Highlights from the 2021 iConference

“Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening”! This was the common greeting at this year’s iConference, which spanned over several time zones and took place virtually between 17-31 March 2021.

A wide range of research topics were covered at the iConference, such as informetrics, archival studies, cybersecurity, and e-government, to name a few. There was something for everyone. We had research using rich datasets and covering all aspects of information systems for the more quantitatively inclined information scientists among us, as well as research around knowledge management, information retrieval, information behaviour in context, and information literacy, which are topics that are of particular interest to me.

Conference participants used a bespoke virtual conferencing platform called SCOOCS to view the conference timetable and create their own personalised schedule:

There was also a presentation library where we could view posters, research papers, and session recordings at any time, so I was able to catch up with a few sessions outside of my time zone:

I made two contributions to the 2021 iConference: a poster presentation about my Masters work entitled “The socio-material nature of careers work: an exploration of knowledge co-creation amongst career practitioners”, and a doctoral colloquium presentation about my PhD work so far entitled “Career information literacy and decision-making behaviours of young people”. I am including all of the links to these two contributions below. See, also, my supervisor Hazel Hall’s blog post about these two conference contributions here!

MScR poster: The socio-material nature of careers work: An exploration of knowledge co-creation amongst career practitioners

The 2500-word poster abstract is up on my Napier outputs page and on the IDEALS repository.

The full-size poster PDF is also up on my Napier outputs page and on GDrive.

Doctoral colloquium presentation: Career information literacy and decision-making behaviours of young people

My slides can be accessed here.

I also submitted a 5-page summary of my doctoral work for the doctoral colloquium, which was written two months before the conference itself took place. You can view this summary here.


iConference highlights

Doctoral colloquium

The biggest highlight for me was definitely the iConference doctoral colloquium. I benefitted a lot from the mentoring I received from moderators Kevin Crowston at Syracuse University and Lihong Zhou at Wuhan University, as well as from the questions and feedback I got from PhD colleagues.

My main argument at the doctoral colloquium was that there are two gaps in knowledge that I’ve identified through my literature search. One such gap is ‘career information literacy’, which I am defining as ‘information literacy skills for lifelong and self-directed career development’. Another gap is about the context in which career information literacy skills are deployed: the context in which information needs arise, and in which young people access, use, and evaluate career information to address their information needs when making career decisions. Since I am approximately six months into my PhD, I am at the point where I can begin to operationalise my literature review findings into a research strategy. In line with this, what I looked to gain from the session was some feedback on my research scope, research questions, research design, and target participant samples.

Overall, doctoral colloquium participants were convinced by my justification for studying career information literacy, and saw the merit of exploring the context of career information behaviours via qualitative research methods. I felt well-prepared to answer questions such as “Isn’t 12-18 a little too young for career decisions?”. My answer here was “no”; we need more research into early career decision-making because there is evidence that career beliefs begin to form in primary school years. There are two reasons for looking at adolescents in particular: first, adolescence is a critical developmental stage where important educational and vocational decisions are made, and second, there has been an overabundance of research into university populations which now needs to be complemented with some findings of what happens before people go to university.

Another, slightly trickier, question was: “You talk about lifelong skills and decision-making. How are you going to measure longitudinal processes? How do you know that someone age 18 is showing indicators of information literacy skills that will also apply later? Information literacy skills and issues faced will change with age, so can we really apply one skillset to our whole lives?”. There are two issues to consider here: 1. How do we measure lifelong information literacy skills, and 2. How transmissible are such skills from one situation to another? My current stance on these issues is that 1. My research is not longitudinal in nature, yet I can look at what people do now with a view towards the future, with their long-term career goals in mind. 2. The transferability of information literacy skills is an up-and-coming area of research which can help answer such questions. In general, it seems that individuals who have advanced information literacy skills are able to apply these across a range of situations and timescales, and those with more foundational information literacy skillsets may struggle to translate their skills in such a manner. Some questions remain, of course, on the comparative transferability between situations within the same domain (e.g. one work task vs another work task), and transferability across domains (e.g. from education to work).


Some interesting points from sessions attended (or caught up with thanks to recordings!)

