published quarterly by the university of borås, sweden

vol. 27 no. Special issue, October, 2022

Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science, Oslo Metropolitan University, May 29 - June 1, 2022

“I can tell he is in a good mood.” Embodied aspects of information in human-animal relationship

Niloofar Solhjoo

Introduction. In a multispecies family, both humans and animals learn how to live together through embodied experiences and beyond the verbal transmission of information. This paper, based on a pilot study about information that makes meaning in multispecies families, aims to highlight embodied aspects of information that shape human-animal shared daily activities.
Method. Drawing on posthumanism and hermeneutic phenomenology; four multispecies families participated in semi-structured interviews about their family and video tours of their households.
Analysis. A combination of inductive and deductive coding was applied to the verbal and non-verbal data collected. The codes included a range of different senses, functions of the body, feelings from inside the body, the body’s appearance, etc.
Results. The results show how information moves across animal and human bodies. The categories of body as a thing, moving body, acting body, and sensing body shape different ways of experiencing, expressing and enacting information among human and nonhuman participants.
Conclusions. Shared embodied information enables animals and humans to read the meaning of their intentions and actions and create intersubjective understanding and meaning in their relationship.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47989/colis2222


Embodiment plays a central role in meaning making between human and animal (Dutton, 2012; Smuts, 2009). It includes all the senses, embodied forms of communication, and mental and physical actions. I have shared my life with my dogs. My first beloved dog died a couple of years ago and left me with years of shared memories. I still have a sensory memory of her smell, touch, way of looking and warmth. Now after a year of living with my second dog, I can easily see a different personality in him. I can read the meaning of his movements, and understand his moods just through his eyes. These understandings are shaped over time within the lived context with my dogs. Embodied learning through direct contact with our environment is a capacity that is present not only in humans, but also in other species (more-than-human) (Fredriksen, 2020). My dog constantly focusses on my daily activities and looks, listens, smells and tastes physical clues to determine what I want or show me what he wants. We are both living beings with sensual and active bodies, and we are learning how to understand each other and live together beyond verbal transmission of information and knowledge.

This experience with my dog ties in with my PhD research which aims to explore how multispecies families (including human and nonhuman members) understand, use, and are shaped by information. This approach in information research is called information experience which offers a holistic lens for examining any aspect of the information, from creation to understanding and use, and anything can be experienced as information by individuals to make everyday life possible (Gorichanaz, 2020). This article specifically addresses: What are embodied aspects of information that make meaning in the human- animal everyday life? Based on a preliminary study, this paper presents embodied aspects of information that shape human-animal shared daily activities in a holistic manner and from a post humanist (more-than-human) perspective.

Embodiment and human-information interaction

The embodied turn emerged in information science research after the cognitive and affective turns to give a more holistic view of the human information world (Hartel, 2019). Lloyd (2010), as a pioneer in this area, explores the role of corporal information and embodied knowledge in activities of different professions. Olsson, the other leader of embodied turn scholarship, studied theatre workers (2010) and archaeologists (2016) to describe embodiment and intersubjectivity to make sense of their work and surroundings. They believe the totality of the human relationship with information will be fully understood when areas such as embodied information practices are explored (Olsson and Lloyd, 2017). In a literature review of research about information experience, Savolainen (2019) argued that receiving/ and interpreting sensory information is a part of any information experience research. For example, Lupton (2014) described olfactory, visual and spatial information acquired by couple dancers from the partner’s body and the dance floor; or in his doctoral dissertation, Griffin (2020) explained how musicians use their bodies, their senses, and bodily sensations in a wide range of information activities. In the everyday life context, Ocepek (2018) and Polkinghorne (2021) studied food information practices. They showed people are constantly using their bodily sensations while cooking or shopping, and their information actions are embodied, emplaced, and materially situated. Physical and material aspects of information have also been found in representation of beliefs and community belonging, such as among transgender people (Huttunen et al., 2019) or Muslims (Guzik, 2018). The body, dress and style can be sources of information at the same time as they can be prompts for additional information seeking and sharing (Huttunen et al., 2019; Guzik, 2018).

