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Lecture 1

INST 352 Lecture 1: INST352 Lecture 1: Introduction

Information Studies
Course Code
INST 352

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INST352 Lecture 1: Introduction
Studies of information behavior (or the ways that individuals’ perceive, seek, understand, and
use information in various life contexts) have increased, exponentially, since the first edition of
this book was published in 2002. In that time, we have also seen an increase in the application
of critical theory to the range of activities comprising “information behavior” (IB). The contexts,
people, and situations that are studied continue to grow and evolve. Researchers are continuing
to expand the range and type of methods and methodologies that they use in their work,
particularly in arts-based and qualitative approaches. And, we continue to explore (and debate)
the language and terminology that we use to describe the boundaries and focus of this field of
study. This volume explores all of these issues to provide a glimpse of the current state of IB
research, including new trends that are appearing on the horizon. However, the volume retains
its core purpose that is, to describe the common and essential human behaviors of
perceiving, seeking, understanding, and using information, and to present a robust set of
examples of the published literature that demonstrate the reach and influence of information
behavior research within the broader discipline of information studies.
When people decide to visit another city, wonder about the side effects of a new medication,
overhear conversations on the bus, or receive a new assignment in class, information-related
activities play a key role in shaping their responses to these situations. Noticing a change in the
weather, deciding on a vacation destination, finding out about travel schedules, selecting a
departure date, and choosing an airline itinerary are examples of the information experiences
we call information behavior. These include accidental encountering of, needing, finding,
choosing, using, and sometimes even avoiding, information. They are types of behaviors that
are basic to human existence.
This introductory chapter describes the scope of the book and its contents. It outlines briefly
what concepts, questions, and research designs have been developed regarding information
behavior, and why this topic has attracted attention. We make the case that the nature of this
research has changed over several decades, away from an emphasis on institutional sources
and searches, and toward a focus on how individuals encounter and make sense of their
environment. The importance of situation, time, geography, culture, and other contextual
elements in shaping individuals’ experiences of information requires research approaches that
attend to a holistic view of people, information, and the worlds they inhabit.
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