Tag Archives: sense-making

Situational Information Behaviour Exploring the Complexity of Refugee Integration

Article Authored By: Olubukola Oduntan & Ian Ruthven

Reviewed by: Latinx Group: Nancy Analco, Essy Barroso-Ramirez, Christopher Lopez, Carlos Luna , and Miguel Murillo

Link to article: https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/ijidi/article/view/34033

Using Dervin’s sense-making theory, the authors explore the micro and macro challenges facing refugee integration within the framework of forced migration by analyzing findings from their research. This approach focuses on situations that abridge individual and contextual information needs, in order to identify systems host societies can implement in order to integrate refugees. Using situations as an approach can help interpret social complexity and capture intricate and complex details of social life by questioning events in terms of what happened first, second, and so on. Data was mainly gathered through a series of interviews using the sense-making situation-gap approach. Further, the information collected depicts the complexity of refugee integration as refugee’s experiences are not akin. Through their research, the authors were able to demonstrate that time and place are vital for situational investigation which focuses on a complex context such as forced migration.

Core Research Questions

What are the information challenges refugees encounter?

What are refugee information needs during refugee integration?

Do host societies successfully meet those information needs? If not, where are those information gaps/barriers? What causes them?

How does/Does the situation concept relate to information behavior in regard to individual and contextual needs within refugee integration?

In terms of approach to the research project, Oduntan & Ruthven’s employ Brenda Dervin’s situational sense-making methodology. As a theoretical concept “situation(al)” refers to a framework that considers how social factors of a particular context interact with each other and influence human behavior. In this case, the authors are concerned with the sense-making praxis of their research participants in order to appreciate how each participant’s past and future goals inform the way they navigate their situation.

Since their aim is to understand the information gaps and needs within the refugee integration dynamic, they require a framework that can appreciate the individual needs of each status of refugee and the universal challenges within or presented by host society institutions. In their words, “the situational approach to information behaviour enables dynamic interactions in context to be captured such that individual and contextual characteristics can be combined to determine information needs” (p., 7).

To collect this data, Oduntan & Ruthven utilize the qualitative research method of in-depth, semi structured interviews. They interviewed 20 individuals of different origins and stages of the refugee integration system. Of their population sample they interviewed 11 females, 9 males, including 2 participants under the age of 18 as well as individuals from families.

Findings and conclusions
The findings of the study indicate that in information behavior, information gaps are conditioned by micro and macro level situations. Individual situations and gaps of refugee seekers are embedded in an overarching macro level situation.

Ideal situations for refugees and asylum seekers as they have varying but unrestricted access to provisions to meet integration needs. Asylum seekers are provided with basic needs as they await decisions on their asylum applications. However, despite the ideal nature of the situation there were still individual and contextual information gaps such as misconceptions of specific provisions refugees were entitled to or inconsistencies in services provided due to lack of information.

Unideal situations refer to refused asylum seekers which are the category with restricted access to provisions to meet integration needs. Although basic needs can be provided they are heavily impacted by restrictions and limits. Information gaps at the macro and micro levels put asylum seekers at a disadvantage in terms of provisions and information.
Situational information behavior is the combined individual experiences and contextual conditions which in turn give us informational needs. In the case of forced migration, time and place are fundamental for situational investigation as this situational approach can provide better understanding of information needs.This means that a refugee can have their needs met and institutions can better design their responses to help refugees integrate.

Application in U.S. Context
Information is not only essential but a means of survival in many circumstances. The American Library Association (2006) has access to informational resources as one of its core values of librarianship. However, American libraries must stay vigilant and continuously review their policies, approaches, and technologies to ensure they can provide the services to keep up with developing technology, change the ways information gets generated and accessed, and provide services to meet the needs of diverse populations.

The study’s findings underscore the importance of creating practices that deliver information regardless of individual and contextual factors. Information will no longer create privilege; instead, it will create equal access to integration provisions to forcibly displaced people, refuge-seekers, and refugees. One key factor that American libraries can learn from the study is that access to information is not equal, so it is up to libraries and Library and Information Science professionals to bridge the gaps. Some of the methods that can help bridge the gaps are by frequently seeking ways to address the needs of the community, such as creating informational documents, videos, and webpages in different languages, working with an organization to help specific communities, creating programs services to help track the users and the services used.

Another point of connection is how American libraries play a role in the process of meeting the needs of refugee patrons, especially those in the thick of refugee integration. There is undoubtedly a strong emphasis on local living in our cities, some of it healthy and some of jingoistic. In this local-political introspection, libraries cannot forget that their patron consists of types of people, including those without the securities of citizenship or volitional immigration. Whether it is serving as a conduit of information about and access to important host society institutions or providing the training and information itself, libraries need to do the work of community mapping to make sure their efforts to take care of their city inhabitants truly takes care of all inhabitants.