Information research scholars have taken different perspectives on embodied information and rarely is there a comprehensive characterization of embodiment in our field. However, Bates (2018), drawing on disciplines such as biology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy, discussed concepts for the study of embodiment in information science. She categorized embodied information as experienced, enacted, and expressed information. An animal (human or nonhuman) has the subjective experience of hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting to enable them to feel that they are in the world. An animal (human or nonhuman) acting in life is embodying capabilities stored as represented information in parts of the body. They can also communicate with other animals through language and other behaviour intended to send meaningful messages. So, we embody information through experiencing, enacting, and expressing it in life (p. 243-245).

Embodiment and human-animal relationship

There have been studies across anthropology, psychology and sociology about embodied ways of knowing between humans and companion animals. In a study about the shared bodily experience of horse people, Brandt (2004) pointed out how movements and tactile acts of humans and horses help to construct the patterns of relating to each other; the rider reads the body of the horse, and the horse equally learns to interpret its rider. Focusing on Heidegger’s phenomenology (1962) and Shapiro’s kinesthetic empathy (1990), Dutton (2012) captured three intersubjective processes in the development of human close relationships with companion animals: embodied attention, attunement, and transformation (p. 98). These stages are about shared bodily expressions, co-proprioception, reciprocal action, the intertwining of mood and intention that co-create a new, shared meaning and identity between human and animal.

Hansen (2013) discussed dog– human embodied relationships in urban Japan. Through the sharing of time and space in daily embodied practices, they increasingly become intimate family members, being included in afterlife plans and engaging in relationships that may well lack a shared language but include physical and affective touch (2013, 97). Also using a sensory experiential methodology, White (2013) found a cat’s sensory capabilities as the only way to understand the nonhuman side of the human–cat relationship.

Power (2012) studied ways that relations between people and dogs are embodied, performed and maintained in the everyday home context in Australia. She particularly attended to material, temporal and spatial structures informing pet keeping and homemaking. She found canine bodily excesses (e.g. urine and hair) and activity levels the most common factors influencing people’s sense of appropriate dog behaviour. Ideal dogs were those that maintained domestic orderliness and control and embodied the space-time rhythms of home (2012, 375). A study about embodied mourning and memorialization of companion animals, described how sensory experiences constitute a central component of the human-animal bond and discussed the multiplicity of reasons why owners seek to re-create those sensory experiences through material memories such as keeping the fur and hair of the deceased animals (Koontz, 2019).

Going further into everyday life of multispecies families, there are many embodied information systems such as tracking and body monitoring of heartrate and sleep patterns, and wearable cameras that allow human to experience the animal’s perspective. Richardson et al. (2017) described the animals and their modes of play around and with mobile media in the homes. Animal play with haptic media involves more than knowing hands and can involve a variety of other embodied intentionalities, from swiping to scratching and licking the screen (Richardson et al., 2017). As Bates (2018) stated, all these information technologies are extensions of embodied and encoded information in our lives (p. 247). So, understandings of care and living with animals is reworked through information stored in objects external to the body and there are ways of human and nonhuman corporeally interacting with home objects.

All of these studies consider animals as embodied individuals living their lives entangled with humans. They show that embodiment, corporality, and materiality, are important to understand how human relationships with animals are shaped in everyday rhythms. Recently, scholars from the information field have proposed nonhuman subjects and more-than-human approaches in their studies (Solhjoo, et al. 2021, van der Linden, 2021), the natural extension of the relationship that currently exists in the social sciences and humanities (see Kirksey and Helmreich, 2010; Braidotti, 2013). I believe by focusing on the togetherness and intersubjective understanding between humans and animals we might be able to elicit embodied aspects of information that appear in their shared practices.

Methodological framing

Following Solhjoo et al.’s (2021) emphasis on the phenomenological lens of information experience as means to understand information in human-animal practices, this study is situated within hermeneutic phenomenology and posthuman phenomenology. Hermeneutic phenomenology, which is an interpretative form of phenomenology, can be described as the letting-be-seen of things themselves (Gorichanaz, 2020). Dutton (2012) argues that properly understanding the bodily basis of the human-animal relationship requires phenomenological methods that could highlight the embodied, dynamic and intersubjective aspects of these complex forms of living together. Information experience is also grounded in and influenced by phenomenology as a philosophy (Bruce et al., 2014), which means that it describes how humans experience being and how people construct meaning and understanding in their lived experience (Käufer and Chemero, 2015). Thus, anything could be experienced as information in people’s practices. Phenomenology is not just about humanity; it also speaks about animality and proves the subjectivity of nonhumans (Lestel et al., 2014). To integrate more- than-human and access animal experience in studies, Birke and Hockenhull (2012) advocated observational and participative approaches to bring together and understand the qualities of human-animal relationships. Likewise, Hepworth, et al. (2014) described how the phenomenological approach to information studies encourages a participative and context- specific approach to investigating an individual’s information experience. Thus, posthuman phenomenology provides ways to reveal significant dimensions of interpretation in the lives of human and nonhuman beings (Lewis and Owen, 2019). The advantage of a posthuman perspective for this study lies in its emphasis on the interactions of a human embodiment with the more-than-human world (Ulmer, 2017). As humans and animals come together in assemblages (e.g. family, home) and interact with each other, posthumanism can help us explore how information moves across nonhuman and human bodies.


