Article Authored By: Amanda Hencz, Megan Carbiener, Marisol Carrasquillo, Laura Downs, Kayla Jackson
Reviewed by: Amanda Hencz
Link to article: http://www.informationr.net/ir/22-3/paper768.html
Article synopsis and description of how this article represents an international perspective.
The Online Life of Individuals Experiencing Socioeconomic Disadvantage: How do They Experience Information, takes a look into how individuals experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage in Australia experience information. The authors reiterate that having access to information online and knowing how to understand what is available can increase the opportunities afforded them. Phenomenology was used to look at two participants through interviews and results show that there is a link between being socioeconomically disadvantaged and not having the proper skills to navigate the internet effectively, leaving them further disadvantaged. The authors also argue that this information could greatly benefit other organizations that work with this population. This small study was based in Australia, but the overall assertion is that for a person to benefit from online use, then there needs to be a higher level of digital literacy.
Core research question(s).
As homelessness is on the rise, we have to assume there is not a way for them to have open access to obtain information. Therefore we as information professionals would like to find ways to provide access. Our research question is:
How can library professionals assist individuals that are experiencing homelessness obtain information?
By providing the homeless population with access to the internet so they can submit resumes, go on job interviews, take online classes to better their education, or simply to find a shelter near them. We are offering them a better chance to overcome the situation they are in. Not only do we have to offer the devices we have to offer support for use on how to utilize it to their own. Since libraries are closed we could start by going to shelters and giving them access to computers or tablets for a short period of time. While we are there we can ask questions, such as: do you know how you can benefit from internet use? Then we can show them how to email and how to research job listings.
Methods used to answer the research question(s).
In our article, the researchers used the methodological approach of Phenomenology to study the lived experience of this phenomenon – those experiencing homelessness and a lack of online information access. I found that this method worked especially well when studying individual lifestyles because it can be difficult to fully empathize or understand the holistic experience of these individuals without evaluating a broader amount of the lived experience of the socially excluded. Through this phenomenological study, the researchers collected data from these individuals in order to try to piece together their experience. A series of interviews with multiple people allowed the researchers to gain personal insight into the lives of those experiencing homelessness while also experiencing a digital divide. Having access to the internet is much more than Googling or scrolling through social media. Online access allows people to stay connected with the world around them, build their identity, and discover news and information. Without consistent and reliable internet access, these people with housing challenges are unable to fully participate in our modern, digital age. Through this method and study, the researchers found that this group of individuals experiencing homelessness understand the essential yet inadequate amount of information space they have exposure to.
Findings and conclusions.
From their study, the authors present four themes: the endless information journey; uncontrolled information space; inadequate information space; essential information space. The participants likened finding information online to an “endless journey”, with both positive and negative aspects. The convenience and practical information that was available are the positives, while the “uncontrolled information space” is a negative. Concerns about “fake” and inappropriate information were brought up by the participants. The online information space was considered inadequate because of the complexity of information and the negative interaction with organizations online. Despite this, the internet (accessed via smartphones) is an essential information space, as it holds all their personal information, and provides access to anything they need to know. Through this study, the authors found that public libraries may not be connecting with this group of community members, as they did not consider it a trustworthy place, or a place that could help them with their information needs. The authors conclude that access to the internet and the information it holds is not enough to address this digital divide. An understanding of the holistic experience of people experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage and how community organizations interact with them will offer deeper insight into how effectively support this group.
What American libraries can learn from global practice about designing services for diverse populations.
American libraries can use research from countries around the world to help provide a better environment for their particular homeless community. There could be immigrants among their homelessness as well. Being able to communicate among these residents and having them feel included within the library setting is the goal. The research approach in the study was known as phenomenological which “brought a fresh perspective to the socioeconomic disadvantage by focusing on the information experience of those affected”(Smeaton, 2017). Using research provided from global studies could bring about better services designed for the diverse populations within a library’s community because this provides thought provoking ideas that might not have been considered prior.
Kathleen Smeaton, Christine S. Bruce. “The Online Life of Individuals Experiencing
Socioeconomic Disadvantage: How Do They Experience Information?” (202,Sept)Information Research: an International Electronic Journal. Information Science, Information Management, Information Systems, Information Retrieval, Digital Libraries, Information Seeking Behaviour, Information Seeking Behavior, World Wide Web, WWW, University of Borås, www.informationr.net/ir/22-3/paper768.html