I'm at the LILAC (Information Literacy) conference 18-20 April 2011 in London, UK. Unfortunately after three solid hours (no break!) of conference workshopping and blogging I already feel a bit blogged-out, so this post on the official opening and first keynote may not be comprehensive. Also this photo is actually wisteria rather than lilac (I took this and the previous photos yesterday). The conference was opened by CILIP Information Group chair Debbie Boden and by Caroline Brazier, Director of Scholarship and Collections at the British Library.
David Nicholas then delivered the first keynote. Nicholas is professor at University College London and director of CIBER. He emphasised a few words beginning with D e.g. decoupling and disintermediation, aiming to sketch out a digital transformation of life and the information landscape.
He felt that there was a need for new and appropraite research methods. He asserted that people "didn't remember" what they did in the digital space but there were new opportunities to map people's digital footprints. I suppose that I would say that people are just as likely to remember what they did online as what they did in a physical space (i.e. imperfectly, but that doesn't mean it is useless to ask them). However, I do see the value of the type of deep log analysis that Nicholas was advocating here. Also he made a good point about using this log data to trigger converations about why people do things e.g. in focus groups.
He talked about some chacteristics of digital information behaviour, such "bouncing and skittering" (people not spending much time on particular pages, taking a satisficing approach, flicking through many sources quickly, hoovering through titles & headings and so forth). A conclusion there was a lot of power browsing, with viewing replacing reading. He gave one of the results as being "abstracts are back".
My blogging was just interrupted by a rather alarming blue screen event on my computer ... but to continue 10 minutes on, Nicholas was talking about how he had found that some users found the databases and journal collections too "empty", lonely and clean: the users expected to see traces of other people having been there, and they expected a personalised electronic greeting. The preference for quick solutions and fast collection of information was also mentioned. If you have read earlier posts from today, you will recognise that some of these information behaviour was identified as being a challenge in workshops sessions at the conference this morning.
Nicholas addressed the complex issue of branding, and how there is both the issue that people find it difficult to recognise who has produced information, and also that people do not neccesssarily trust the brands you would think (he gave the examle of NHS information on a Tesco's site, where people thought it came from Tesco and some were disappointed when they found it was from the National Health Service).
Implications include "chipping away at the capacity to concentrate and contemplate", reading problems, underexploiting the potential of digital information to be transformative, and so forth. Nicholas saw a positive role for librarians in developing more effective information behaviour. In a university context, stressing the link between excellent research and use of the literature is important, and also stressing other desired outcomes of informed information behaviour. For more on the research Nicholas referred to, it is worth looking at the reports on the CIBER website.
Right at the end he raised the issue of whether "information literacy" was the trendiest term, and saw "e-style shopping arguments" as more effective. That can lead to lots of discussion, so I will close this blog post at that point ;-)