"Expanding on the Almost"

Queer World-Building and Institutional Information Worlds


  • Diana Floegel Rutgers University
  • Kaitlin Light Costello Rutgers University




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

Author Biographies

Diana Floegel, Rutgers University

Diana Floegel is a doctoral candidate at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information. Their research examines phenomena surrounding people’s information creation practices, sociotechnical assemblages, and information institutions such as libraries. They have published in Library and Information Science Research, Journal of Documentation, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, and more. Diana can be contacted at diana.floegel@rutgers.edu.

Kaitlin Light Costello, Rutgers University

Kaitlin L. Costello is an assistant professor of library and information science at Rutgers. Costello studies health information practice and teaches classes in human information behavior, critical algorithm studies, and health sciences information. Their current studies are about information work in chronic pain, digital phenotyping in mental health, and non-nefarious online deception.