“This is really interesting. I never even thought about this.” Methodological strategies for studying invisible information work.
Keywords:work, information work, invisible work, information practices, methodology, visual methods, institutional ethnography
Significant information work (Corbin & Strauss, 1985; 1988) is often required to grapple with increasing quantities, types, and sources of information. Much of this work is invisible both to researchers and to the people undertaking it. As there are many axes along which informational work can be made invisible, researchers require flexible and creative methods in order to bring hidden information work to light. Each drawing on our own information practices research study, we introduce and reflect on four methodological strategies that have been effective in recognizing and revealing hidden aspects of informational work: (1) consider the local and the translocal; (2) attend to the material and the textual; (3) consider visual methods; and (4) (re)consider the participant’s role and expertise. We conclude by reflecting on the benefits and pitfalls of bringing visibility to invisible information work and conclude with a call for further research focused on the invisible.
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