Breaking information barriers through information literacy : A longitudinal and interventional study among small-firm managers

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköpings universitet

Abstract: The primary aim of this thesis is to contribute to an increased understanding of the information utilisation process through studying impeding process determinants, information barriers, and how they might be tackled by pedagogical means. This would be attained by studying the information situations of small-company managers. Three broad questions were to be answered by means of the project: Which barriers are perceived as obstructing the information utilisation of the managers studied? How is information utilisation affected by these barriers? Can barriers be eliminated or minimised by pedagogical means?An interactional, cognitive approach to the problems serves as a broad theoretical construct of the study. The effects of barriers on an individual's information utilisation is seen as a dynamic interaction between the environment and the organism in terms of the user's cognitive system and the information barriers he encounters in an information setting.The study uses a qualitative approach within the tradition of action research. Case studies were made of the information situations of twenty-three managers from small manufacturing wood and mechanical industries. The project comprises: (a) diagnosis (in-depth interviews) focusing on barriers to information utilisation, (b) planning and implementation of an educational intervention focusing on how to minimise barriers, ( c) evaluation of the intervention (interviews) to ascertain its effects, and (d) follow-up study (in-depth interviews) after several years. The results are described in terms of antecedent, process and outcome variables.Perceived information barriers are analysed at the individual, organization and society levels. The results indicate that information utilisation reflects both person and situation. The individual's, the manager's, information utilisation behaviour is based on and controlled by his perceptions of the information situation at hand and memory representations from the past. It is shown that, mediated by motivational and other affective states, the quality of these representations, of which perceived information barriers are important constituents, guide his information utilisation behaviour. Different utilisation profiles and styles of action illustrate this fact.The results further indicate that educational measures seem to be a feasible way of minimizing certain barriers. It is also shown that, as the information environment continues to change, there is need for a stable structure of support in order to bring about lasting changes. This study points to the possibility of breaking information barriers through information literacy. Theoretical and practical implications of the study are suggested.

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