studying information behavior" (Case, 2006, pp. 238-40) and also charts the growth of the information behavior literature.
* Rania Siatra was a student when she published an article in Libri,
"The Evolution of user studies" (Siatri, 1999) that "recounts the evolution of user studies by exploring key concepts in the field" and "shows the diversity and plethora of topics explored by various studies."
* A paper from the Conceptions of Library and Information Science conference, "Revisiting the user centered turn in library and information science" (Talja & Hartel, 2007), argues that early information behavior research was more sensitive to users in natural contexts than is claimed in the infamous ARIST chapter by Dervin and Nilan (1986).
Have I missed any substantial historical writings? If so, please chime in. Since my list was not generated by systematic searching it is surely quite incomplete. Perhaps this thread will be the start of a collaborative "History of Information Behavior Research" bibliography.
Stay tuned to learn about happenings in the past century of our research area that seem exceptional and history-making.
Jenna Hartel, Assistant Professor,
Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
Jenna Hartel, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto