[Siguse-l] Message #9: New Theme - The History

Jenna Hartel jenna.hartel at utoronto.ca
Sun Feb 19 07:41:56 EST 2012

Dear SIG-USErs,

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 <http://www.jennahartel.com/info-behaviour-blog.html>; 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. In the upcoming posts I will not 
attempt any historical survey or synthesis; 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 addressinformation 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 
<http://www.librijournal.org/pdf/1999-3pp132-141.pdf>"(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 
<http://informationr.net/ir/12-4/colis/colis04.html>"(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

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