School of Information Sciences -- Faculty Publications and Other Works

Source Publication (e.g., journal title)

Proceedings of the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The challenge this panel addresses is drawn from intersecting literature reviews and critical commentaries focusing on: 1) user studies in multiple fields; and 2) the difficulties of bringing different disciplines and perspectives to bear on user‐oriented research, design, and practice. 1

The challenge is that while we have made some progress in collaborative work, we have some distance to go to become user‐oriented in inter‐disciplinary and inter‐perspective ways. The varieties of our approaches and solutions are, as some observers suggest, an increasing cacophony. One major difficulty is that most discussions are solution‐oriented, offering arguments of this sort ‐‐ "if only we addressed users in this way…" Each solution becomes yet another addition to the cacophony.

This panel implements a central approach documented for its utility by communication researchers and long used by communication mediators and negotiators ‐‐ that of focusing not on communication but rather on meta‐communication: communicating about communication. The intent in the context of this panel is to help us refocus attention from too frequent polarizations between alternative solutions to the possibility of coming to understand what is behind the alternatives and where they point to experientially‐based convergences and divergences, both of which might potentially contribute to synergies.

The background project for this panel comes from a series of in‐depth interviews with expert researchers, designers, and providers in three field groupings ‐‐ library and information science; human computer interaction/information technology; and communication and media studies. One set of interviews involved 5‐hour focus groups with directors of academic and public libraries serving 44 colleges and universities in central Ohio; the second involved one‐on‐one interviews averaging 50 minutes with 81 nationally‐internationally known experts in the 3 fields, 25‐27 interviews per field. Using Dervin's Sense‐Making Methodological approach to interviewing, the expert interviews of both kinds asked each interviewee: what he/she considered to be the big unanswered questions about users and what explained why the questions have not been answered; and, what he/she saw as hindering versus helping in attempts to communicate about users across disciplinary and perspective gaps. 2 The panel consists of six teams, two from each field. Prior to the panel presentation at ASIST, each team will have read the set of interviews and completed impressionistic essays of what patterns and themes they saw as emerging. At this stage, team members will purposively not homogenize their differences and most will write solo‐authored essays that will be placed on a web‐site accessible to ASIST members prior to the November meeting. In addition, at least one systematic analysis will be completed and available online. 3

At the ASIST panel, each team's leader will present a brief and intentionally provocative impressionist account of what his/her team came to understand about our struggles communicating across fields and perspectives about users. Again, each team will purposively not homogenize its own differences in viewpoints, but rather highlight them as fodder for discussion. A major purpose will be to invite audience members to join the panel in discussion. At least 20 minutes will be left open for this purpose.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."