Lauren Smith talked about Using Phenomenographic Methods to Support Political Information Use at the European Conference on Information Literacy 2016, in Prague, Czech Republic, where I'm liveblogging. She was talking about her doctoral research. This was looking athe different ways in which participants were aware of, acquire and engage with political information. The study looked at students aged 14-15 in a school in South Yorkshire, England. Although they can't vote yet, they are already citizens. There were 23 interviews and 3 focus groups (with the same students). Phenomenography aims to identify the different ways in which the whole set of participants experience or conceive of a phenomenon (rather than looking at individuals). Readers of this blog will have seen numerous other posts on phenomenography from me.
Smith identified six categories from Identifying a range of sources to Helping to work towards social change. Dimensions of variation included production of information (for example, not seeing themselves as part of the system, or active sharing and producing information); evaluating information (including not evaluating; applying critique) - this did depend on what source they were using, too; Political information and agency; Conception of politics.
Interesting insights emerged about stages of development, and awareness, concerns and anxieties around political agency emerged. Smith felt that the research can help librarians and educators engage better with young people to address their concerns and needs. She also mentioned critical pedagogy as enabling this process. Happily, Smith already uploaded her powerpoint - here it is