The Transformative Capacity of Leisurely Information
Charles Sturt University, Australia
To what extent can accessing desired information transform our views, shape our behavior, or influence our wellbeing? What does occur in our mind when we find the information we need? Building upon these questions, what emotions arise in our consciousness when we encounter unexpected or conflicting information? How do these emotions impact our information behavior patterns and the way we evaluate or interpret information? To what extent positive emotions, such as joy, linked with successful information retrieval? Furthermore, does the satisfaction of access to the needed information foster our motivation to seek further information? What role does our emotional status play in our mental state when we seek and share information in a specific context? How does the integration of the new information into our existing knowledge contribute to our cognitive growth and overall wellbeing?
Indeed, these are fascinating lines of inquiry, and as you rightly might suggest, the answers are highly contingent upon the context, topic, and individual circumstances. As a result, each information experience in a context is unique because the impact of information on our cognition, emotion and behavior is complex, varying from person to person and situation to situation. The way our mind reacts to acquiring information can be influenced by numerous factors. For example, the level of satisfaction we experience upon finding what we seek can bring a sense of achievement, especially if the information item holds significant importance or solves a problem. Alternatively, if the new information contradicts our preconceived notions or challenges our existing beliefs, our cognitive processes may be triggered to reassess our current perceptions.
—Serious Leisure enthusiasts experience various forms of transformations when they seek, collect, curate, share, and produce leisurely information.—
Despite the remarkable significance of these questions, scholars in the field of Human Information Behavior (HIB) have not paid enough attention to them. While information seeking in different contexts has been a popular research topic for decades, how our mind transforms due to interacting with new information is yet to be a primary focus in this area. Therefore, the profound impact of interaction with information on the transformation of our mind has yet to receive the emphasis it deserves. Most studies have traditionally focused on investigating the process leading up to the point when individuals find what they seek, neglecting to delve deeper into the subsequent effects that occur afterwards.
My narrative of exploring leisurely information
Since 2017, when I embarked on my current research program focused on the field of HIB in the context of Serious Leisure (SL), I have observed the transformative power of leisurely information on different communities of interest engaging in various SL activities, such as hobbies, amateurism and voluntary jobs. My research shows that SL enthusiasts actively engage with a diverse range of information sources in their personal quest for new knowledge and skills they need to follow their passion. Through a few projects that I have conducted, I have been exploring the information seeking and sharing patterns of some SL communities, such as birdwatchers, knitters, potters, bonsai growers, and more. In this fascinating journey, I have had the privilege of observing and witnessing the remarkable impact that leisurely information can have on individuals’ lives and wellbeing. The outcomes of my research (Mansourian, 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2022) have shed light on the various pathways in which SL pursuits shape individuals’ perspectives, knowledge acquisition, and personal growth.
It has become clear that the information experiences of these passionate people extend far beyond simple interaction with information sources via various platforms such as search engines, social media, YouTube, etc. Instead, they exhibit a deep dedication to collecting and curating selective information, honing their skills, expanding their network, deepening their understanding of their passion and mentoring newcomers to their communities. My research has uncovered the transformative nature of leisurely information, which goes beyond the acquisition of facts and figures. It has become evident that engaging with information in the context of SL can lead to personal development, enhancing creativity, fostering a sense of agency, and generating various forms of self-expression. In this article, I reflect on my ongoing research, highlighting the transformative power of leisurely information by referring to various patterns of information seeking, the sources they rely on, and the role information plays in their SL activities.
The transformative power of information
Accessing information can expose us to new perspectives, broaden our imagination, challenges our preconceived beliefs, and inspires critical thinking. This process can lead to shifts in our cognitive frameworks and foster intellectual development. Moreover, engaging with information that resonates with our interests can ignite joy, fascination, or amazement. These emotional experiences contribute to our overall wellbeing. These are examples of the transformative capacity of information. However, the possibility of this transformation varies based on several contextual and situational factors. For example, it is more likely to happen when we unexpectedly stumble upon fascinating or valuable information while not actively seeking it. This is a phenomenon called Information Encountering (IE), Opportunistic Discovery of Information (ODI), or Serendipitous Information Seeking (SIS), which has been a research topic in HIB for more than two decades (e.g. Erdelez, 1999; Foster & Ford, 2003; Erdelez, 2004; Allen et al., 2013; Foster & Ellis, 2014; Agarwal, 2015; Erdelez, S. & Makri, 2020; Liu et al., 2022).
