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Time is of the essence: Social theory of time and its implications for LIS research
FIMS Presentations
  • Elizabeth Davies
  • Pamela J. McKenzie, University of Western Ontario
Document Type
Conference Proceeding
Publication Date

Abstract: “Time,” like “information,” is a concept that has received a great deal of attention in some disciplines and is ignored or taken for granted in others. Traditional studies of information seeking have focussed on spatial issues – primarily, locating/ location of sources – to the neglect of temporal issues. This paper proposes that the social constructivist theoretical paradigm recently adopted by LIS researchers demands recognition of social time; that is, not absolute time, but another type of meaning constructed between people through their interactions. Attending to social concepts of time can have important implications for research into organizational and individual information behaviour. Information practices in organizations and work groups within organizations cannot be fully understood without acknowledging the multitude of times that exist within such groups. Studies of workplace information practices focus variously on organizations, project teams, task forces, crews, departments, etc. Each group has a different temporal existence based on its practices. For example, organizations, departments and communities imply longevity as well as duration. We describe a developing study of information practices in a limited-duration work group. Traditional studies of information seeking often consider individuals’ descriptions of their information seeking behaviour as transparent representations of underlying cognitive processes. A constructivist stance permits an analysis of the ways that accounts of information seeking can take discursive action: the ways that such accounts are structured and the ways they may be used to make claims about individuals’ general behaviour or competence, and to prescribe or proscribe certain sets of activities. The concept of “time” may then be used as a discursive resource by individuals in a social interaction. We report findings from a study of the ways that information seekers may use various representations of “time” in justifying certain kinds of information seeking behaviour.


Advancing Knowledge: Expanding Horizons for Information Science, 30th annual conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, Toronto, Ontario, 30 May-1 June, 2002.

Citation Information
Elizabeth Davies and Pamela J. McKenzie. "Time is of the essence: Social theory of time and its implications for LIS research" (2002)
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