Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Discursive Action from Wittgenstein to Kulthau

Kulthau, Carol C. (1991). Inside the search process: information seeking from the user’s perspective, Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 361-371. John Wiley and Sons Inc.

You can only procrastinate for so long before it’s time to take care of work. what did I do in my last lifetime to deserve to read articles like this? actually, that comment doesn’t apply that readily to kulthau's article. Kulthau was one of the pioneers in info seeking behavior by looking at affective and cognitive states and conducting empirical research. She looked at a variety of groups over a long period of time (longitudinal studies). thesis is qauite relevant for 1991. more than 10 years ago. studying user behavior wasn’t even a thought then. at least not from a social vantage point. I don’t get the social thing. I’ve always come from a rather personal and psychological model, so getting the social message hasn’t quite sunk in. I know a journal that is being looked at by someone else is a changed journal, not truly reflecting what I would say. like, this stinks. having to read social science articles with bad drawings that illustrate nothing. well, this really has more to do with other articles. now, on to carol kulthau. she is trying to find a new model to study information seeking. is aware of dervin’s research which preceded hers (1983), and agrees with dervin in that once a person can make meaningn or “make sense” of information or a task, then it’s all downhill from there. things will flow. but before that there is anxiety. and it’s ok, she assures us. the solution to a problem will be shared (109). kulthau derives her model from a series of five studies in info seeking behavior, and stresses that what a user feels and thinks during the early stages is important to pay attention to, and studies have not paid that any heed. kulthau points to further studies and urges further research based upon the groundbreaking she has done.
problems with systems based approach is tht the system doesn’t recognize different stages of information seeking, and will offer the same limited options to find an answer, which requires a more focused frame of mind than a user has in the beginning of a search. kulthau feels that her approach is unique in that it goes beyond the cognitive to examine the affective – the feelings that users commonly have when in a very early stage of exploration. uncertainty and anxiety must be addressed in system design and the reference interview. kulthau examines the users’ perspective of information seeking, and she does that by paying attention to what the user is feeling. a wonderful point is made about the discursive nature of information in that the user will have arrived and feel relieved when a personal perspective is found. kulthau compares five different theoretical foundations for ISP: phases of construction (Kelly), levels of need (Taylor), levels of specificity (Belkin), expression (Belkin, Taylor) and mood (Kelly). The five theories rest on a change in users’ feelings whether they be changes in thoughts which can alter the specificity of the need and its expression, feelings, or mood. kulthau feels that it may be more difficult to study thoughts and feelings, but it is the only way to find more out about information seeking behavior. by the way, what is the difference between affective feelings and feelings? can affective feelings be observed by someone else or must they be expressed by the user? sometimes we are not even sure what we feel, so even feelings are blurry.
increases in confidence corresponds to an increase in clarity and focus. but is kulthau talking about cause and effect, or a correlation that goes both ways? as we make more sense, we get better grades. god, this is so circular, as with most of the articles. but actually, I like kulthau, as she patiently moves from smaller and shorter studies and when the theory holds, moves to larger and longer studies. good research. looking at a small sample and then testing at a more significant level. info seekers go through three stages: at first seeking background information, then at midpoint seeking general information, and then moving in for the closure with specific questions, and the ability to make focused statements. the user changes throughout the process. the process is also looked at as a series of tasks in TABLE 3, in summary, moving from gathering to gathering/completing and then finally to writing or presenting. kulthau shares the view with many others that you must nurture the info seeking process, not writing too soon, not expecting ideas to be well-formed at the beginning. I feel that writing and thinking influence each other and that if you are willing to face your unformed and somewhat irrational thoughts, if you are willing to put them on paper, they will change what you know, and help you to construct meaning. kulthau’s theories are not unique. writing instructors urge their students to write in journals to learn discursively.

Tuominen, Kimmo and Savolainen, Reijo. A social constructionist approach to the study of information use as discursive action,

Definition and influential texts:
Most interesting article to date and needs more investigation. Text in conversation with the reader is probably the most interesting thing we have read to date. Talking through our artifacts. Many things in common with Dervin and Nilan who stress that the personal subjective is most important. Kulthau also stresses the importance of integrating information into a personal viewpoint. The text is simply a starting point. Have to trace some of the footnotes. Social constructionism dates back to Berger and Luckmann’s 1966 work “the social construction of reality” but since then other theories have influences it, namely poststructuralist thinking (Foucault), linguistic philosophy (Austin and Wittgenstein), etc. they are all included in Tuominen and Savolainen’s article. Social constructivism has influenced other disciplines such
as literary criticism and authors believe that socially and dialogically oriented research approaches will gain popularity in information studies. and they have already. the studies taking place now take into account the conversations going on with the text. or the interface the authors believe that. Dervin’s approach “communitarianism” comes very close to “constructionism.”
Other influences have appeared, namely (forget it, not enough time to mention, but I’ll return to the text later). Besides, this journal is for my benefit, and its map may not be clear to others but it is a discursive tool. I think here. A study of information use through the methodology of constructionism, based heavily in theory that no one ever understood anyway. Subjective approach. What is discourse? Talk and writing. interaction with text. everything is text. text is information. we can converse with anything. we change the text by discourse. this view stands in opposition to cognitive approach which dominated user studies until the 1970s. This article is also about making sense, i.e. the active role we take in interpreting texts and changing them through our interpretation. Too bad my critical viewpoint grew out of a McLuhanesque and Jungian perspective with little post-modern inclination. That was happening in Irvine, California and Paris. I thought that people realized that post-modern thought was a joke. That it was all for fun. Now, library science and
IT practitioners embrace it. That brings us to Umberto Eco and Travels in Hyperreality, something I have to study on my own. But Tuominen and Savolainen introduce us to social constructionism and its definitions:
language is not an abstract system disconnected from talking and writing. the human being is not the point of departure. the most important things take place in discursive interaction. knowledge is something people do together, not something that one person possesses. so I guess they’re talking about a cultural storehouse to which we each contribute, but we could not contribute if we did not build upon what others have shared with us. Is that it? there are amazing applications to the internet and the commons. the conduit between us – the networks and the online communities. oh, this has got to be hype.
authors build upon the making sense model of Dervin (1991)
Who is Jerome Bruner and the Cognitive Revolution. Let’s take a peek at the references. H-m-m-m—m-m—m-m. Acts of Meaning (1990). I’ll take it out of the library if they have it. So far I like the observation, “cognitive science employing the computer analogy has gravitated toward technical and culturally insignificant questions.” Yes. because according to the authors the analysis of social and cultural meaning is stifled through the analogy.
context is paramount.
authors defend their discursive methodology.
methods of description
influences: Wittgenstein, etc.

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