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EXPLORING INFORMATION
LITERACY THROUGH THE LENS
OF ACTIVITY THEORY
HAZEL HALL
@HAZELH
PETER CRUICKSHANK
@SPARTAKAN
BRUCE R...
WHAT ARE COMMUNITY COUNCILS?
Community councils represent small areas within local authorities
◦ Legal duty: Ascertain, co...
WHY COMMUNITY COUNCILS ARE INTERESTING FOR ECIL
Pure representation role
Almost entirely oriented
to information finding
a...
RESEARCH MOTIVATION
2014: looking at community councils’ online presences
◦ 16% don’t exist
◦ 36% exist but are not online...
ABOUT THE PROJECT
9-week project at the end of 2016.
Project aims
◦ How do community councillors
1. access and understand ...
RESEARCH APPROACH (1)
Identified themes …
◦ Information literacy
◦ Behaviour and practices
◦ Lifelong learning/everyday li...
RESEARCH APPROACH (2)
IL focusses on the individual
Activity Theory (AT) provides ‘a language for making sense of complex,...
RESEARCH APPROACH (2)
2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 8
•From themes
•From literature
Questions
d...
RESEARCH PROCESS
METHODS
Semi-structured interviews
◦ Interview questions validated against
SCONUL model
◦ 1 hour
◦ Most b...
FINDINGS:
EXPLORING THE AT CONSTRUCTS
Illustrative examples follow, showing
◦ How we used AT constructs
◦ How AT was usefu...
FINDINGS:
WHO ARE THE SUBJECTS?
Definition
Subjects are people undertaking activities.
Problem
◦ individual community coun...
FINDINGS:
WHAT ARE THEIR MOTIVATIONS?
2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 12
Definition
Motivations a...
FINDINGS:
WHAT ARE THE OBJECTS AND OUTCOMES?
2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 13
Definitions
Objec...
FINDINGS:
WHAT ARE THE TOOLS?
2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 14
Definition
Tools are the physica...
FINDINGS:
WHAT ARE THE RULES AND NORMS?
2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 15
Definition
Rules and n...
FINDINGS:
WHAT IS THE COMMUNITY?
2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 16
Definition
Community is the a...
FINDINGS:
WHAT IS THE DIVISION OF LABOUR?
2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 17
Definition
Division ...
CONCLUSIONS:
A PICTURE OF INFORMATION ACTIVITIES
2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 18
Object
inform...
CONCLUSIONS:
ADVANTAGES OF USING ACTIVITY THEORY
Systematic data collection and analysis
Ensured comprehensive data extrac...
CONCLUSIONS:
ADVANTAGES OF USING ACTIVITY THEORY
Overall
◦AT is valuable to research design in projects
concerned with gro...
CONCLUSIONS:
CHALLENGES AND FURTHER WORK
◦ Who are the subjects?
◦ rules and norms v division of labour
◦ Choice of ‘best’...
SELECTED REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
Behrens, S. J. (1994). A Conceptual Analysis and Historical Overview of Information ...
THE END
…FOR NOW
H A Z E L H A L L
@ H A Z E L H
H . H A L L @ N A P I E R . A C . U K
P E T E R C R U I C K S H A N K
@ S...