Through convenience recruitment techniques four families from New Zealand and Iran participated in a hybrid pilot study during September and October 2021. These two countries were chosen because of contextual and personal reasons. The researcher is a doctoral student in New Zealand, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic she conducted the pilot study from Iran.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of cat and dog guardianship in the world, with nearly 75% households including one or more companion animals as trusted companions (Companion Animals New Zealand, 2020). Animals are becoming increasingly recognized as sentient beings in New Zealand. For example, a new update of the Five Domains Model (Mellor et al., 2020) for animal welfare originally formulated in New Zealand in 1998, specified clearly the subjective positive and negative feelings of companion animal as a result of human practices. Hence, two families who considered their dog/cat as a nonhuman family member and had built a strong relationship with the animal (families W1, and W2) participated in the study from New Zealand. Family W1 was a European senior couple (aged between 56-65 years) with a senior male black cat (called Charlie) living in an urban area. They have adult children not living with them. The cat chose to live with the couple as his third family and they have been his guardian for less than five years. Both adults were responsible for the care of the cat. They spent daily 4 to 8 hours with their cat, and he is allowed to spend time alone outdoors. The female partner, with a postgraduate degree, participated as the main interviewee with the presence of her cat and her husband in their home. Family W2 was a young couple with Pākehā ethnicity (New Zealander of European descent) living with their young male Jack Russell dog (called Finn) in an urban area. The couple adopted (rehomed) him from an online post. The dog was young and very energetic. He had spent less than a year with his new guardians but both partners used to live with family dogs. The female partner, aged between 20-25 years with a postgraduate degree, was the main participant of the study. She spent most of her day with the dog as she worked from home, and took him out of the house a couple of times a day, but the caring responsibilities were divided between both partners. The interview and video tour were conducted with the presence of the whole family, the male partner participated in a small part of the interview and both partners’ interactions with the dog were observed.

Companion dog and cat keeping inside homes in modern Iranian society constitute a form of acculturation that is intensifying. Although it is foreign to the Muslim Persian culture and has legal constraints in Iran, families acquiring and adopting a companion cat or dog, as well as specialised services, such as veterinary clinics, grooming salons and day-care centres are increasing in Iran (Grisoni and Mashkour, 2016). According to my personal experiences of cohabitation with companion dogs during childhood and adulthood, and interacting daily with guardians, animal sensibility is growing among Iranians. People are creating private and public areas for dogs and cats in their neighbourhoods, and they are spending a considerable amount of their time and money for the wellbeing of their animals. This study included two families from Iran that considered their dog/cat as a nonhuman family member and had built a strong relationship with the animal (family T1 and T2). Family T1 was a young couple living with their 3-year-old male Shih Tzu dog (called Leon) in an urban area. The couple got him from a breeder as a puppy. The partners shared the dog caring responsibilities. They both worked outside the home for eight hours a day but spent the rest of their day with their dog, including taking him daily to the dog park. The dog had dog friends he met on a daily basis at the dog park. The interview and the tour were conducted in their home, the female partner (aged between 26-30, with a postgraduate degree) participated mostly in the interview while the male partner was feeding and playing with the dog. Family T2 was a single male adult (aged between 36-45 years old with a secondary degree) who had been living with his male adult mini poodle dog (called Gerdou) for less than five years. The human worked from home so they spent all day together in the house and the dog was well trained. He (the dog) interacted with the environment outside of the house two or three times a week and did not interact regularly with other dogs. Both human and animal participated in the interview and tour, and all their interactions were observed during the researcher’s presence in their home.

