Categorizing Blogs as Information Sources for Libraries and Information Science

Categorizing Blogs as Information Sources for Libraries and Information Science

Mark-Shane Scale (University of Western Ontario, Canada) and Anabel Quan-Haase (University of Western Ontario, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch475
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Blogs are important sources of information currently used in the work of professionals, institutions and academics. Nevertheless, traditional information needs and uses research has not yet discussed where blogs fit in the existing typologies of information sources. Blogs and other types of social media have several characteristics that blur the lines of distinction existent between traditional information source categories. This chapter brings this research problem to the fore. Not only do we examine why blogs do not neatly fit into existing information source categories, but we also deliberate the implications for libraries in terms of the need to consider blogs as an information source to be included in collection development. We discuss the opportunities and possibilities for blogs to be integrated into the collection development efforts of academic and public libraries to better serve patrons. In order to accommodate for blogs and other types of social media as information sources, we propose the introduction of an additional information source category. We suggest new avenues of future research that investigate how blogs are being used to meet information needs in various social settings, such as corporations, health care and educational settings (e.g., higher education, and schools). In this chapter, we develop a framework of how blogs may function as information sources to provide libraries with a better understanding of how blogs are integrated into the context of everyday information seeking. By grouping the ways in which people employ blogs to acquire information, we propose that blogs provide information sources along a continuum ranging from non-fiction to fictional information.
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Why should libraries and information scholars care about blogs (or weblogs)? Blogs are widespread and Nielsen (2012) estimates that “6.7 million people publish blogs on blogging websites, and another 12 million write blogs using their social networks” (para. 2). A study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows the changes in blogging that have occurred between 2006, 2009 and 2010 (Zickuhr, 2010; Lenhart, Purcell, Smith & Zickuhr, 2010). Blogging was primarily an activity of teens in 2006, who shared their lived experiences with peers. Furthermore, the Pew reports that only 14% of teens ages 12−17 worked on their own blog in 2009 in comparison to 28% in 2006, suggesting that other social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, are probably replacing blogs for young people (Lenhart et al., 2010). Even though blogging is less popular among teens than it was a few years ago (Lenhart & Fox, 2006), all other age groups are showing an increase in blogging (Lenhart et al., 2010). This may suggest that the role of blogs in society may be changing from a medium primarily embraced by teens for self-expression to a medium that is more widely accepted among all age groups. While blogs have often been considered a type of social media and primarily geared toward supporting social interactions, their value as an information source has often been neglected. This neglect could also be linked to the fact that blogs were primarily used by teens for connecting with peers as the Pew Internet and American Life report shows. The strong presence of teens in the blogosphere could have yielded a biased perspective of the value of blogs as credible, accurate and current sources of information. As a result, little work has been done to examine how blogs function as information sources, despite studies finding that blogs are relevant in supporting the work of various professionals, such as lawyers and judges (Maxwell, 2008) and journalists and foreign policy analysts (Drezner & Farrell, 2005). Moreover, key political stories are often reported first on blogs and only later diffused through the traditional media (Drezner & Farrell, 2005). Blogs have served as a unique outlet for political commentary and debate, allowing for multiple voices and perspectives on key societal issues to be presented. Clyde (2004a) has also found that blogs serve as information sources capturing current developments in the existing state of knowledge for various professional specializations. In addition, blogs provide news and information about products and services offered by businesses as well as customer reviews on company products and services.

The use of blogs for meeting information needs warrants investigation into how blogs fit into the established spectrum of information sources formally recognized by information scientists (e.g., Leckie, Pettigrew & Sylvain, 1996). As professionals, customers, companies and hobbyists continue to create and to use blogs, and as the diversity of blog usage continues to grow, it becomes increasingly relevant to investigate where blogs fit into existing typologies. It is also relevant to determine if issues of credibility, trust and currency can be addressed within the blogosphere. To address these pressing issues, the present chapter has the following four objectives:

  • 1.

    To provide background information on the research on blogs by discussing definitions and categorizations of blogs.

  • 2.

    To examine the literature in information science to obtain a good understanding of how information sources are categorized and how blogs could fit into these existing frameworks.

  • 3.

    To argue for an understanding of blogs as not only social spaces, but also as sources of information that need to be better examined in terms of credibility, trustworthiness and currency.

  • 4.

    To discuss possibilities for how blogs can be integrated into the collection development efforts of academic and public libraries to better serve patrons.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Guide to Sources of Information or Guide Source: An information bearing object or source that contextualizes, expresses opinion on, condenses, evaluates, comments on, assesses or refer to other information sources or information bearing objects.

Document: An information bearing object containing written, electronic or printed text. Information that such an object usually contains or bears include facts and/or statements, in which facts include names, numbers, statements and events, while statements can be factual, opinionated or subjective.

Personal or Organizational Storytelling: Information based on subjective opinion, personal experience, observation or memory (falling within the realm of life-writing sources) or organizational constructed accounts of events or experiences. This should not be confused with fiction sources as storytelling does not necessarily have to be fictional, but can contain a mixture of truth and reality. For example, one can exaggerate when giving details of real life events, in order to achieve a particular purpose or effect.

Blogging: The practice of creating or producing digital content through the medium of blogs for an imagined audience.

Blogs: Chronologically arranged Web content comprising electronic text, multimedia or both so that the recently added content is displayed first, produced through a content management system and viewable or accessed through a Web browser. A blog also differs from other Internet communication in that its content possesses headings, time and date stamps and permalinks. Some blogs permit comments on the content posted.

Non-Fiction Sources of Information or Non-Fiction Information Source: Information bearing object or source contains information (documents, personal knowledge and experience or opinion) that attempts to be investigative and objective. A source can also fall under this category of information source, if the intent of the creator of the source is to dispassionately present alternative viewpoints on the information being provided.

People Source: Refers to a group, an organization, institution or person that provides information through formal or informal conversation. Usually the person providing information in the form of either facts or statements, usually possess hands-on experience taking on a role of being a layperson or expert in terms of the quality of information provided.

Personal Source: Information obtained from self, through knowledge gained from personal experience or professional practice.

Fictional Sources of Information: Information bearing object or source based on imagination or artful re-imagining or commentary of reality.

Genre: Different types of literature that could exist based on form and style. The term when applied to online communication indicates the different categories or types of online communication that can exist if grouped together by form, purpose, and technological features.

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