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Exploring information literacy through the lens of Activity Theory

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'Exploring information literacy through the lens of Activity Theory' is a paper presented by Bruce Ryan at the 5th European Conference on Information Literacy in St-Malo, France, 18th to 21st September 2017. It is concluded that Activity Theory is an appropriate tool for information literacy research. Its main strengths are found in the processes of preparing data collection tools and the extraction of ‘meaning’ from interview data. In addition, Activity Theory is especially powerful at identifying contradictions between the activities under scrutiny in research projects. In this case, since information literacy was viewed through the lens of Activity Theory, barriers to information sharing, and the stimulation of change in information practice, emerged as strong themes in the research project findings. **The full paper for this slide deck is available. Please see https://www.napier.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/research-search/outputs/exploring-information-literacy-through-the-lens-of-activity-theory **

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Exploring information literacy through the lens of Activity Theory

  1. 1. EXPLORING INFORMATION LITERACY THROUGH THE LENS OF ACTIVITY THEORY HAZEL HALL @HAZELH PETER CRUICKSHANK @SPARTAKAN BRUCE RYAN @BRUCE_RESEARCH CENTRE FOR SOCIAL INFORMATICS 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 1
  2. 2. WHAT ARE COMMUNITY COUNCILS? Community councils represent small areas within local authorities ◦ Legal duty: Ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, … the views of the community which it represents ◦ In practice, also communication of key facts to citizens ◦ Some rights to be consulted on planning ◦ small budgets (around £1000 annually) Community councillors ◦ unpaid volunteers ◦ around 11,000 community councillors ◦ No solid demographic information exists HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323)2017_09_20 2 UK Government Scottish Government local authorities community councils
  3. 3. WHY COMMUNITY COUNCILS ARE INTERESTING FOR ECIL Pure representation role Almost entirely oriented to information finding and sharing May give an insight into approaches to ‘facts’ by representatives Small scale, community-based nature: Analogies with hyperlocal media? ‘channel-blurring’ 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 3
  4. 4. RESEARCH MOTIVATION 2014: looking at community councils’ online presences ◦ 16% don’t exist ◦ 36% exist but are not online ◦ 26% are ‘out-of-date’ ◦ Only 22% are ‘up-to-date’ Subsequent work used models of knowledge sharing and CoPs (Cruickshank & Ryan, 2015) ◦ information science could provide useful insights ◦ how do community councillors acquire skills and information? Research gap: information literacy in representatives Personal motivation/perspective 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 4
  5. 5. ABOUT THE PROJECT 9-week project at the end of 2016. Project aims ◦ How do community councillors 1. access and understand information on their duties and rights 2. keep up to date with local developments of relevance to the communities that they serve; 3. disseminate information to their communities? ◦ Where do future efforts need to be directed to improve the skills and practices of this group? ◦ What are the roles of public library staff in the training of community councillors? ◦ How do community councillors information literacies contribute to their communities, to building social capital, and to their or others’ citizenships? 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 5
  6. 6. RESEARCH APPROACH (1) Identified themes … ◦ Information literacy ◦ Behaviour and practices ◦ Lifelong learning/everyday life ◦ Libraries ◦ Communities, social capital and citizenship ◦ Becoming information literate 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 6 •From themes •From literature Interview questions developed •Information Literacy •Activity systems Validated against models
  7. 7. RESEARCH APPROACH (2) IL focusses on the individual Activity Theory (AT) provides ‘a language for making sense of complex, real-world activities in cultural and historical contexts’ ◦ Stems from work by soviet psychologists Vygotsky, Rubenstein and Leont’ev. ◦ AT’s early history: Mironenko (2013) ◦ Developed into CHAT by Bergstrom Sees human activities as systemic and socially-situated phenomena. Provides ready-built framework for contextualising and understanding underlying issues around social/collective activities. ◦ AT has been used in IL research (e.g. in Wilson, 2008) ◦ not in the context of democratic representation (or specifically, the actions of representatives) ◦ Inspired partly by Detlor, Hupfer & Smith (2016) 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 7
  8. 8. RESEARCH APPROACH (2) 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 8 •From themes •From literature Questions developed •Information Literacy •Activity systems Validated against models Subject Tools Object Outcome Division of labour CommunityRules and norms Motivation
