Information is generally “any difference that makes a difference to a human mind” (Case, 40). Any new situations that happen to any person can substantially be information. Some authors believe information to be only true or useful in correlation to a person. Forms of information include environmental, internal, and social factors.
Most information does not have the same meaning toward each person. Each new piece of information can be only helpful if someone understands the concept it pertains to. Mostly it doesn’t have a necessarily large effect on any on person. Information exists to help reduce uncertainty to a single human. Other definitions given imply that for something to be considered information it must be useful in some way and it must be communicated to someone in some way. If it is not useful, there is no way for it to be information. Some other definitions suggest that any stimulations in the environment that is useful to humans. For information to be knowledge a person has to have a change, either major or minor, in the way they perceive a subject. Knowledge is everywhere, no matter if it useful or not. Misinformation can be information because the subject may in fact be true at one point in time, even it if is not true at a later time. In general, for anything to be information it has to include the process for the human mind, which is also known as human information behavior.
Wilson writes about how studies today are now more focused on how a person uses the information found in a given system. Before, researchers were more interested in how a system was used. Not every piece of data is a piece of information. This is because a user might not understand the context in which the data is represented or used. Scientists were concerned with making information sources more useful and aimed to improve the use of more sources. Scientists began to explore information needs in a community. While not being able to define information need, studies have shown that it grew from a need to “satisfy the primary needs” (Case, 51). Suggesting that a person needs a place to live, the fact that they need to find a realtor arises out of their original desire to find a house.
Buckland explains how more researchers try to understand how people interpret given information. Most information can be considered evidence because people can do things with it or to it. Information can be described as data, text and documents, objects, and events. Buckland describes that anything with a quality attributed to it could potentially be information. If and when people interpret information found can be considered information.
Morris also explains how the needs of users are not well interpreted in a scientific way. She explains her theory of the constructivist model where information is viewed as something that can be changed or manipulated by the user. She wants anyone studying the effects of the user-based needs to understand how emotion of the user fits into the equation; also how the user is affected by the information they find. Researchers should be looking at how users’ uniqueness play a role in what they search for but also looking at how each user is similar to another.
In chapter 4 of Looking for Information, a need is described as an instrument. This is because it is primarily used for reaching a desired goal. Usually people want information because they are trying to accomplish something or just trying to satisfy their own curiosity.
Needs are contestable too because a person may say that they need some information, by another person may argue that they don’t need some specific information to reach their goal. When people say they need something it is more of a satisfaction to their own curiosity than a desire to reach their goals.
Needs are also related to demands in that when people are searching for their need they use an information system. They can demand to find their needs on a database and have it readily available for their use. Need’s can also be confused with wants. Needs may not even be recognized because a person may not even be able to articulate what they want. They might be overly general in their search for their desire, which might not be helpful while searching.
Most researchers are always preoccupied over defining a need, but when they are researching it they always tend to look at information seeking behaviors. Some researchers argue that an information need is an unrealistic concept because they cannot be observed and are accounted by more general needs.
A need cannot be observed and this is what makes it unique and hard to be described as a concept. This is probably why there are major arguments concerning the definition of information need, itself. Researchers do not define the concept information seeking either. They relate it to information need when someone decides they have a need. But Case refers to this as information behavior because the other definition is quite circular in explaining it. He describes information behavior as “a broad range of relevant human behaviors dealing with information” (Case, 82).
I created a diagram (diagram 1, below) on the process of information seeking based on five models mentioned in Case’s book. I incorporated Wilson’s first model, Krikelas, Leckie, Bystrom and Jarvelin, and also Savolainen’s information seeking models into one basic model. My model begins with an information user that happens to gather information, often just reading something, or they happen to identify their need or task to be done. As they analyze their need or task they will determine if it is important and also refer to their time limitations of the need and if it isn’t important the user may defer the need until a later time when it is necessary to fulfill it. If it is an immediate need the user will determine whether or not they have sufficient information for their internal or external information. Internal needs are described as being from personal factors such as memory, direct observations, or personal files. External can be from direct contact or from literature or media. Both factors can cause interruptions in the seeking process. The user will then determine if they have succeeded or failed in the information seeking process. The outcome can lead to information exchange with other people if they have successfully filled their need. If the user has failed, some may tend to defer their need until they’re ready to start searching again while others will start the process over again immediately.
Case, Donald O. Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2002.