Thursday, June 29, 2017

Practices of community representatives in exploiting information channels for citizen engagement #i3rgu

Another presentation from the i3 conference at RGU in Aberdeen. Peter Cruickshank (presenter), Professor Hazel Hall and Dr Bruce Ryan authored a paper on Practices of community representatives in exploiting information channels for citizen engagement.
The project was funded by the CILIP Information Literacy Group. It was looking at the information behaviour of members of Scottish Community Councils: these are unpaid volunteer posts, elected, but not necessarily with much competition for election. The representation role is "entirely oriented to finding and sharing". The researchers wondered whether there were analogies with findings into research about hyperlocal media. Additionally the conversations might e.g. start on social media, but be continued when you bump into someone on the street.
The researchers had previosuly used a lens of knowledge sharing and Communities of Practice, so it seemed fruitful to explore this population again to look at how the councillors went about acquiring information skills and sources.
The speaker went back to Zurkowski's definition of information literacy and noted how it had been "hijacked by librarians ;-) and IL now tended to be seen as a "good thing" i.e. it was value laden.
Themes they wanted to include included lifelong learning, citizenship etc. They also used the SCONUL 7 Pillars as a mode of "validating" their questions (I think, that covered various aspects of IL). They also used the nodes of the activity theory triangle to test that they were asking questions that related to these elements.
They mainly gathered data via interviews. The councillors were mostly highly educated - not typical of citizens, and they don't have enough information about community councillor demographics to know if this is typical of councillors.
(1) Finding and sharing information. They defined their role in terms of information e.g. "voice of the community" "our currency is information". They were using a mixture of digital and non-digital, including importantly face to face information.Facebook was the key channel.
(2) Analysis using the SCONUL model. There was little "Scoping" and lack of conscious "Planning". They were quite good at "gathering" and with "Evaluation" they would put a lot of emphasis on the source of information e.g. trust official information. They showed awareness of responsibilities to citizens in terms of what they do or do not share. "Information Management" wasn't mentioned. "Information presentation" was practised in a variety of ways.
(3) Using activity theory was good for exploring the social context - motivations, roles, obviously division of labour, tools etc. (they will be presenting more about this at ECIL in September)
(4) They didn't find the SCONUL model explanatory, and its academic origins will have affected that. Sharing was key to the councillors' role and not covered so well in the model.
(5) There are evident training needs, and opportunities for library support are being missed (specifically IL skills for community councillors).

Some points from the conclusion were - that it is interesting to see whether this relates to workplace research, and whether other frameworks could also be useful in exploring the research problem.

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