Data collection

To understand the embodied information that builds understanding in the shared everyday lives of the human and animal participants, different methods were used: semi-structured interviews resulting in video recordings of stories and interactions between human and dog/cat, and video tours of the multispecies households. These methods are common both in embodied information studies and more-than-human studies (Thomson, 2018; Dowling et al., 2017). To mitigate the challenges of restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the data collection was conducted via digital techniques that turned out to be beneficial for gathering information within the multispecies context. Two interviews along with a video tour were conducted personally (family T1, T2) and the other two were virtual via Zoom video conferencing software (family W1, W2). Zoom has been shown to be a practical online tool for qualitative data collection because of its relative ease of use, cost- effectiveness, data management features, and security options (Archibald et al., 2019).

During the hour-long interview session, I tried to gather all kinds of research materials that could assist the investigation; not only human but also animal, as well as non-living objects. Participants were encouraged to be interviewed at their private homes with the presence of other human and nonhuman family members. I helped them to talk about their dog/cat, their relationship with them, and their daily activities with them without explicitly touch upon the issue of information. Discussions of embodied information interactions occurred throughout the interviews. Tsing (2013) stated humanness is the only starting point for entering into multispecies context and so I asked participants to talk on behalf of their dog/cat and explain the animal’s emotional, and physical experiences related to the situations that they were describing. By video recording the interviews, all gestures, movements, and sensory moments were captured along with verbal data, and I was able to pay more attention to all the sounds and sights and physical interactions between humans and animals.

Participants provided me with a video tour around their home, especially of the places related to animal activities and routines. Each tour lasted approximately 20 minutes. As visual methods provide knowing through showing rather than telling (Cox and Benson, 2017), the video tour was used to understand information beyond the human, give voice to more-than- human, and observe their embodied interactions. For each in-person tour, I carried a smartphone camera, to capture the tour, including the participant’s actions and interactions with animal, and for remote tours, participants used a mobile device (e.g. laptop or tablet) to show me around and everything was recorded by the video conferencing software.

This study was conducted ethically with no harm to humans and animals, and it was approved by the Human Ethics Committee of Victoria University of Wellington (No. 29730).

Data analysis

Data analysis included attention to embodied and material aspects of human-animal interactions and practices. Video recordings of the interviews and tours were transcribed. Written notes relating to non-verbal data of videos were taken, including physical materials, gestures, movements and other embodied practices of humans and animals. Sometimes I took a picture of a frame from a video to record it with a note. As in the data gathering phase, I tried to recognize the animal perspective and represent their embodied experiences in the data analysis as far as possible.

NVIVO 12, a qualitative data analysis program, was used to organize all data and extract codes and themes from verbal and non-verbal data. Codes within each video interview and tour were identified with a combination of inductive and deductive approaches. I started with deep listening/watching and added codes on the transcripts, notes, and pictures from each family to mark data in which they tell/show about meaningful embodied experiences between human and animal. The codes included a range of different senses, functions of the body, feelings from inside of the body, the body itself, activities with materials, moving body in space, etc. To categorize these codes, I drew mostly upon Bates’s (2018) concepts for the study of information embodiment. The coding scheme was modified during the analysis of each case to create more general themes.


There were some limitations to the study. First, a small number of participants from the multispecies families enrolled. It is likely that the small sample size limits the transferability of the findings of the study and might have introduced selection bias. Second, using online technology to mitigate the challenges of restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has its own limitations related to their practicality, such as low Internet bandwidth, outdated hardware, limited webcam or microphone functionality, and unfamiliarity with Zoom. Finally, human supremacy over non-humans is an important barrier in this study, as data gathering and coding is subjective to the interpretation of the humans, both the human researcher and human participants. Interviewing humans about nonhumans’ experiences and drawing conclusions about animals’ actions has a strong anthropomorphic aspect, and any animal’s actions and experiences may be interpreted differently by other animals outside its species.

Embodied forms of information

Shared bodily experience and shared physical environment create various ways of internalizing and externalizing information in the more-than-human context that are presented in this section. Here, I attend to information as a process of making meaning and identity between human and nonhuman members of the families and categorized them as the bodily information (animal or human body as a thing), enacted information (moving and interacting body with the surroundings), expressed information (expressing with the sight, sound, smell, touch and taste).

