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Low incomefullfinal Low incomefullfinal Presentation Transcript

  • Social/Personal Information Behavior of Low Income Communities
  • Social/Personal Information Needs of Low Income Communities
    • Much has been written on the technological divide that exists between communities of different socioeconomic levels. However the social dynamics that moderate the daily life information seeking of these communities is also important when considering the development of services and systems.
    • Poverty is most commonly defined in relation to the government’s median family income designation within a given metropolitan area, with low-income defined as 50% of that income level. With the designation often comes presumptions about the level of access one does or does not have to various resources.
    • Though a variety of circumstances (or contexts) can contribute to one’s low income status & therefore influence one’s information behavior, a number of researchers have examined the information seeking behavior of low-income individuals, identifying some of the needs, sources, motivations and flow of information within these communities. This report looks at some very broad findings.
    • Spinks and Cole outline five Channels of Information Seeking related to low income individuals:
    • Receiver focus: centers on the disadvantaged person for the purpose preparing this person to receive and process incoming information that will positively affect his or her living conditions.
    • Source focus: centers on the source of information, broad and narrow terms.
    • Message focus: centers on tailoring the message or information to fit the informationally disadvantaged user.
    • Barrier focus: focus of the research is a description of barriers to information access.
    • Channel focus : information science’s traditional interest in evaluation the delivery of user services in libraries and other information centers. This is an important focus, as the Librarian can serve as Information Channel, directing to other information sources.
    Social/Personal Information Needs of Low Income Communities
  • Social/Personal Information Sources of Low Income Communities
    • Bishop, et al conducted a study of low income residents to determine information needs and sources. In their study, the residents called upon a variety of sources in order to get information, including informal, interpersonal contacts and more formal interactions with community organizations.
    • The following table from the study, shows the distribution of this group’s everyday information needs and the information source .
    • As an information channel for low-income residents, the library was thought to be less critical than other major channels, especially for obtaining community information. Contacts with community organizations and word-of-mouth exchange with people in one’s close social circle appear most important for accessing and exchanging information about local resources and activities.
    • Bishop et al identified the information needs of the particular low-income community they studied as relating most often to health, parenting, education, leisure activities, and employment opportunities. More specifically, they cared most about receiving information on:
    Social/Personal Information Needs of Low Income Communities
    • A later study by Spinks and Cole, found that, in places where there are limited financial and information resources, limited education and employment opportunities, and isolation from larger communities , the focus of individuals’ information seeking is on those things that affect their daily lives directly . In their study, this included information related to :
    • Community services and activities
    • Resources for children
    • Healthcare
    • Education
    • Employment
    • Crime and safety
    • Finding money for rent and food
    • Maintaining the security of the household
    • Finding out about family events or local activities
  • Social/Personal Information Sources of Low Income Communities
    • Everyday interpersonal encounters often emerge as the primary source for information that is going on in the community, as opposed to the use of communications media. Family and friends are integral to successful information seeking, followed by professionals within their communities and work colleagues.
    • Understanding the social context that influences any group’s information seeking behavior is key. In low-income communities, often family and peer networks are critical both to community involvement and to the exchange of information.
    • A study by Agada highlighted the fact that, in lower income communities, familiarity and reliability or trustworthiness are important criteria for assessing information sources and content. These criteria were used to enhance validity and utility of information, thereby indicating the preference of social networks as a primary, information-seeking strategy.
  • Social/Personal Information Sources of Low Income Communities
    • Subjects in the Spinks and Cole study considered “ news events ” to be those directly related to family life and children’s activities at school, again emphasizing the role of “context” in human information behavior. Therefore, the most important sources of news events were family members (followed by school, TV, & newspaper).
    • The most used sources for information on matters of security were networks of neighbors, followed by security services and housing management. Subjects notion of crime threats focused primarily on their own neighborhoods and not beyond, and thus those that didn’t have information related to their neighborhoods (family or city police) were not deemed valuable information sources.
    • Significantly, the individuals did not perceive that access to information resources related to education and employment that could potentially change their lives, was a reality for them. Many wanted those resources, but did not know how to go about accessing them.
