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Title:Critical Ethnography for Information Research
Author(s):Ma, Lai
Subject(s):Critical Ethnography
Information Research
Social Informatics
Issue Date:2009-02-08
Citation Info:Research in Library and Information Science (LIS) often involves the use of various types of information and of information technology. As such, it is primarily concerned with problemsolving in social spaces (e.g., as manifested in user studies) and in designing and troubleshooting of technological systems (e.g., research in information retrieval in general). Although most information research is oriented towards some kind of problemsolving, its nature is not purely technical as many have perceived; rather, it requires analyses of the interrelationship among human (users), technology, and society. In other words, information research is cultural and social in nature and it asks for the search for “affordances” (which can be analyzed in terms of Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle’s four types of causality) which bring forth, for example, user needs and technology uses1. The widely and commonly used quantitative methods, however, are not sufficient for comprehensive analyses of cultural and social phenomena or affordances because quantitative methods are teleological in nature (often in a hypothetical-deductive manner). The search for affordances begs for a critical and conceptual space in research, on the one hand, and empirical approaches in which the understanding of the cultural and the social are central concerns, on the other. Critical ethnography is a critical and empirical research methodology that encompasses these two criteria. Ethnographic methods are not new in information research— researchers who investigate human-human and human-technology interactions (e.g., those in the area of ‘information behavior,’ 1 For a more detailed explanation of Heidegger’s analysis of the four causes and their relations to technology and technique (techne), see Day and Ma. ‘user studies’) are well aware of the importance of qualitative research and have adopted methods such as observation, interview, focus group study, and so on in their research projects. How is critical ethnography different from more traditional qualitative social research, then?
Genre:Conference Poster
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-03-30

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