Contextualizing Information Behavior: A Methodological Approach




qualitative, methodology, context, information behaviour, sensemaking, discourse analysis


Building on recent developments in information behavior theory & research, this paper explores the role of context in methodological approaches to the investigation of everyday information behavior. In particular, the author examines the implicit role of Western constructs in existing models and theories of information behavior, and illustrates how a more contextually responsive method for investigating information behavior may provide more robust and accurate indices of how individuals interact with information in their everyday lives in diverse contexts. The value of a contextualized understanding of information behavior is demonstrated by drawing on two studies examining the role of contextual factors in everyday information behavior in non-Western societies. In doing so the author identifies several factors with considerable contextual variation that play a strong role in how individuals need, seek and use information in their daily lives, particularly social and cultural values.  The author also demonstrates the value in further exploring this contextual variation in information behavior research, supported by relevant theoretical and philosophical considerations. The resulting information behavior research methodology is aimed at identifying the contextual factors present in everyday information behavior, which may enable information scientists to better understand variation in information behavior and develop more robust tools for investigating information behavior in diverse communities.  I conclude by suggesting that the implementation of this method may also lead to better understanding of the relationship between information practices and well-being, as well as having implications for international development and cross-cultural collaboration.

Author Biography

Nicole Marie Gaston, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand

Dr. Nicole Gaston is a lecturer in the Information and Library Studies programme in the School of Social Sciences at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand Kuratini Tuwhera.  Her research focuses on the role of social and cultural values in how people need, seek and use information in their daily lives. Both her teaching and research are informed by her experiences in capacity building and technical advising roles in Africa and Southeast Asia, which has led to her ongoing interest in critical examination of assumptions around how information is constructed, disseminated, and understood.