    • In terms of library/Internet usage , one-third had used public library. Two-thirds did not use libraries, computers, or internet for information, though they did identify the computer lab and literacy program available in their community as important.
  • Social/Personal Information Barriers of Low Income Communities
    • If individuals have previously been unsuccessful at obtaining information they need, they may conclude that the information channels are not open to their community.
    • This can result in only the highly educated and elite (who may have been in mind when systems were being built in the first place), being able to take full advantage of the resources, and serve to continue to lock out people of low income.
    • Elfreda Chatman, in her research on information poverty, discussed the level of trust necessary for people to be willing to receive information from those outside of their own group. A distrust of information from sources considered to be in the service of “outsiders,” can keep people from pursuing information that they need.
    • She suggested that information poor individuals often want to conceal their real state of need and therefore may engage in secrecy, deception, risk avoidance or other self protective behaviors toward that end. This phenomenon can be seen in the behavior of many low income communities. Such tactics effectively limit access to any knowledge that exists outside of their lived experience.
    • Few information or service agencies could anticipate the range of personal needs experienced in the environments of marginalized groups. Existing networks of gatekeepers have been suggested to bridge the gap (physical, cognitive, credibility, etc.) between information services and these groups.
    • These gatekeepers, information intermediaries who move between cultures, can serve to link their community with the resources beyond their small world, bridge the credibility, physical, or cognitive gap that exists between information services and the information use environments of the community of which they are a part.
    Gatekeepers
    • A 1998 Benton Foundation report suggested that those who are already information poor may become even moreso as organizations, government agencies and businesses use the Internet more and more to disseminate information that they previously dispatched via other channels.
    • The range of barriers demands that networked information services go beyond meeting physical demands such as providing public access to computers, to offering outreach, training, and support services to accompany access.
    • It is also recognized that informal collaboration and social exchange with peers helps in learning how to use information technologies, again emphasizing the value of social networks.
    • Drawing again on the concept of gatekeepers, Star and Ruhleder (1996) discuss the need for “ local tailors” and “technology mediators ” to “provide a bridge between relatively generic technologies and their local interpretation and application.” While libraries offer some opportunity to provide access and reduce barriers to technology usage, they don’t necessarily serve as local tailors, and therefore are not appealing to low income individuals. Getting other low-income community members to participate in the creation of creation of networked community information and policy/program development could offer a solution.
    Networked Information Sharing & Low Income Communities
    • Though not all low-income individuals see networked information as being necessary to meet their immediate daily information needs, those who do indicate an interest in Internet access listed the following resources as motivations in the Bishop et al study:
    • Self-improvement (to gain computing skills to help in work, education, and household management);
    • Feelings of being marginalized and left out of what everyone else is doing;
    • The desire to advance and be a part of their children’s interests; and
    • The desire to obtain information about employment, educational, or recreational opportunities.
    • Among these individuals, a primary concern was being able to keep up with the technology (particularly financially).
    Networked Information Sharing & Low Income Communities
  • Recommendations for Information Professionals
    • Effective collaboration with other community-based institutions in developing networked information services is called for on several grounds. Stated most simply, community-wide problems require community-wide solutions.
    • Libraries should focus on developing partnerships with community organizations to promote information resources that are available to community members.
    • The library can operate as a community information center, support life long learning, business development, and cultural enrichment, but all of this depends on the libraries ability to gain the community trust and represent that they are invested in a partnership.
    • Libraries and information professionals can also use these partnerships to help solve community problems, to work to preserve local culture and history, and promote networked information literacy.
    • In addition, libraries partnered with community-based organizations can support the efforts of community members to receive training and support related to the use
    • of networked information tools and resources and capitalize on the enthusiasm, interest, insights, and skills of low-income community members who want to contribute to promotional, training and support, or content development initiatives.
  • Recommendations for Information Professionals
    • In many studies, the subjects had a positive attitude towards library, but it was just not natural for them to think of the library as a first destination for community information or for networked information resources. On the other hand, attitudes toward the library were positive.
    • One subject stated that “It is good to bring together information and make it available to people, to organize it and make good information available for people over the net. But we need the right people to make it most efficient . Library people are the key.”