[Air-L] "information behavior" and "swarm behavior"

Ronald E. Rice rrice at comm.ucsb.edu
Mon Aug 20 18:03:44 PDT 2012

A fuzzy and intriguing area.  Here are several books that might be  
relevant, though the first three from an avowedly organizational  

Boisot, M. H. (1995).  Information space: A framework for learning in  
organizations, institutions and culture.   London: Routledge.

Davenport, T. H. (1997).  Information ecology: Mastering the  
information and knowledge environment.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University  

Rice, R. E. & Cooper, S.D. (2010). Organizations and unusual routines:  
A systems analysis of dysfunctional feedback processes. London:  
Cambridge University Press.
Everyone working in and with organizations will, from time to time,  
experience frustrations and problems when trying to accomplish tasks  
that are a required part of their role. This is an unusual routine - a  
recurrent interaction pattern in which someone encounters a problem  
when trying to accomplish normal activities by following standard  
organizational procedures and then becomes enmeshed in wasteful and  
even harmful subroutines while trying to resolve the initial problem.  
They are unusual because they are not intended or beneficial, and  
because they are generally pervasive but individually infrequent. They  
are routines because they become systematic as well as embedded in  
ordinary functions. Using a wide range of case studies and  
interdisciplinary research, this book provides researchers and  
practitioners with a new vocabulary for identifying, understanding,  
and dealing with this pervasive organizational phenomenon, in order to  
improve worker and customer satisfaction as well as organizational  
performance. Introduces and explains the concept of unusual routines,  
a very common but not well described or analyzed phenomenon. Broad  
interdisciplinary approach with extensive references and related  
examples from a wide range of disciplines. Provides detailed examples  
of the concept and experience of unusual routines through a number of  
case studies, including customer service episodes and six ICT  

And two of my own:

Rice, R.E., McCreadie, M. & Chang, S-J. (2001). Accessing and browsing  
information and communication: An interdisciplinary approach.  
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
The basic argument of this book is two-fold.  First, accessing and  
browsing resources are fundamental human activities, considered in a  
variety of ways and under a variety of terminologies across a variety  
of research areas.  Second, they are insufficiently understood or  
identified in any particular research area or service situation, so  
that unidentified aspects, or uninspected biases, prevent people from  
providing, and obtaining, the desired or necessary resources.  This  
book reviews literature from a wide range of researchareas on these  
two fundamental human activities -- accessing and browsing resources.   
Further, it considers two fundamental human resources -- information  
and communication.  These reviews are used to identify common and  
unique perspectives of each of the research literatures.   These  
perspectives are integrated to develop preliminary frameworks that are  
both more general and more comprehensive than any particular research  
area's treatment of the concepts.  Then, using multiple sources of  
evidence, these preliminary frameworks are evaluated, refined, and  
Ronald E. Rice
Arthur N. Rupe Professor in the Social Effects of Mass Communication
International Communication Association President 2006-2007
Co-Director, Carsey-Wolf Center
Dept. of Communication, 4005 Social Sciences & Media Studies Bldg (SSMS)
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-4020
Ph: 805-893-8696; Fax: 805-893-7102
rrice at comm.ucsb.edu; http://www.comm.ucsb.edu/people/academic/ronald-e-rice;

Quoting Jonathan Marshall <Jonathan.Marshall at uts.edu.au>:

