During the last days of October a group of engaged doctoral students gathered at a Nordic doctoral workshop organized by Information Studies, Åbo Akademi University and the Nordic Research School in Information Studies (Norslis). The EDGE team was represented by Timo, Johanna and Gunilla.

A wide variety of theories and models

During the workshop we had a number of lectures addressing the wide variety of theories and models used when studying information needs, seeking, and use in a changing information and media landscape. This is a complex area where we have numerous factors affecting information behaviour; individual, emotional, contextual, situational as well as information availability, relevance, form, and media. All models address the multi-dimensional information space in one way or another as Professor Elaine Toms from University of Sheffield, pointed out in her keynote lecture. She underlined the challenging terminology in the information science field, which leads to lack of clarity. Therefore we need models to conceptualize terminology and operationalize the study of complex processes of information needs and use. Still, the outcomes of information use should get more attention. Professor Peter Ingwersen from the Royal School of Library and Information Science, Denmark complemented the overall picture of theories, addressing information retrieval perspectives with more system specific concerns. Ingwersen has developed an integrated cognitive research framework of information seeking (IS) and information retrieval (IR) combining both IR-specific interests as well as contextual and individual factors. Other lecturers during the workshop, addressing the multitude of theories used when studying information behaviour were Jannica Heinström (personality theories), Kristina Eriksson-Backa (health information behaviour), and Kerstin Rydbeck (social theories).  Stefan Ek gave an example of a recent empirical study on purposive information seeking among Finnish people (18-64 years). The study shows that we are all equal when it comes to intangible concerns such as information overload.

A wide variety of doctoral projects

An important part of the workshop were the participants, the doctoral students, who all contributed to the success of the workshop. The 15 doctoral students represented five different countries in the Nordic-Baltic area (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Lithuania). Also, they all represented a broad and multidisciplinary spectrum of research areas. Their research topics can be divided into three main groups; Media change and convergence with focus on the changing media landscape, changing information behaviour, and preservation of digital information, Education and research with focus on collaborative networks, educational resources and information literacy, Knowledge management and learning organization with focus on innovation, creative processes, leadership, and organisational change.

Group work outcomes

During the workshop the doctoral students were to rethink their own research projects based on lessons learned from the lectures. They worked in groups defining their research interests and as a result we got three interesting research projects that could be possible research projects in the future:

  • What is the result of networking? The project would study research networks as a result of e.g. Norslis workshops. The study would use a personality perspective to networks as an information ground, the five factor personality theory could be used. Also theories of motivation, and models of scholarly communication could be useful frameworks. This would give a new perspective to research collaboration.
  • The learning process in multi-modal information seeking. The project would study different information needs scenarios, e.g. information on movies – how are new information channels such as twitter, links to a blog, recommendations used. A multi-modal information seeking model could be developed from earlier models on the learning process, such as the SECI-model.
  • MediaStorm. This project would study information behaviour in a crisis situation. At the time of the workshop the New York storm (Sandy) was highly current and made a good example of how crisis situation is interpreted and intermediated differently. Theories on information behaviour could be used with additional focus on situational impact. Also personality theories could be useful when studying how people deal with crisis situations and information seeking.

Lessons learned

The workshop underlined the value in mixing researchers from different fields, different academic environments, and different countries. We learned about research projects in process, we learned how different theories and models are used in practice, we learned that information behaviour is present not only in information science but also in neighbouring fields and disciplines – and we can definitely benefit from borrowing insights from each other. For example we could clearly see how close information behaviour and consumer behaviour research actually is.

Networking is one important feature of research work – and this kind of workshop is the best platform to practice networking. It is an information ground in many senses – senior researchers and doctoral students share their expertise, get the opportunity to network and develop new collaborative networks. And most of all, at the same time, it was a lot of fun 🙂

Gunilla / workshop organizer