Author: Donna Lanclos
Summary: A discussion of ethnographic perspectives in mapping information and learning environments. Particularly explores the ways in which people’s experience spreads beyond their institution and offers some ways to think about mapping and analysing these perspectives.
Extract: In my anthropological research in academic libraries, and in higher education generally, I have encountered a contrast between the ways that institutions approach the information systems they build and buy, and how people use those systems. Confronting the ‘mess’ of people’s everyday practice is a necessary first step towards more effectively connecting people to the resources they want and need. Here I discuss some of the ways to visualize and embrace the actual practices of people, in physical and digital contexts.
Institutionally unbounded practices are messy and unpredictable, and they are much more interesting practices to engage in. In fact, I would argue that it is our responsibility to recognize the effectiveness of those practices. Institutions would be served better by engaging in far less locked-down control of scholarly content, because any sense of control that they have is an illusion in the first place. We do not have to control people’s practices to be able to equip them to be effective practitioners. We do not have to control people’s practices to be able to equip them to be well-educated citizens who are capable of making good decisions.
Lanclos, D. (2016). Ethnographic approaches to the practices of scholarly communication: tackling the mess of academia. Insights 29. http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.316