  9. 9. RESEARCH PROCESS METHODS Semi-structured interviews ◦ Interview questions validated against SCONUL model ◦ 1 hour ◦ Most by phone ◦ Thematic analysis (RQs and AT constructs) Triangulation through ◦ Online survey ◦ Direct contact with LA support staff ◦ Desktop research PARTICIPANTS 19 volunteers across Scotland ◦ From 17 CCs ◦ Recruited via LA officials and CC KnowledgeHub group ◦ 11M, 8F ◦ CC areas SIMD range 5 to 10 ◦ Almost all have degree or PG education Lack CC demographics information ◦ But untypically high self-efficacy 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 9 1 3 9 4 2 0 2 4 6 8 10 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69 70-+ numberofparticipants participant age-range
  10. 10. FINDINGS: EXPLORING THE AT CONSTRUCTS Illustrative examples follow, showing ◦ How we used AT constructs ◦ How AT was useful in this information literacy project. ◦ thematic analysis ◦ We didn’t specifically search for contradictions, though some contradictions did emerge. The full project findings are in other outputs. 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 10 Community, Knowledge, Connections
  11. 11. FINDINGS: WHO ARE THE SUBJECTS? Definition Subjects are people undertaking activities. Problem ◦ individual community councillors, because they are the people who undertake the activities? ◦ the community councils, as ‘inanimate’ groups? Our solution Precedent Detlor, Hupfer and Smith (2016) collected data from individuals but classed libraries as subjects. 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 11 ‘interviewee’ ‘subject’ Subject Tools Object Outcome Division of labour CommunityRules and norms Motivation
  12. 12. FINDINGS: WHAT ARE THEIR MOTIVATIONS? 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 12 Definition Motivations are the reasons why subjects undertake activities Anticipation ◦ responses to legislation ◦ response to local authority ‘schemes’ Findings A majority of interviewees engaged in information activities that fit with the motivation construct of AT. In addition, the interviewees explained their more general motivations to volunteer as hyperlocal representatives. Subject Tools Object Outcome Division of labour CommunityRules and norms Motivation
  13. 13. FINDINGS: WHAT ARE THE OBJECTS AND OUTCOMES? 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 13 Definitions Objects are the goals subjects wish to achieve ◦ can change over time Outcomes are the actual results of activities ◦ can include unexpected results Anticipation Main object of information activities would be to gather, process and convey information about citizens’ opinions. Finding: objects confirmed by 15 of the 19 interviewees Finding: outcomes Evidence of poor information practices ◦ ‘mailing list [has] 60-odd people [but] there are 25,000 people in the area’. ◦ Another interviewee was considering resignation due to lack of peer support. ‘We don’t transact actions, we don’t have any financial power. Our currency is information’ Subject Tools Object Outcome Division of labour CommunityRules and norms Motivation
  14. 14. FINDINGS: WHAT ARE THE TOOLS? 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 14 Definition Tools are the physical or mental devices used by subjects in their activities. Anticipation ◦ digital ◦ traditional ◦ face-to-face Question We asked interviewees how they ◦ gather information about local issues ◦ share information with their citizens. Findings Identification of a range of tools including ◦ bodies, e.g. local authorities ◦ individuals, e.g. citizens by word of mouth ◦ traditional media, e.g. local press ◦ internet sources, e.g. Facebook. Bonus Data on perceived usefulness and levels of comfort when using these tools ◦ practical information (training needs) Subject Tools Object Outcome Division of labour CommunityRules and norms Motivation
  15. 15. FINDINGS: WHAT ARE THE RULES AND NORMS? 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 15 Definition Rules and norms are the regulations and conventions that mediate activities and relationships within the activity system. Anticipation Imposed: legislation and LA schemes Findings ◦ Imposed: legislation and LA schemes ◦ Self-devised: ◦ e.g. mark email as ‘internal only’ etc ◦ e.g. ignore all planning matters that not directly impinging on CC’s area. ◦ Two mentions of autocracy ◦ one subject aims for ‘open-ness, information- and resource-sharing, and accessible paper- trails’. Bonus Revealed factors influencing how information tasks are undertaken, including whether or not they are undertaken at all. Subject Tools Object Outcome Division of labour CommunityRules and norms Motivation
  16. 16. FINDINGS: WHAT IS THE COMMUNITY? 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 16 Definition Community is the activity’s stakeholders. It may be ◦ the subject’s immediate work group or team ◦ the wider organisational community ◦ society at large Findings ◦ NB each community council has its own AT ‘community’ ◦ Fellow community councillors ◦ Local citizens ◦ Local authority staff and councillors Bonus additional commentary provided on levels of engagement across the communities But… Subsequently found indications that most engagement is with local authority, not with citizens ‘represented’ by community councils. Subject Tools Object Outcome Division of labour CommunityRules and norms Motivation
  17. 17. FINDINGS: WHAT IS THE DIVISION OF LABOUR? 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 17 Definition Division of labour refers to the manner(s) in which work is allocated among actors Findings range of approaches, e.g. ◦ individual skills ◦ designated roles Result AT could establish an overview of the means of task-allocation. But… Problems understanding how division of labour is mediated by rules and norms. ◦ difficult to find clear-cut distinctions between these two constructs. Subject Tools Object Outcome Division of labour CommunityRules and norms Motivation
