Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Human Information Interaction

Human Information Interaction: An Ecological Approach to Information Behavior

Raya Fidel
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 364
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Human Information Interaction
    Book Description:

    Human information interaction (HII) is an emerging area of study that investigates how people interact with information; its subfield human information behavior (HIB) is a flourishing, active discipline. Yet despite their obvious relevance to the design of information systems, these research areas have had almost no impact on systems design. One issue may be the contextual complexity of human interaction with information; another may be the difficulty in translating real-life and unstructured HII complexity into formal, linear structures necessary for systems design. In this book, Raya Fidel proposes a research approach that bridges the study of human information interaction and the design of information systems: cognitive work analysis (CWA). Developed by Jens Rasmussen and his colleagues, CWA embraces complexity and provides a conceptual framework and analytical tools that can harness it to create design requirements. CWA offers an ecological approach to design, analyzing the forces in the environment that shape human interaction with information. Fidel reviews research in HIB, focusing on its contribution to systems design, and then presents the CWA framework. She shows that CWA, with its ecological approach, can be used to overcome design challenges and lead to the development of effective systems. Researchers and designers who use CWA can increase the diversity of their analytical tools, providing them with an alternative approach when they plan research and design projects. The CWA framework enables a collaboration between design and HII that can create information systems tailored to fit human lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30147-3
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. I Introduction to Human Information Interaction

    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      We interact with information during every waking moment and even in our dreams. The instant we open our eyes in the morning we see the furniture in the room and the pictures on its walls, we see whether the sun is shining and smell—or don’t smell—the coffee. In fact, whenever we use any of our senses, we interact with information. The ubiquity of information demonstrates the important role it plays in our lives, which in turn underlines the need to understand human information interaction. Human information interaction is just beginning to emerge as an independent research area. It...

    • 1 Basic Concepts
      (pp. 3-16)

      Since human information interaction (HII) is a multidisciplinary field, it is not surprising that its basic concepts have various definitions and interpretations, with researchers giving these concepts the meanings common in their discipline. Yet the state of affairs is even more complex because researchers in the same discipline may differ in their construal of basic concepts.¹ It is useful, therefore, for researchers to explicitly state their personal interpretations of such concepts to avoid misunderstanding and confusion among their audience.

      This chapter presents my understanding of some basic concepts relevant to this book. I first attend to concepts in HII and...

    • 2 What Is Human Information Interaction?
      (pp. 17-44)

      Researchers in human information interaction investigate the interaction between people and information with its multiple forms and purposes. That is, they focus on the relationships between people andinformation, rather than on those between people andtechnology(as in human-computer interaction) or between people and the informationagency(as in librarianship). As a research area, HII is of interest to scholars from various research traditions and disciplines, but it is still in its formative years, awaiting an initial consensus about its nature and attributes (e.g., W. Jones et al. 2006).

      Human information interaction (HII) is inherently a multidisciplinary area, and...

  6. II Conceptual Constructs and Themes in Information-Seeking Behavior

    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 45-48)

      Researchers in library and information science (LIS) who study human information interaction (HII) focus on the area of human information behavior (HIB). Similar to scholars in most branches of the sciences, they wish to contribute to the understanding of the phenomenon. Research questions might be general, such as, Why do people look for information? How do they browse? What do they consider when they determine relevance? Or, questions can be highly specific, such as, How do female students from an inner-city high school look for health information about sleep deprivation? For a study to contribute to LIS, the researchers must...

    • 3 Theoretical Constructs and Models in Information-Seeking Behavior
      (pp. 49-82)

      The bazaar of conceptual constructs created and used in information-seeking behavior (ISB) research offers a great variety of these items, such as theoretical constructs, conceptual and methodological frameworks, guidelines for analysis, and models of various kinds. Among the theoretical constructs, theories occupy the highest rank in the hierarchy of conceptual constructs. Yet the majority of the conceptual constructs in ISB are models, followed by theoretical constructs, of which theories are a rarity.

      The lack of “good” theories has been a constant source of frustration to LIS researchers and to those in the field of information science in general. This failing...

    • 4 Information Need and the Decision Ladder
      (pp. 83-96)

      The conceptinformation needis fundamental to human information interaction across all its areas of research. For instance, evaluating information is carried out in reference to an information need, and representing information is guided by predictions about the information needs of the actors for whom the representation is constructed. Similarly, sharing information takes place to satisfy an actor’s information need, and filtering information is conducted to satisfy future needs. However, scholars in human information behavior (HIB), and in particular in information-seeking behavior (ISB), have studied this concept more than scholars in any other area. An information need is the foundation...

    • 5 Five Search Strategies
      (pp. 97-118)

      The conceptsearch strategyhas been part of the vocabulary of human information behavior (HIB) since the earliest user studies. However, researchers only began to investigate search strategies after the development of digital technology, when the concept became a popular focus of study with the introduction of the World Wide Web. Unlikeinformation need, which is relatively stable,¹search strategyaddresses the dynamic part of the search process itself. While an information need triggers a search process, search strategies reflect the activities during the search. In addition, strategies are considered to possess a great advantage as an object of study:...

  7. III Conceptual Traditions in Human Information Behavior

    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 119-120)

      Human information behavior (HIB) is one of the most active research areas in library and information science (LIS). Since it became a recognized research field in the early 1960s, it has grown by leaps and bounds. A testimony to this growth is the number of documents covered in review articles about the area in theAnnual Review of Information Science and Technology(ARIST). Whereas the first review (Menzel 1966) covered 23 documents, the fifth review (Lipetz 1970) covered 114 documents, most of which had been published in the previous year. The last review—titled “Information Behavior” Fisher and Julien 2009)—...

