Contextualising information behaviour: The example of Laos
The ways in which people need, seek, and use information vary considerably from one context to another. This thesis reports on a qualitative study investigating the contextual factors affecting information behaviour in a developing country. The literature review revealed that cultural and social factors have a significant impact on cognition and information behaviour, yet contextualised understandings of information behaviour that take diverse local conditions into account have yet to be developed for non-Western, developing country contexts. An interpretivist research design was employed in this study, using Dervin’s sense-making methodology, the critical incident technique, and discourse analysis to collect, analyse and interpret interview data on everyday information behaviour from 30 participants in Laos. The primary objective of the research was to identify the contextual factors that affect information behaviour in Laos, and to understand how contextual factors influence how people need, seek, manage and use information. The findings indicated that a number of interdependent primary and secondary contextual factors play a key role in how people engage with information in Laos. Primary factors included the social and cultural contexts of an individual, with numerous secondary factors such as personal, situational, physical, and economic contexts also playing a role in information behaviour. The interpretation of the findings enabled the development of a contextualised understanding of information behaviour for individuals in Laos. In addition, the research methods provided a framework from which contextualised understandings of information behaviour in diverse local contexts can be explored, fulfilling a secondary objective of the research. These findings have implications for information professionals, information systems design, and international aid projects, by providing contextualised understandings of information behaviour, facilitating the development of more relevant services and resources.