Situating complexity: information behaviour in the contact zone


  • Joy Nam Hye Lim University of Glasgow



place/space, contact zone, holistic paradigm


Introduction.  This short paper addresses the problematic un-situated nature of the holistic framework proposed by Polkinghorne and Given. In 2021, Polkinghorne and Given called for a substantive shift in the information field to a holistic research paradigm. However, framing studies in a contextualised, complex manner has remained an enduring challenge, particularly regarding where information experiences occur.

Method.  The author identifies a spatial gap in the holistic framework, traces existing literature on place/space in the information field, and explores M. L. Pratt’s contact zone theory.

Analysis and results. The holistic paradigm holds an obfuscated view of place/space and its role in shaping information behaviour. Existing studies and theories that incorporate place/space and its impact on information practices underscore the importance of the spatial. The paper looks to contact zone theory as a useful tool for conceptualising information behaviour in particular sites.

Conclusion. This paper argues that contact and zone are both key aspects of information behaviour, as information encounters take place in specific sites, between diverse human and nonhuman agents with different levels of power and influence. The contact zone is suggested as a critical lens to examine spatially bound interactions that could offer a more anchored, multi-agentic vision for researching information behaviour.




How to Cite

Hye Lim, J. N. (2024). Situating complexity: information behaviour in the contact zone. Information Research an International Electronic Journal, 29(2), 369–377.