Recognizing and Honing Your ‘Information Behaviours’

image referring to the practice of treasuring each unrepeatable moment, from the Next Phase blog

Nick Kemp at ikigai tribe just did an extraordinary interview with Yazdan Mansourian, Iranian-Australian lecturer and researcher on information science and information behaviour, who recently published a paper on ‘serious leisure’.

The podcast, with Nick’s notes, is here, and the transcript is here. I listened to the podcast first, and then used the transcript to make my own notes on the highlights and insights the interview provided.

This engaging and well-paced one-hour interview introduces and describes the concept of ‘information behaviours’, and explains how we learn, communicate, process and share information effectively (or not so effectively). Some of this information is new (even to me, and I was immersed in ‘knowledge management’ for a decade during my career), while others, some of them captured in Japanese words and phrases, are ancient, but probably unfamiliar to westerners.

Rather than trying to summarize the essence of this wonderfully-conducted, information-packed and articulate interview by sharing my notes, I thought it might be more useful to list the important questions that listening to it brought up for me. If any of these are questions you’re struggling with, you’ll find the interview worthwhile:

1. Assessing your information behaviours ie how you interact with information, which includes how you identify your information needs, how and when you seek information, what your passive information-receiving activities are (eg watching TV, reading, classroom listening), how and when you share information, and how and when you avoid information. These behaviours have both emotional and cognitive aspects; they’re not always ‘rational’.

    • Thinking about your own information behaviours, which would you say are optimal, which could use rethinking or revision, and which are actually unhealthy?

2. Spending your leisure time wisely: The main types of leisure are observing (eg birdwatching), collecting (eg coins or stamps), producing (crafts etc), creating (music, poetry etc), and performing (eg dance) activities.

    • Do your current leisure activities match (in type and nature) how you’d ideally like to be spending your leisure time? Has any of what started as ‘leisure’ activities turned into work that you no longer enjoy?

3. Finding your ‘serious leisure’ which includes hobbies, amateurism, and volunteering activities that meet six criteria: (i) entail perseverance and commitment, (ii) have the potential to evolve into a career, (iii) involve significant personal effort, (iv) provide enduring personal and social benefits, (v) reflect a unique ethos within a social world, and (vi) form part of your personal and social identity.

    • Which of your leisure activities meet the ‘serious leisure’ criteria? Are these activities all enjoyable, meaningful, and things you’re passionate about? If not, why are you doing them? Are any of your more casual or occasional leisure activities things that you’d like to pursue more seriously? Have any of your ‘serious leisure’ activities become obsessive or addictive?

4. Appreciating imperfection: Many activities (not just ‘serious leisure’ ones) entail both what the Japanese call kodawari (the striving for continuous improvement, appreciating that perfection is unattainable), and wabi-sabi (appreciating the beauty of imperfection and ephemerality). And in any endeavour, to be able to enjoy and be effective in doing it, there’s a need to accept things as they are, including our own and others’ feelings, without judgement or expectation of oneself or others. In Japanese this is called arugamama.

    • Are you excited to strive for continuous improvement while still appreciating imperfection, or does a lack of sustained passion and commitment, or an obsession with perfection, interfere with your enjoyment of ‘serious leisure’ and other activities? 
    • Have you learned (or can you learn) to accept things as they are, in all your activities, or do you find yourself constantly fighting, criticizing, and being frustrated at not being able to change things to how you think they should be?

5. Allowing time for learning and mastery: In the west there’s a tendency to oversimplify, over-rely on ‘book learning’, and settle for a rudimentary or superficial understanding of subjects, including leisure activities.

    • Is your skill or enjoyment of activities held back by not allowing enough time to learn (especially through collaboration and conversation with others with greater skill) and enough time to master the skills needed to do the activity well? Are there clubs or communities of interest/practice you could join to ‘up your game’?

6. Finding your place: Another important Japanese concept is ibasho, “the place where one feels a sense of belonging and purpose, and is accepted as oneself”. When a group of people find this place, information-sharing and learning flow naturally, and roles in the group evolve naturally.

    • In what activities and spaces in your life do you feel this genuine sense of place, of belonging and purpose and being accepted? In what activities and spaces is this missing?

7. Information sharing as coping mechanism for people struggling in their lives: Learning new things can help us feel more in control, more resilient, and less helpless in times of crisis, and information-sharing happens naturally and easily in communities where people love what they do, so that there is a caring space, and a useful role, for everyone. This shared passion and joy then is reinforced by what the Japanese call tanoshimi, the anticipatory joy of the community’s next event, meeting, or connection.

    • How and how well do you participate in groups that use information-sharing as a tool for mutual support? Do you feel ‘anticipatory joy’ about the next event of the groups you’re involved with?

8. Information and information skills as a source of ‘joyful emancipation’: Acquiring critical thinking skills, creative and collaborative problem-solving skills, and researching skills, can liberate us from dependence on passive consumption of unfiltered information, propaganda, incompetent ‘teachers’, groupthink, and social and workplace oppression.

    • To what degree are you ’emancipated’ in your information behaviours and information skills — autonomous, independent, competent, unconstrained, and empowered by what you know and what you know how to find out?

9. Treasuring the moment: Another useful Japanese term is ichi-go ichi-e, referring to treasuring the unrepeatable nature of each moment.

    • Have you learned, or can you learn, to treasure each moment for what it is, and let that appreciation permeate everything you do?

10. Learning by rereading: Every time you read something (or use a different medium such as audio or video to ‘re-consume’ it, you will inevitably learn something new, because you are not the same person as when you first read it.

    • What should you be re-reading now?

Hope you find this podcast as delightful as I did. Thanks to Nick and Yazdan for creating it.

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3 Responses to Recognizing and Honing Your ‘Information Behaviours’

  1. Kate Moriarty says:

    Do you have any insights into ‘greed’ in relation to information seeking? Do you think a thirst for knowledge should be kept under control, in case, like any other thirst, it might get out of control? Just wondering.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Hi Kate: I think Yazdan’s comments were primarily meant to refer to our personal information behaviours, and our self-knowledge about how we process information. We all want to know, so to some extent we’re all ‘greedy’ for more knowledge. My sense is that the greater danger is that people stop seeking to know more, and become fixed and inflexible in their thinking and beliefs. Knowledge can of course be dangerous, and it could be argued that humans’ insatiable thirst to obtain and apply new knowledge has led us to the point of collapse and extinction. And it can also be misapplied, as when intelligence agencies and corporations try to obtain information that they can use to oppress and control us. I think that’s part and parcel of new technologies and new learning in general, rather than a result of an uncontrolled thirst for knowledge. We want to play with and use our new toys and learning, not always in the best interests of the rest of the world. Drones, of all kinds, are a case in point.

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