Information seeking and use in diverse organizational contexts



This session combines individual presentations with a group discussion. The focus of this session and the expertise of this panel bring together ways of thinking about information seeking and use in diverse organizational contexts. Organizational contexts are not uniform. Quite the contrary, they are very diverse in terms of the individuals, cultures, habits, routines, systems and infrastructures within them. The panelists offer varying viewpoints on how to best address information seeking and use diversity in the workplace. Though each panelist offers different perspectives on how to do this, collectively they rally a persuasive need to not assume homogeneity in our understanding and investigation of information seeking and use in organizational settings. Rather, they suggest it would be better to recognize the acute diversity in the individuals, tasks, cultures, technologies, and information practices that exist in organizations today, and to develop models, approaches, and recommendations of information seeking and use that reflect our understanding of this diversity.

Overview (panelist: Brian Detlor)

The panel session will begin with a general overview of the panel's theme and its relevance and importance to the broader ASIST community. Background will be given on key models and theories that inform our understanding of diversity issues in organizational information behavior research, including those that are individual and task-based. This will set the stage and provide context to the individual panelist presentations. Each panelist will situate his or her talk in context to the overall theme and will elicit key insights and recommendations pertaining to this theme. Further, each panelist will conclude his or her talk with a list of thought provoking questions. This should provide a powerful mechanism to engage conversation and the sharing of ideas between panel members and audience participants. This session reflects the interests of the SIG-USE membership and aligns with the ASIST 2009 theme of “Thriving on Diversity – Information Opportunities in a Pluralistic World.” The individual panelists will speak to the following topics concerning information seeking and use:

Information Culture Diversity (panelist: Chun Wei Choo)

We say organizations have distinctive cultures. To what extent do they also develop distinctive information cultures? How may we develop information culture as a theoretical construct that could help us study information seeking and use in organizations? As a start we might look at the small set of literature that discusses information culture explicitly, and the even smaller number of studies that attempt to examine it empirically.

Manager Diversity (panelist: Maureen MacKenzie)

There is a plethora of research on managing in diverse cultures and valuing employee differences within organizational environments. Yet, the viewpoint is often down the corporate ladder, focusing on how managers can optimize the differences among employees. There is lack of research, or perhaps interest, in considering the individual differences, or diversity, among managers. There is less interest in separating managers from non-managers and understanding how they thrive or even navigate within an information and technology rich world. This panelist will consider the following questions: What are the information behaviors of managers? How do managers use their social networks to gain access to information? How do managers cognitively accumulate information so that information is available when needed, thereby avoiding a lengthy information search to solve a problem? What are the human factors that influence the flow of information?

Information Technology Diversity (panelist: Don Turnbull)

Organizations have access to a myriad of different kinds of information technologies to seek and use information – often as many kinds as individuals in the organization. The growth of alternative technologies, innovative applications and mobile communication platforms adds diversity of information sources, information transfer mediums, as well as methods of information seeking. Because of this variety, most organizations lack a clear plan or framework how best to leverage information technologies for effective information seeking and use purposes. This panelist suggests that organizations need to focus on blending the different information technologies available in the marketplace and learn how to leverage these technologies for the most effective information seeking and use for both individuals and the organization as a whole. A review of a recent case-study along with real-life examples from the field, the panelist offers recommendations for organizations to follow. Ideas for future research are also suggested.

Information Practices and Scale Diversity in Organizations (panelist: Matt Ratto)

The link between information practices and organizational context is well known, with context being variously defined in relationship to norms, values, and behaviors or epistemic 'style' and information culture. What has been less analyzed is the relation between information practices and differing scales of organizational dynamics. That these dynamics vary even within single organizations is noted by the variety of terms that are used to highlight different features of information seeking and use behaviors within organizations – social worlds, communities of practice, information cultures, and so on. The panelist will detail a conceptual typology that relates differing categories of practice to differing scales of context and uses a specific case study to explore how incorporating scale diversity will help us better address issues of organizational difference.


This panel is kindly sponsored by SIG-USE