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Home About Help Search. Although information needs were traditionally accepted as indispensable to the redesign and improvement of existing information retrieval systems Taylor, ; Wilson, , they were also closely related to inner experiences of the user. Initially there was general belief that uncertainty gave rise to information needs, but Wilson , p.

Diverse opinions exist about exactly where information needs originate.

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Wilson distinguished between cognitive needs triggered by the performance of tasks, decision making and planning and affective needs triggered by a need for achievement. Dervin , Kuhlthau and Nahl argued that awareness of a lack of information inner experience can trigger a need for information. Savolainen pointed out that information needs had been approached increasingly in the context of task performance. More recently Cole formulated a theory of information needs. Despite the fact that the discourse revolves around human behaviour related to information, its role is seldom acknowledged in generic models.

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Bates , p. Dervin saw the role of information as a human tool designed for making sense of reality. She viewed it as a bridge to span the gap between the problem and the solution to the problem. Sonnenwald and Iivonen , p. Robson and Robinson , p. From a philosophical approach Floridi noted that although we still have to agree about what information exactly is in everyday life, we understand information as one of our most important resources. In a more practical sense Ford , p. Although the contribution of information and communication technologies have not been recognised by most of the generic models as a separate component, there is evidence that many researchers Wilson, ; Sonnenwald and Iivonen, ; Lievrouw, ; Courtright, ; Cole, , were aware of its impact — primarily subordinate to, or as an attribute of context.

Burford and Park were concerned about amorphous attention given in existing models to technology and presenting it as remote from the user. For them information technology should be de-coupled from the remote technology of information systems and be more closely associated with information actors and the context of their information behaviour Burford and Park, , p.

Sonnenwald and Iivonen did not make a clear distinction, but referred to the influence of technology and tools on information behaviour. They mentioned social networks, information and information resources, and information and communication technologies that play a role in providing access to information. The use of information and communication technologies has shown that they can change information seeking, use and communication patterns as users are increasingly offered advanced searching and communication tools Barry, The more information technologies are available and becoming affordable, the more people get used to them and rely on them Rieh, However, the prescribed ways in which they are used require appropriate skills from prospective users in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

In this respect information and communication technologies can either enhance or control the flow of information.

Burford and Park argued that apart from providing access to information, there is evidence that technology and tools are also enhancing information use and communication activities. They focused primarily on the role of information and communication technologies and described in more detail the attributes and usefulness of mobile devices and digital information.

They argued that advances in mobility of technology become a new fundamental characteristic of human engagement with digital information, and context becomes multi-dimensional, undetermined and fluid. The user is no longer restricted to location or environment and context becomes less definable Burford and Park, From the selected studies it was clear that researchers were aware that certain elements, attributes, events, processes, or factors subordinate to components could affect information behaviour.

However, these were not always assigned to a specific component. The following sections reveal how the respective researchers reflected on the elements of the different components. Wilson referred to tasks and processes of planning and decision making that are among the principal generators of cognitive needs. Sonnenwald and Iivonen identified goals, processes, tasks including subtasks or activities , rules, or norms present in the work-based context.

Dervin referred to time and space as being part of context in a broad sense.

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They observed that these factors, needs, wants, goals and perceptions deriving from the personal and environmental contexts motivate or inhibit information behaviour. Regarding the attributes of a personal component, Wilson identified psychological factors, while Sonnenwald and Iivonen referred to preferences, abilities and affects that influence information behaviour. Kuhlthau described emotions and feelings that can be related to the affective structures of the human mind Nahl, Nahl described both the positive and negative emotions a person may experience during the consecutive stages of the information searching process.

Earlier studies viewed technologies as subordinate to context and therefore did not clearly identify elements belonging to a technological component. Burford and Park , p. They have not only brought about changes in the lives of young adults, but also affected the various activities of seeking, searching, creating, reassembling and arranging digital information in an online environment.

In addition, the authors pointed out the link between the creation of information, social media and the growing importance of ready access to digital environments in the 21 st century. For a model to move closer to a theory, Cole argues the importance of describing the interrelationships among the relevant components.

Establishing relationships proved to be difficult, as all dimensions are interdependent Fidel et al.

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Wilson viewed the relationship between information behaviour, information seeking and information retrieval as what sets the information behaviour process in motion. The interaction between information needs, seeking and use was accepted as a fixed relationship.

More recently researchers described relationships among different sets of components, which allow for a broader perspective of the relationships among the relevant components. In addition, Wilson argued that different kinds of activating mechanisms could derive from different components. Wilson in Courtright, , p. In their profile of the provider, Davies and Williams , p. Burford and Park , who paid attention to the link between the creation of information, social media and the growing importance of ready access to digital environments, suggested interaction between the activity component, the technological component and the contextual component.

A careful comparison and matching of evidence of the selected studies revealed more insights than anticipated. The findings showed that information behaviour is primarily a mental process with intricate relationships among its core components and their attributes. Wilson , 49 argued that information behaviour becomes observable only in physical information activities such as seeking, searching, use and transfer. Besides information needs and the various information activities, the respective researchers viewed the context in which people function, the personal dimension, as well as information and technologies to handle information as of cardinal importance to the information behaviour process.

It also became evident that attributes of the respective components fulfil particular functions in the information behaviour process, or set criteria with which the person-in-context must comply. For example, contextual attributes seem to determine the nature and type of information required for a particular task or decision, while attributes of the mental structures personal component can enhance understanding, control the use of information, or motivate action.

In this regard Wilson referred to some of these attributes as activating mechanisms and intervening variables, which may either support or inhibit information seeking.


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Insights gained from the interrelationships discussed by the respective researchers showed that such relationships are instrumental in setting the information behaviour process in motion, as suggested by Wilson It has also been observed that the interrelationships among the respective components are involved in the underlying flow of mental actions — from the context where an information problem arises to the information activities component where physical activities are carried out to achieve the desired outcome.

While it is admitted that there may be more components and attributes, those identified by the respective models proved to be fundamental for information behaviour to take place. Furthermore, it became clear that fixed terminology is required to represent variant terminology and also to distinguish between components and their subordinate attributes.

A framework depicted in Figure 1 was drawn up in which the core components were positioned in a specific order proposing the underlying flow one-directional single-headed arrows in figure 1 that the information behaviour process follows — from initiation to the point where relevant activities are carried out. Interaction among the components is indicated by bidirectional double-headed arrows in figure 1.