Thursday, June 24, 2010

COLIS2010: Information behaviour in gourmet cooking

At the COLIS 2010 conference Jenna Hartel (University of Toronto, Canada) talked about Time as framework for information science: insights from the hobby of gourmet cooking. Since it is not so relevant to this blog, I will not cover the part about the framework for information science, but I will give a short glimpse into her research, since I think it is relevant in terms of thinking about the kinds of information activities that people engage with in such a commonplace activity as cooking. Hartel used an ethnographic approach to a study of the use of information in amateur gourmet cooking. She noticed that temporal issues were important and used this factor to identify three temporal arcs:
- lifetime of the cooking hobby (with a "career arc": beginning, development, establishment, maintenance, decline). Early on, there was a focus on learning, later on the focus was on collecting (recipes etc.)
- Subjects (types of cooking e.g. baking, barbecue, Chinese, "that summer I was really into French") The focus here is on classifying, defined as "meaningful clustering of experience".
- Episodes (Doing the cooking!) Hartel identified nine typical steps e.g. planning (which involves searching for recipes) - see the link at the end for her article that gives them all.
I may be misinterpreting, but I think this meant that (for example) someone still in the learning phase who was cooking a French meal would be engaged in slightly different information behaviour to someone who was an experienced cook (e.g. they maybe searching their own recipe collection rather outside sources at the planning stage).
This was a very interesting talk from a research perspective, but also in practical terms I think it could give more purpose to information literacy initaitives in public libraries who were thinking about targetting people interested in cookery (e.g. concentration on finding new recipes vs. organising all the recipes you've collected on scraps of paper, books and bookmarks).
There is an article about her research:
Hartel, J. (2006) "Information activities and resources in an episode of gourmet cooking" Information Research, 12(1).
One article that Hartel mentioned in particular was:
Savolainen, R. (2006) Time as a context of information. Library and Information Science Research, 28 (1) 110-127.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Cafe at University College London, June 2010.

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