Experiencing Bodily information

The human interaction with the animal’s body, as a living thing, is sometimes experienced as acquiring and interpreting information. According to family T2, Leon is very picky and he used to eat cooked chicken bones as a starter. Although their veterinarian has warned them several times about the risk of cooked bones, they continued to give him bones for years until one day they noticed blood in his stool. Their dog experienced a long and painful treatment as bone fragments led to significant trauma. Now they have changed his diet. Attention to an animal’s body can lead to understanding and a change in care behaviour, as noted in family W2. The guardian said:

Finn was getting sores under his arms, where I think his harness was rubbing. His vet said some alopecia from harnesses was common. We changed it, and he still got little sores. I remembered that my family's Jack Russell had skin problems caused by wheat in his food, so I Googled symptoms of wheat sensitivity in dogs and saw similar skin abrasions in photos on Veterinary centre websites. Finn's now on a wheat-free food, which seems to have helped, but he still gets little sores from time to time.

In the interview session with family T1, other examples of the role of the body as a source of understanding the animal care were noted. Due to some past memories of health problems, the guardian was very sensitive to the dog’s body condition by monitoring him and he tried to keep the dog’s diet accurate and balanced. Finn’s guardian also mentioned a memorable and more abstract image of the body:

I remember that my aunty has the best-behaved dog… so every morning the dog used to have her faced washed, his feet washed…and she was just laying on her back [with an open mouth] getting her teeth brushed. And she was like the healthiest dog.

Information received by humans from the body of other species is not just related to physical health but it could also relate to the animal’s state and mood. Finn’s guardian can tell when the dog is excited. During the interview she imitated how the dog’s body and face changed with her own posture and gesture to showed me how her dog paused before he tried to go for a loud bark.

Also, human’s body, might be experience as acquiring and receiving information by the animal. Some examples were caught by the researcher during the interview session: Gerdou supervised us and constantly watched his guardian’s hand movements, or Gerdou came closer and smelled the guardian’s hands. These examples were interpreted as the act of gathering sensory information to understand what human was doing/telling or maybe holding in his hand.

Experiencing Enacted information

Sometimes a moving and acting body in a shared space built an understanding between human and animal. According to the human interviewee, sometimes to attract his attention, Gerdou opens and closes his mouth silently while making some noises by tapping his feet on the floor. Without any vocalization the dog tries to interact with his guardian when the human is busy with his daily work at home. Also, during the interview I saw his guardian mostly use sign language rather than voice command to interact with Gerdou. In another family, to ask for water, Charlie usually taps his guardians and walks them to the water bowl to show them they need to fill it up. This interaction between body and physical environment has a significant meaning for them that could be understood only by them in the context of their home. Finn’s family worked hard on their relationship and trust, because their dog is very young and active. He runs around the house, sometimes destroys toys, and eats things which are dangerous. The guardians therefore try to maintain his daily routines (e.g. going for walks) and teach him to calm down after a long active day (e.g. brush his teeth and go to bed with the family). Leon usually follows other members of the family or sits in place to be able to see everyone. But, as described by his guardian, if he will not come out of the bedroom, they realise that he is not feeling good.

Sometimes interaction with a physical phenomenon builds a meaningful understanding in a special context. Here, participants use objects as extensions of sending and receiving information. For example, when Leon brings a special toy called Tour it is interpreted by the guardians that he is very happy and, if he was unwell it is a sign that he is recovering. Finn’s family showed me a water spray that they used to sometimes prevent him from eating wood sticks in the park. They have learned that he doesn’t like water. Or, Charlie likes to wander. He has been lost and found several times. He has a collar with a bell to hear his movements, and a tag with his name, the guardians’ contact information, and a note saying that ‘he doesn't kill native birds’ for whom might find him. In another story the guardian described her bed time with Charlie:

Some people don't let their cats sleep on their bed, but we do, because otherwise he would just scratch at the door all night. So, it's easier to let him in and we also don’t have any [cat] allergies… he sleeps next to us and you can feel him sometimes at night… he starts with [a loud] purr, purr, purr, until he goes to sleep.

The bodily interaction with the surroundings also helps the families recognize the identity of the nonhuman member of the family and understand what a good life means to him/her. Charlie’s family knows that he likes to play with cardboard boxes and watch videos of birds on a screen. They learned their cat’s preferences through the cat’s encounter with these objects. The cat used to check behind the screen while watching videos but after some time he has learned that the movements are just happening on the screen not behind it. According to his guardian:

When we are working on the computer, he sits on the arm of the chair watching as if he was waiting to see something moving, so I think he's beginning to learn that you can watch moving things on that object.

