"Expanding on the Almost"
Queer World-Building and Institutional Information Worlds
The theories of information poverty and small worlds, both developed by Elfreda Chatman, address how information behaviors and practices are shaped by social norms and insider and outsider dynamics. The application of these theories in the information science literature, to date, has largely focused on individual information behaviors practiced by people who are described as information poor. There is, therefore, opportunity for theoretical development concerning the role of systems and structures in both information poverty and small worlds. Drawing on data from interviews with eleven queer entertainment media creators as well as content from episodes of Emmy award-winning television programs, we use constructivist grounded theory to extend Chatman’s theorizing by investigating how both information poverty and small worlds operate and connect on an institutional level.
We present two extensions of small worlds and information poverty: institutional small worlds and queer world-building. Institutional small worlds in this context consist of entertainment media producers and content that possess and reflect epistemically-privileged heteronormative standpoints. Epistemic knowledge created by queer individuals is left out of these small worlds, and participants report experiencing information poverty due to symbolic violence in content that erases and misrepresents their identities. However, participants also engage in entertainment media creation to construct their own rich small worlds. These queer world-building practices reflect participants’ epistemic authority and thus challenge normative discourses produced and reified by powerful institutions. Still, queer world-building occurs within institutional contexts that continue to impoverish queer creators. Despite lacking resources and facing risks, participants continue their practices because creation provides them with rich information outside of normative structures.
The constructs we present may be transferable to other populations and have implications for both researchers and practitioners interested in elucidating ways in which library and information science work can better account for institutional forces and inequities in information practices.
Pre-print first published online 1/13/2021
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