> Personally I think one of the important ways of looking at  
> information ecology in our world is to have some focus on  
> maladaptive information behaviour, which leads to dis-intigation and  
> paranoia; what i call the 'information mess'. Some of this arises  
> from natural human inccomunicability, and some from features of the  
> information society, as the ecology of information society  
> encourages the spread of misinformation and maladaption.  I'm part  
> of a team authoring a book about this due from routledge next year.
> http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415540001/
> Without going into arguments about the instability of social and  
> linguistic categories (which is important), my current, but clearly  
> incomplete, list of Information Mess Principles (IMPs) (not likely  
> to be in the book in this format) is as follows (with some  
> acknowledgements):
> (Not every point is claimed to be equally important, or follows  
> logically from proceeding points).
> 1) Communication and information are entangled with noise,  
> misunderstanding and deception. No noise, no communication.
> 2) All human ?messages?, as much as they aim at producing some kind  
> of response in others, are political and couched within power  
> relations (Morse Peckham).
> 3) Communication acts to indicate and maintain membership in a  
> group, to indicate lack of membership in other (generally despised)  
> groups, and to place opponents in such despised groups. The more  
> receivers are persuaded that the emitter, is an *exemplar* of their  
> group, the more persuasive the message becomes (Steve Reicher and  
> Nick Hopkins). [Social categories are constantly fluid, under  
> construction and challenge. Formalising social categories takes a  
> degree of violence or threat, and a degree of lack of responsivity  
> to change.]
> 4) Hierarchy, and strong group borders, break up information flow.  
> Those near the top of a punitive hierarchy are likely to be  
> ignorant. This expresses the power/ignorance nexus (David Graeber).
> 5) People tend to judge, assimilate, or distort, new information by  
> what they already ?know?. Systems of knowledge disrupt the ability  
> to process new information.
> 6) The 'model' tends to either be taken for ?reality?, or reality  
> has to be made to conform to the model. In the latter case, this  
> often involves power relations and violence. The more the model has  
> had previous success in solving problems, the more this reinforces  
> its impermeability to changed circumstances. This also reinforces  
> the previous point.
> 7) The easier it is to create information, the more information will  
> be created. This leads to Data Smog, in which it is difficult to  
> find correct, accurate or relevant data (David Shenk).  [One way for  
> people to negotiate Data Smog is to retrospectively doubt  
> everything, so if they find the data is untrue, they can say they  
> never really believed it anyway, but still keep the alliances and  
> identifications with the groups that emitted the bad data. Bad data  
> becomes classed as unimportant, it is not a falsification of what  
> people think is generally good data.]
> 8) Ease of communication increases disruption and conflicts. It  
> brings together people who formerly did not communicate, and enables  
> them to find our how different and incompatible they are. Similarly,  
> if the groups do not take the time or work to understand each other  
> then they are likely to separate even further. Communication can  
> increase distance.
> 9) Information engenders further information and effects, but not  
> necessarily the information or effects intended.  Information  
> escapes and escapes its ?purpose?.
> 10) New systems of information transmission, or structures of  
> communication, change social boundaries (such as the divisions  
> between public and private, Joshua Meyrowitz). They can also change  
> social organisation, distribution of command, modes of working,  
> capabilities of work, modes of appropriation and distribution of  
> ideas, and change who speaks to who and in what kind of manner. If  
> distribution of power results, this can lead to confusion and  
> avoidance of responsibility. Hence new communications systems can  
> produce cascading disruptions, and intensifications of attempts to  
> maintain power relations and organisation structures.
> 11) When people are allowed to do more of something through ICT,  
> then it can be the case that actions escalate out of control, and  
> that existing system dampners that have produced equilibrium no  
> longer work. As things become more efficient, they also tend to  
> become more brittle.
> 12) Restriction of information is a tool for competitive  
> advancement. For example, in a functioning capitalist economy good  
> information about the economy or about economic acts, becomes  
> restricted as part of the dynamics of that economy.
> 13) Information has to be restricted, contained and fenced off to  
> become profitable. Together with the previous point this means that  
> good information of import diminishes.
> 14) In information society, information is easily replicable and  
> hard to confine. This conflicts with restriction.
> 15) The value of information depends upon, or is enhanced by, its  
> source.  Fighting over the valuation of sources is fundamental to  
> politics and understanding. Hence the attacks on 'science', and by  
> scientists on other sources of information. Uncertainty can also be  
> strategically useful to some people.
> 16) The value of information, under information capitalism, is  
> determined by money and the value of money is determined by  
> information.
> 17) The information economy is not self-subsistent, but is parasitic  
> on other economies which it attacks, thus undermining itself.  
> Information society theory tends to be disembodied.
> 18) In information capitalism bad information drives out good. This  
> is a ?Gresham's law? of information. People horde good information,  
> and tend to circulate information which they think will an intended  
> effect rather than for its accuracy. The more things are hidden, and  
> the more is emitted, the more that everything becomes obscured.
> jon
> ________________________________________
> From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org  
> [air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Cristian Berrio  
> Zapata [cristian.berrio at gmail.com]
> Sent: Monday, 20 August 2012 10:29 PM
> To: AOIR list; ciresearchers at vancouvercommunity.net
> Subject: [Air-L] "information behavior" and "swarm behavior"
> Dear Colleagues:
> I am studying the topic of "information behavior" and looking for authors
> with an ecology perspective about information. It can be from ethology or
> ecology, what interests me is a systems vision that integrates seeking
> behavior, testing, processing and storage functions with adaptive skills of
> the human species.
> Until now, I have only sources from social science, that very timidly
> suggested some evolutionary approach.
> I also interested in what has been called "swarm behavior" regarding
> information behavior.
> Thanks and regards
> --
> *Cristian Berrío Zapata*
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