    • 6 Two Generations of Research
      (pp. 121-144)

      Human information behavior (HIB) made its first steps as a scholarly area in the early 1960s. Typical of an emerging field, it has undergone several transformations since then, the most noticeable of which was the shift from the first research generation to the second. First-generation projects typically focused on a defined group of users searching a context-specific system, and employed statistical analyses to uncover correlations among variables, primarily for the purpose of improving the information system and services at hand. In contrast, many projects in the second generation sought patterns of user behavior—some general and others specific—hoping to...

    • 7 In-Context Research
      (pp. 145-166)

      As we have seen in chapter 6, first-generation research (considered system-centered) investigated contextual variables of users of certain systems, while second-generation research (considered user-centered) focused first on the person, regardless of the context. From these opposing views emerged a third view: in-context research that centered on a person in a context or situation. In-context research was formally established with the first Information Seeking Behavior in Context (ISIC) conference in 1996. This branch of research has grown significantly since then and has attracted the attention of researchers from fields other than library and information science (LIS), such as information retrieval (IR)...

    • 8 Theoretical Traditions in Human Information Behavior
      (pp. 167-182)

      Theoretical traditions play an important role in empirical research, whether or not a researcher recognizes them, and human information behavior is no exception. Each method used in an empirical study has roots in methodological and theoretical traditions. The methodmicromoment timeline interview(Dervin 1992), for example, is derived from the sense-making methodology (see section 3.2.1), which is grounded in a number of theoretical traditions. Research in every field, discipline, and science is directed by such foundations, which together embody its theoretical traditions.¹

      Research in human information behavior (HIB) has been guided by a range of theoretical traditions in the social...

  8. IV Human Information Behavior and Systems Design

    • 9 Interlude: Models and Their Contribution to Design
      (pp. 185-198)

      Every design is informed by some representation of a section of reality. That is, the design of all artifacts, whether a chair, a bridge, an airplane, or an information system, is informed by some kind of model. The models can be presented in various forms, such as blueprints, pictures, or narrative descriptions. In addition to their form of presentation, models can be classified by other categories. Some of these classifications can help uncover which models are most beneficial for design.

      Models have been classified in various ways—by their form, for instance, as abstract, conceptual, graphical, and mathematical models; or...

    • 10 Human Information Behavior and Information Retrieval: Is Collaboration Possible?
      (pp. 199-224)

      Scholars in human information behavior (HIB) are actively continuing to construct the field’s theoretical and conceptual foundations (e.g., Godbold 2006; Niedźwiedzka 2003; Pharo 2004). Not all studies in HIB, however, aim at developing conceptual constructs. Pettigrew and McKechnie (2001), for example, found that only 3% of the 1,160 journal articles they examined were theoretical in nature, and only 34% mentioned a conceptual construct. That is, most empirical studies investigate information behavior without a specific theoretical or conceptual backing, and without claiming to contribute to the construction of a theory or concept. How might the contribution of such studies be recognized?...

    • 11 Cognitive Work Analysis: Dimensions for Analysis
      (pp. 225-240)

      Cognitive work analysis (Vicente 1999) is a work-centered conceptual framework developed by Rasmussen, Pejtersen, and Goodstein (1994) at Risø National Laboratory in Denmark.¹ Its purpose is to guide an analysis of cognitive work that leads to design requirements. The framework is motivated by the assumption that designing a system that can effectively support actors in their work requires an in-depth understanding of the work that actors do and the work’s environment. Cognitive work analysis (CWA) considers as “cognitive work” any activity that requires decision making. Thus, the academic activities of elementary school students, patients’ management of their medical treatment, and...

    • 12 Cognitive Work Analysis: Harnessing Complexity
      (pp. 241-252)

      Human information interaction is a complex phenomenon reflecting the variability inherent to human cognitive processes and the highly complex contexts in which humans operate in the modern world. The CWA dimensions (see figure 11.1) provide a first step for dealing with this complexity. They parcel out the investigated phenomenon but preserve the relationships among the resulting parts. They indicate that some attributes are organizational, some are determined by the work and subject domains, and others are cultural or individual. Each dimension, however, is complex as well. How can these complexities be made compliant with the requirements of the design process?...

  9. V An Ecological Approach to Information Behavior:: Conclusions

    • [V Introduction]
      (pp. 253-254)

      The ecological approach focuses on the environment¹—that is, it gives primary importance to the context in which information interaction is situated. As Vicente (1999) writes, it “suggests that … analysis should begin with, and be driven by, an explicit analysis of the constraints that the environment imposes on action” (55). The ecological approach addresses cognitive constraints as well, yet it is different from theuser-centeredapproach. This difference stems from the origins of the approaches: The ecological approach is based on the systems approach, while the user-centered approach originated from basic research in psychology.

      Vicente (1990) explained that, in...

    • 13 Enhancing the Impact of Research in Human Information Interaction
      (pp. 255-272)

      Research in human information interaction (HII) has the potential to improve both its conceptual basis and the practice of information interaction in various ways. Clearly, materializing this potential requires that research in a particular area be conducive to theoretical developments and relevant to the design of systems that support information interaction—whether human or computer-based. Yet these requirements are not sufficient; realizing this potential also necessitates a conceptual basis that is continuous—rather than a fragmented puzzle of conceptual constructs—and research strands that touch one another—rather than strands in isolation. That is, it requires a research area with...

  10. Glossary
    (pp. 273-276)
  11. Abbreviations
    (pp. 277-278)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 279-304)
  13. References
    (pp. 305-336)
  14. Index of Authors
    (pp. 337-342)
  15. Index of Topics
    (pp. 343-348)