Reviewed By: Loren Cruz, Shelby Hebert, Cynthia Orr
Link to article: http://www.informationr.net/ir/24-4/colis/colis1940.html
This article recognized a knowledge gap with regards to studying embodied information and how it relates to information gathering. The study was further narrowed to encompass a specific group of participants, transgender individuals. This study was conducted by Finland university professors and researchers and consisted of Finnish participants. The research aim took into consideration the individual experiences of transgender individuals in both how they shared gender identity within their environment and alternately how their experiences, in gender norm environments, influenced their embodied experiences. Further, information needs were discovered due to discomfort with the individual’s own body.
The very concept and nature of this study speak to the international perspective. As mentioned by the researchers themselves, there is very limited research done on this topic. It was also stated that transgender individuals were in agreement that harassment and discrimination were widespread in Europe and they frequently felt unsafe. This certainly is not exclusive to Europe but does shed light on an international perspective and reaction to transgender people. Cultural influences and norms from countries outside of the U.S. can also have an impact on the overall opinion of a group of people. In this case, the data from this study could provide foundational information to assist transgender individuals with information seeking. Although the topic of transgender embodied cognition is not unique to Finland, it is important to note the other demographic factors that play a part in the study. Cultural and societal norms can differ between countries, and even within neighboring communities. With that in mind, th study can also serve as a base for further research on transgender embodied cognition and information seeking in other countries.
The study examined how the information experiences of transgender people, and the affects as a result of those experiences, play a part in their embodied information. It also looks at transgender embodiment on both an individual and interpersonal level. The core research questions in this study are as follows:
What kind of information do senses, emotions and affects contribute to transgender person’s gender identity?
What kind of information does others’ embodiment provide transgender people?
How transgender individuals experience the creating and sharing of the gender identity and its expression in interaction with the surrounding environment?
How do gender norms affect gender expression and embodied experience of transgender people?
This study was conducted using semi-structured interviews and surveys with 25 Finnish people. The participants were between 15 and 72 years of age, with the average age being 33. The participants were also primarily well-educated, white, Finnish, and residing in urban areas. The interviews focused on understanding the information seeking of gender minority-related topics, sources, barriers, and enablers. The findings from the interviews indicate that there are a few factors that influence transgender peoples’ embodiment and gender identity expression. Overall, participants mentioned that their gender expression is both created and shared, and that societal norms and binary gender roles have an impact on their experience of gender expression. They are influenced by the perception of how others view and judge them, in a looking glass experience. They are also influenced by their social surroundings, the media, and everyday life experiences. The participants mentioned negative emotions such as shame and guilt, as a result from the lack of acceptance they feel from others regarding their gender expression.
The biggest thing American libraries can take away from this article is the significance of understanding how different experiences and identities can impact information needs, information-seeking processes, and even just the willingness to be physically present somewhere. The authors note, “One interviewee (I25) described gender representation as creating the possibility of being punished in public.” That speaks to the uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous position many transgender people are put in simply for existing authentically in a public space. Additionally, an understanding of how embodied information is understood and communicated can help American libraries serve many of our patrons beyond just those who are gender diverse. Our bodies are the way we interact with the world, so they are also a crucial part of how we process the information we are given and how we send out some information.
Libraries can prevent intentional and unintentional social censure of our transgender patrons by being aware of their existence and needs through education and institutional policies. When creating a safe and welcoming space for patrons, it is important to identify our own cultural biases and how they may be preventing us from effectively meeting the needs of underserved patrons. Looking at embodied cognition, library information professionals can learn from this study about how their interactions, the materials in the library, and the programs and services offered can make a difference in how transgender patrons perceive themselves and their needs.
Huttunen, A., Kähkönen, L., Enwald, H. & Kortelainen, T. (2019). Embodied cognition and information experiences of transgender people. In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science, Ljubljana, Slovenia, June 16-19, 2019. Information Research, 24(4), paper colis1940. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/24-4/colis/colis1940.html (Archived by the Internet Archive at https://web.archive.org/web/20191217182005/http://informationr.net/ir/24-4/colis/colis1940.html)