Thursday, 24 November 2016

Call for papers: Library Trends

Information and the body

The study of information behaviour[1] has traditionally focussed on documentary sources of information and to some degree information that is shared through interaction. Such an emphasis reflects the origins of the whole field  in the study of information behaviours of users of libraries and other institutions that provide access to encoded forms of knowledge. Yet the centrality of embodied experience in all aspects of human life makes the relative neglect of the body in information behaviour studies surprising and potentially problematic, as a number of authors have suggested (Cox, Griffin and Hartel, in press; Lueg 2014, 2015; Lloyd 2009,2010,2014; Olsson, 2010, 2016). This special issue of Library Trends on “Information and the Body” seeks to bring together researchers interested in embodied information, including how we receive information through the senses and the way the body is used as a sign that can be interpreted by others.

Several intersecting research developments bring greater attention to embodied information. There are early hints at the importance of this theme in a number of information behaviour studies, for example Bates (2006), Prigoda & McKenzie (2007), and Hartel (2007). An increasing focus on information practices in the field offers a useful starting point for more fully theorising the relationship between information and the body (Lloyd, 2008). There is a growing interest in phenomenological studies of information, which would also be likely to elaborate our understanding of the role of the body in information behaviour.  Other perspectives are important too: For example, Lueg (2014, 2015) has drawn on notions of embodied cognition in his work on the role of the body in information behaviour. Also relevant may be the growing interest in materiality in archive and museum studies, and in the study of reading and internet studies. While emerging from different philosophical roots, these strands of thought seem to be coming together as an important new direction in information research, towards information and the body. In many other disciplines, such as education, history, geography and sociology, the body and materiality have been of central interest for several decades, this should motivate information researchers to catch up.

The need to recognise the importance of the body in information behaviour scholarship may also be prompted further by developments at the level of practice. Heightened interest in the library world in the importance of physical space and its design also implies a concern with the body and the material world. Haptic interfaces that allow the user to interact with a computer in rich sensory ways or self-tracking of bodily functions using apps and wearables, are just two of many trends that signal the end of the myth of disembodied virtuality. Interest in information phenomena within contexts that are centred on the body, such as medicine, sport, music and cooking likewise demand new approaches – and it has already been shown to be relevant in everyday workplace contexts.

As other disciplines have begun to engage with bodily experience a corresponding methodological debate has also occurred (Pink, 2015). This typically points to the value of ethnographic and auto-ethnographic work, as well as arts-based, visual, multimodal, and other sensory methods. Relatively few connections have been made to date between work in information behaviour to these wider methodological developments.

We invite contributions to this special issue that draw on such approaches as practice theory, phenomenology, embodied cognition and sensory studies. We also recognise the importance of critical cultural perspectives and seek a diversity of viewpoints to be represented. Submissions may be theoretical, methodological, or empirical in nature. Mature contributions will be favoured over pilot studies or works in progress. Research drawing on a wide range of methods is welcomed and we will entertain submissions in a variety of novel representational formats


If you are intending to submit an article, or require further guidance regarding topicality or suitability, please contact Andrew Cox (, Jenna Hartel ( or Brian Griffin (, the issue editors.

Final articles should be between 4000 and 10,000 words.

Call for Papers: Fall 2016
Submission deadline for extended abstracts (1000 words): January 1, 2017, with notice of acceptance on January 15.
Submission deadline for accepted papers:  1st June 2017
Publication February 2018 (Vol. 66, No. 3).


Bates, M.J. (2010), “Information behavior”, Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Vol. 3, pp. 2381–2391.

Cox, A.M., Griffin, B. and Hartel, J. (in press), “What every body knows: Embodied information in serious leisure ” Journal of Documentation.

Hartel, J. (2007), Information Activities, Resources, and Spaces in the Hobby of Gourmet Cooking, PhD Dissertation.

Lloyd, A. (2009), “Informing practice: information experiences of ambulance officers in training and on-road practice”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 65 No. 3, pp. 396–419.

Lloyd, A. (2010), “Corporeality and practice theory: exploring emerging research agendas for information literacy”, Information Research, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 15–3.

Lloyd, A. (2014), “Informed Bodies: Does the Corporeal Experience Matter to Information Literacy Practice?”, in Hilary Hughes, Kate Davis, Christine Bruce, Ian Stoodley and Helen Partridge (Eds.), Information Experience, Vol. 9, Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Lueg, C.P. (2014), “Characteristics of human perception and their relevance when studying information behavior”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 70 No. 4, pp. 562–574.

Lueg, C.P. (2015), “The missing link: Information behavior research and its estranged relationship with embodiment”, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, Vol. 66 No. 12, pp. 2704–2707.

Olsson, M. (2016), “Making sense of the past: The embodied information practices of field archaeologists”, Journal of Information Science, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 410–419.

Olsson, M.R. (2010), “All the World’s a Stage–the Information Practices and Sense-Making of Theatre Professionals”, Libri, Vol. 60 No. 3, pp. 241–252.

Prigoda, E. and McKenzie, P.J. (2007), “Purls of wisdom: A collectivist study of human information behaviour in a public library knitting group”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 63 No. 1, pp. 90–114.

[1] For simplicity we continue to use this phrase as the umbrella term, though we recognise the debate surrounding the terms information behaviour, information practice, information experience, information activity, etc.

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