Experiencing Expressed information

Last but not least, human and nonhuman participants express information with the senses which are commonly understandable for both. I observed Finn, Gerdou, and Charlie expressing what they wanted by touching things and bodies. For example, Charlie has a method of touching his guardians with his paw to tell them to move. Also, sometimes the guardian experience Charlie’s touching as intimacy and a pleasure act. Gaze and postures are also common among nonhuman participants as a form of expressed information. According to Family W2, their dog, Finn, is not a loud dog and when he wants something, instead of barking, he sits and looks at the object or looks into the eyes his guardian with a special waving tail.

The interview session with Family W1 started without Charlie as he was outdoor. The researcher was told that Charlie sometimes makes a noise to let the family know that he is back. But after a couple of minutes, without hearing any cat’s sound, the guardian went to the door and welcomed him. The cat’s arrival was sensed only by the interviewee who is aware of cat’s action of sitting behind the opaque door. It is an example of lived experience of embodiment of the environment both for the human and the animal. As described by Bates (2018) to have that lived experience, there is first a great deal of sensing, encoding, and converting from one kind of signal to another (p 244). In family T1, the behaviour of petting and kissing the dog are not only a human emotional activity of expressing love to the animal, according to the guardian, but enables him to experience and assess the dog’s physical health from the smell of his mouth, and the texture of his skin and fur.

The ways in which the dogs and cats use their senses were often very different from how humans do. But the human participants have learned to recognize them in their shared everyday life. Charlie has a vocal range and according to the guardians sometimes he makes a very quick cat sound if the human does not act quickly- like feeding him or waking up. Also, the guardians interpreted sensing of the purring sound and vibration as a knowledge (experienced information) about the cat’s health and mood. Sometimes the senses that build understanding between human and nonhuman participants are undirected. In my interview sessions there were examples of experienced information that result from any other type of external sensory experience. The guardian of Family T1 describes the feelings of the dog lick to his face from inside his body. He said:

Sometimes Gerdou pushes his head to my face and starts to lick me, it could be because of salty taste of my skin, but when he does it feels like a pleasant hug.

Family T1 described the same pleasant feelings from smelling Leon’s fur. Both families derive so much positive inner sensation from these sensory activities. In addition to the positive emotional effect of touch and scent, Family T2 described the negative feelings of Leon’s sound. In the past when the family left Leon alone in the house, he used to cry and scratch the door. The guardian connects those outside sounds to her own feelings of stress and the sad memory of not being able to keep him. Such sensations are only accessible from her perspective and shape a meaning between the human and her dog.

Concluding discussion

Coming from an information science background, and incorporating the concept of embodied information for the first time to understand the human-animal relationship, bodily states, senses, expressions, and actions of a human/nonhuman animal (e.g., smell, touch, look, or play) were found as information by the other (human/nonhuman participants). The findings discussed in this more-than-human context have added to the previous results of information embodiment in the human context: the body itself (Lloyd 2010; Lupton 2014; Olsson 2016), olfactory, visual, touch and other sensations (Lloyd 2010; Olsson 2010; Lupton 2014; Ocepek 2018), and materially situated, emplaced, and spatial information (Ocepek 2018; and Huttunen et al., 2019, Guzik, 2018; Polkinghorne 2021). Hansen’s (2013) discussion about the fictive kinship of human and dog in urban Japan that is shaped through embodied contact and affect, align with this study’s findings about the embodied aspects of information. The participants’ bodily experiences of daily activities depend not only on paying attention to the other and their meanings, but also to the surroundings. Their homes were a site for experiencing each other’s animated, moving, and sensing bodies, as well as non-living objects and materials that shape perceptions of multispecies co-habitation. Guardians reflected on many examples of animals’ activities and negotiations between their bodies and materials— e.g., Leon’s interaction with his favourite toy - aligning with Power’s (2012) recognition of nonhuman behaviour and bodily boundaries in shaping home and domesticity. In this study experienced information, as an embodied from of information was presented along with expressed information and enacted information. Because it was treated as a lived experience of the self and the other (human and nonhuman) animals in the environment through sensing, encoding, and remembering (Bates 2018). Griffin (2020) also highlighted that in every typical information behaviour research experienced information is equated with knowledge or expressed information.