  • Search mastery in students is much improved by dedicated search mastery courses, though many students still believe that a .com website extension equals trustworthiness! (578 – Brian Butler and colleagues – “Advancing search mastery education”)
  • The most commonly taught course in iSchools is “Introduction to research methods”. 55% of all iSchool programmes are in Library and Information science (LIS). On average, iSchool researchers have 41 publications, 322 citations, and an h-index of 9. (118 – Brady Lund – Educational Foci and Research Productivity in the iSchools: An Analysis of Curricular Offerings and Publishing Venues)
  • The main topics researched by French-speaking immigrants to Israel were ‘Integration’, ‘Short-term settlement’, and ‘Long-term settlement’. Different information sources were used before and after immigration to cope with information needs. (158 – Yohanan Ouaknine – Information practices of French-speaking immigrants to Israel: An exploratory study)
  • People tend to counteract misinformation shared by significant others more so than the one shared by strangers. The methods (e.g. private/public, direct/indirect) used to counteract misinformation are influenced by motivations to maintain harmonious relationships and to avoid embarrassing those who spread misinformation. (175 – Abdul Rohman – Counteracting Misinformation in Quotidian Settings)
  • The use of positive emojis in feedback statements improves recipients’ mood, opinion of the feedback and the feedback provider, and increase their intention to apply the feedback to their work. Pairs of critiques with and without emojis were compared, and differences were all statistically significant. In conclusion: add emojis to your feedback – they work! (196 – Chulakorn Aritajati – Smile! Positive Emojis Improve Reception and Intention to Use Constructive Feedback)
  • Visualisation use is a key feature of argumentation in digital humanities publications, particularly when a new method or technique is being validated. Realism in photographic representations strengthens arguments. The use of graphs does not solidify final results, but instead tends to inspire alternative interpretations of data. (258 – Rongqian Ma and colleagues – Understanding the Narrative Functions of Visualization in Digital Humanities Publications: A Case Study of the Journal of Cultural Analytics)
  • Interest in gamification research has sharply increased since its early beginnings in the early 2000s. However, it is still often regarded as an add-on topic to more traditional and established research topics. (264 – Jian Tang – A Meta-Review of Gamification Research)
  • More than half of award-winning papers in LIS are co-authored. 61% are empirical studies that employ qualitative research designs. 45% are the result of intradepartmental and inter-institutional collaborations. 34% come from the US, and 26% from the UK. (270 – Joyce Choi – Characterizing award-winning papers in library and information science: A case study of LIS journals published by Emerald)
  • Intellectual humility (IH) means “being open to the possibility that there are things you do not know – that you might be mistaken about, or just ignorant of”, and relates to information seeking and use. (367 – Tim Gorichanaz – How the Intellectually Humble Seek and Use Information)
  • Participatory design (PD) is an effective way to do community engagement, and is aligned with the core values of libraries. However, more work needs to be done to embed PD in libraries, since a shift to PD requires people to change their problem-solving perceptions. PD is also a concept that is hard to grasp, and therefore difficult to communicate and justify to the public or to managers. (410 – Kung Jin Lee and Jin Ha Lee – Pre-service Librarians’ Perspective on the Role of Participatory Design in Libraries with Youth)
  • Critical literacies are central to “new literacies”. The digital tools we use for teaching can expose student data, so data privacy awareness discourse should implement critical literacy perspectives. (525 – Anna Leach – Student data and privacy: Through a New Literacies Lens)
  • Consumers use the linguistic features of online health information when evaluating its credibility. Specifically, they monitor the number of typos, use of jargon, and tone of speech in order to make judgments (640 – Jiaying Liu – Linguistic features and consumer credibility judgment of online health information)
  • ‘Serious games’ are games designed with a serious purpose, such as educating, training, or developing policy. They promote thinking, reflection, and problem-solving through interaction with an interface designed for a specific purpose. One possible application of ‘serious games’ is in information ethics. For instance, when players are presented with different information ethics problems, they tend to learn information ethics as they deal with the problems. (643 – Weijane Lin – Developing a Serious Game for Information Ethics Literacy)

Now, it is time to apply what I’ve learnt from the iConference to my work, and to prepare for the next conference on the radar, which is ECIL 2021 (taking place 20-23 September 2021). I’m currently in the process of writing an ECIL paper expanding on the first research gap I presented at the iConference doctoral colloquium: career information literacy. Read all about it here and here!

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