  18. 18. CONCLUSIONS: A PICTURE OF INFORMATION ACTIVITIES 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 18 Object information sharing between citizens and authorities Subject community councils Tools Facebook, other social media, face-to-face, paper Outcome limited information sharing between citizens and authorities Division of labour conflicts, roles Community peers and local authority councilors/staff, local residents (to some extent) Rules and norms mostly from local authority guidance but some developed ‘in-house’ Motivation legislation and local authority schemes
  19. 19. CONCLUSIONS: ADVANTAGES OF USING ACTIVITY THEORY Systematic data collection and analysis Ensured comprehensive data extraction to answer RQs ◦ Checking each construct was in interview schedule Ready-made framework for coding the data ◦ analysis of activities reported by the interviewees ◦ see alignments between the data put under AT constructs and the SCONUL IL pillars ◦ e.g. data relevant to both tools and community fit with the gather and present pillars. Brought out important findings about IL amongst community councillors in Scotland and the factors that influence these Contradictions/tensions identified ◦ foundations of future practical benefits, by ‘exposing opportunities for change’. ◦ e.g. community councillors are part-time volunteers ◦ do not have time to undertake all possible activities. ◦ community councils’ low use of the Internet to engage with citizens. ◦ Practical recommendations 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 19
  20. 20. CONCLUSIONS: ADVANTAGES OF USING ACTIVITY THEORY Overall ◦AT is valuable to research design in projects concerned with group information practices ◦AT can contribute to the generation of findings that relate to existing IL models ◦ in this case the SCONUL 7 pillars 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 20
  21. 21. CONCLUSIONS: CHALLENGES AND FURTHER WORK ◦ Who are the subjects? ◦ rules and norms v division of labour ◦ Choice of ‘best’ activity system ◦ from local authority to community council to citizens? OR ◦ from citizens to community council to local authority ◦ both may happen simultaneously, e.g. in Facebook Activity diagrams are snapshots at a certain time Ideas for future work: ◦ Explicit study of contradictions ◦ Longitudinal studies ◦ observe impact of interventions ◦ such as our recommendations, if implemented Next: Bigger online survey of IL 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 21
  22. 22. SELECTED REFERENCES & FURTHER READING Behrens, S. J. (1994). A Conceptual Analysis and Historical Overview of Information Literacy. College & Research Libraries, 55(4), 309–322. https://doi.org/10.5860/crl_55_04_309 Cruickshank, P., Hall, H., Ryan, B.M. (2017). Practices of Community Representatives in Exploiting Information Channels for Citizen Engagement. Paper presented at information: interactions and impact 2017, Aberdeen, 27-30 June 2017. Abstract available at: http://www.napier.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/research- search/outputs/practices-of-community-representatives-in-exploiting-information-channels-for-citizen Cruickshank, P., & Ryan, B. M. (2015). The Communities of Practice model for understanding digital engagement by hyperlocal elected representatives. In E. Tambouris, H. J. Scholl, M. Janssen, M. A. Wimmer, K. Tarabanis, M. Gascó, … Ø. Sæbø (Eds.), Electronic Government and Electronic Participation (pp. 11–18). IOS Press. http://doi.org/10.3233/978-1-61499-570-8-11 Detlor, B., Hupfer, M. E., & Smith, D. H. (2016). Digital storytelling and memory institutions: a case study using activity theory. In ASIST 2016. Copenhagen, Denmark. Hall, H., Cruickshank, P., Ryan, B.M. (2017). Information Literacy for Democratic Engagement. Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh. https://communityknectdotnet.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/il-dem-stakeholder-report-january-2017.pdf Irving, C., Brettle, A., & Hall, H. (2015). How can information literacy be modelled from a lifelong learning perspective? In Information: Interactions and Impact. Aberdeen, UK. Retrieved from www.rgu.ac.uk/file/i3-irving-et-al-pdf-800k Mironenko, I.A. (2013). Concerning Interpretations of Activity Theory. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 47(3), 376–393. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12124-013- 9231-5 Ryan, B. M., & Cruickshank, P. (2014). Scottish Community Councils online: the 2014 survey. Edinburgh. https://doi.org/10.14297/enr.2016.000002 Smith, L. (2016). Information literacy as a tool to support political participation. Library and Information Research, 40(123), 14–23. Wilson, T. (2008). Activity Theory and Information Seeking. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 42, 119–161. https://doi.org/10.1002/aris.2008.1440420111 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 22
  23. 23. THE END …FOR NOW H A Z E L H A L L @ H A Z E L H H . H A L L @ N A P I E R . A C . U K P E T E R C R U I C K S H A N K @ S P A R T A K A N P . C R U I C K S H A N K @ N A P I E R . A C . U K B R U C E R Y A N @ B R U C E _ R E S E A R C H B . R Y A N @ N A P I E R . A C . U K P R O J E C T I N F O : H T T P S : / / C O M M U N I T Y - K N E C T . N E T / 2017_09_20 HALL, CRUICKSHANK, RYAN - ECIL (SESSION D323) 23 The authors are grateful to … CILIP Information Literacy Group Community councillor participants Local authority & Improvement Service staff Local authority librarians Community, Knowledge, Connections

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