Following a posthuman phenomenological approach, this study tried to listen out for the voices of animals by listening to humans’ stories of their experiences with nonhumans, and observing interactions between them. Both physical and online approaches made it possible to meet dogs and cats during the interviews and video tours. Their presence helped the researcher and interviewees to better focus on the bodily interplay between animals and humans, and include nonhumans more equably in the study. It was impossible to clearly understand how animals acquire or interpret embodied information, but the researcher got a little closer to the nonhuman participants by observing how they experience their surroundings and express themselves through bodies, senses, and objects.

This study crosses the long-standing border between human and non-human animals within information science research, thinks creatively about possibilities in the information behaviour field, and contributes to the emergence of a new theoretical turn called the animal turn, recognizing the contribution of nonhuman agencies in shaping human information practices and spaces. However, a barrier to including nonhuman animals in this study is how trustworthy they can be as sources of information. Because they are from another species, we have difficulty communicating with them and interpreting their actions. The animal’s embodiment and full subjectivity were also limited in the study by attending only to the humans’ senses and humans’ perceptions. As a suggestion for future investigations, visual and sensory methods might be complementary approaches to human talk for witnessing and exploring information in human–animal relationship by revealing multiple perspectives within a multispecies context. Although the interpretation of data gathered through these subjective methods is still from the human perspective.

It is humans that represent animals and speak for their information experiences, so it could be said that there is an uneven power differential between human and animal participants in this study and any other which brings animals into information science research. This acknowledgement is critical to our argument because posthumanism is the basis for new forms of thinking about human, everyday life, and its intertwined information that, at least attempts to, include rather than erase nonhuman bodies. As stated by Hansen (2013) animal subjectivity is hard to put into words but increasingly difficult to deny. Although we, as humans, are unable to understand the direct information experiences of other species, this paper hopes to contribute to the animal turn by paying attention to embodied aspects of shared information practices of multispecies families.

Overall, this study highlighted the importance of embodied information (related to body, senses, and materials) as a key aspect of life within a multispecies environment. Here human or animal were both information user and provider. And There was a continuum of internalizing and externalizing (or taking and making information as phrased by Huvila, 2022) between the human and nonhuman participants. It is what Polkinghorne (2021) called embodied mutual constitution, a concept that enables us to express the sensory interactions not only between people and information, but also between people’s information practices and other practices. She, and previously Bates (1999), argued that information practices intertwine with other practices and are part of becoming and being in larger social structures, such as the family. Experiencing embodied information in this study was a process of attention and interaction with living and non-living things. The results of this study illustrated how information moves across animal and human bodies (for both input and output purposes) in everyday animal care and enrichment practices, such as healthcare, nutrition, leisure, or simply to live together as a multispecies family. This enables both human and animal to read the meaning of the other’s intentions and actions, what Dutton (2012) identified as embodied attention, attunement, and transformation. Dutton’s discussion focuses on the process of relationship and tuning to others so that attention to another’s bodily state can co-create a new, shared, intersubjective meaning and identity. Similarly, humans’ stories and animals’ actions in this study showed how embodied forms of information shape intersubjective understanding and meaning between them. In this context we suggest future research about how information practices co-evolve within multispecies families by considering all acting bodies (humans, animals, objects, etc.) that shape the everyday of home and family.


The author thanks Charlie, Gerdou, Leon, and Finn, and their humans who participated in this study. The author is also deeply grateful to Professor Anne Goulding and Dr. Maja Krtalić for helps with reviewing and editing the original manuscript.

About the author

Niloofar Solhjoo is a recipient of the Doctoral Scholarship to study the everyday information behaviour of multispecies families at School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, NZ. Working at the intersection of information studies and human-animal relationship, Niloofar has contributed to journals and conferences of both information science experts and animal health practitioners. She can be contacted at niloofar.solhjoo@vuw.ac.nz


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Solhjoo, N. (2022). “I can tell he is in a good mood.” Embodied aspects of information in human-animal relationship. In Proceedings of CoLIS, the 11th. International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science, Oslo, Norway, May 29 - June 1, 2022. Information Research, 27(Special issue), paper colis2222. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/27-SpIssue/CoLIS2022/colis2222.html https://doi.org/10.47989/colis2222

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