However, attention to this phenomenon has been limited to the time when we discover information. Scholars in this area rarely explored what happens beyond that point. Nonetheless, recently, Lowe (2023) investigated it at another level. She introduces a concept called Transformative Information Encountering (TIE) which refers to the experience of encountering information that leads to transformative effects on our beliefs or behaviors. It is a concept derived from the Transformative Education (TE) theory that highlights the potential of information to bring about significant changes in our perceptions and perspectives. TIE goes beyond the traditional view of information as a means of communication or knowledge transfer. Instead, it highlights the transformative potential of information that can reshape our existing views, expands our vision, or inspire personal growth.
My findings in this area are aligned with TIE, introduced by Lowe (2023). It provides compelling evidence that SL enthusiasts experience various forms of transformations when they seek, collect, curate, share, and produce leisurely information. Leisurely Information refers to the information people seek, search, browse, share, access, use and produce for recreational purposes. It can include various formats, such as books, magazine articles, websites, grey literature, YouTube videos, and social media that people explore for enjoyment and entertainment. The influence of their exposure to such information extends beyond the mere act of searching. They undergo a sense-making process when facing new information that aligns with their interests. This process involves incorporating new information, resulting in a shift in their views and visions. As they encounter information that resonates with their leisure pursuits, they experience a cognitive and emotional process that transcends simple interactions into a higher level of understanding and comprehension.
Those engaged in SL activities are eager to find various information about their field of interest. Nonetheless, their view of information in their area of interest is unique. Searching for information for them is much more than just finding an answer to a question or solving a problem. They are fascinated by any information about their hobbies or voluntary activity. Even the information that may be considered insignificant and trivial to others can be so fascinating for them. For example, the fans of a music genre show such interest in seemingly unimportant details about the life of their favorite singers, musical instruments, and the details of their performances that may sound unimportant to others. This thirst for inclusive knowledge stems from their desire to deepen their involvement in their SL activity. By delving into seemingly trivial aspects, they gain a more profound understanding of the subject, allowing them to derive greater enjoyment from their engagement. They develop a richer tapestry of information and a more intimate bond with their passion by uncovering seemingly insignificant details. In this context, the information serves as a catalyst, igniting contemplation and reflection. It prompts them to examine their motivations within the realm of their chosen pursuits. As they absorb, integrate and share new information, it sparks a multifaceted process of sense-making, self-actualization, and empowerment. It not only enhances their knowledge and skills but also fosters a unique sense of belonging and identity.
The transformative power of information is particularly evident in SL domain, as SL enthusiasts interact with information resources in a mainly joyful way inspired by their willingness and sense of agency. Therefore, it can serve as a catalyst for transformative experiences in this context. Several examples of this phenomenon emerged from my ongoing research about HIB in SL in Australia, where I observed that accessing, sharing, and using information serves as a catalyst for profound changes among different communities of interest.
Regarding the practical implications of my research, I believe that understanding the transformative influence of information can provide information professionals with valuable insight to facilitate more enriching experiences for users across the GLAMR (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Record Management) sector. By knowing the deep impact that information may have on our perceptions, behaviors and wellbeing, information professionals can design and implement new policies and practices fostering personal growth and meaningful engagement. Moreover, they can create an environment that encourages users to explore beyond their comfort zones, pushing the boundaries of their viewpoints and opening new domains of understanding. Therefore, they can create supportive and inclusive communities that nurture personal and social growth through transformative ideas. Therefore, by embracing the transformative power of information within leisure context, information professionals can go beyond traditional information provision and play their role as facilitators of personal growth and wellbeing.
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Cite this article in APA as: Mansourian, Y. (2023, May 31). The transformative capacity of leisurely information. Information Matters, Vol. 3, Issue 5. https://informationmatters.org/2023/05/the-transformative-capacity-of-leisurely-information/