back to the everyday.

So my literature review for comps has been distributed to my committee members. It’s a tome [1], so I feel a little bad about dropping in the collective lap of my committee. But it was a very useful paper for me to put together.

One of the things I argue in this paper is that the predominant conception of everyday life in LIS is limited in its negativity. In her dissertation [2], Jenna Hartel surveyed everyday life information seeking (ELIS) studies and found 80% of the ELIS-related studies in her analysis focused on information seeking in either compromised everyday life situations such as illness or crisis, or in the everyday lives of populations seen as marginalized or disadvantaged.

This problem-centered orientation also pervades much of information behavior research outside “the everyday.” Information need has typically been conceived of as “having a problem” that information can help you solve. Our models of information behavior are full of anxieties and gaps and anomalous states.

In a recent paper, Hartel and Jarkko Kari argued for a shift of research attention to the higher things in life, which they define as “usually positive human phenomena, experiences, or activities that transcend the daily grind with its rationality and necessities” [3, p. 1132]. I concur that LIS has a taken a negative view of information phenomena and that as a discipline we should also attend to the role information plays in the the higher things of life.

However, they contrast the higher things in life with the “lower things” of the everyday, described as “relatively drab, uninteresting, and involuntary basic events that dominate people’s behavior” and “dominated by conformity, rules, rituals” (p. 1131). This is where I disagree. This view may be the going thing within LIS but we need not keep it.

I argue, citing works in sociology and critical studies, that everyday life does not exclude the pleasurable and the profound. There are myriad ways in which people bring the pleasurable, the profound, and the creative into their everyday lives. Michel de Certeau views the ordinary person in everyday life as an active, creative individual making and seizing opportunities, triumphing over imposed order, and making joyful discoveries [4, p. xix]. This is what makes life worth living.

It is with all of this dancing in my head that I stumbled upon this article in the NYTimes: Unboxed: Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?

Yes we can, and it is good for us:

Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

This bodes well for my creativity, as I am the queen of instituting new habits which are inevitably replaced with new and different habits. Heh.

Anyway, the connection with notions of the everyday is that even our habits are not thrust upon us. We can design our everyday routines creatively. Of course there are always constraints (money, limited time, the need to sleep at some point even though Provigil exists); but, we are not cogs in a drab machine. That everyday life provides us with opportunities for higher things, and not just a tedious daily grind, is supported by a further quote from the article:

The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder…But we are taught instead to ‘decide,’ just as our president calls himself ‘the Decider’ … to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities. … You cannot have innovation…unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder.

Ah, this last bit brings to mind some of Henry Miller’s rhapsodies:

The prisoner is not the one who has committed a crime, but the one who clings to his crime and lives it over and over. We are all guilty of crime, the great crime of not living life to the full. But we are all potentially free. We can stop thinking of what we have failed to do and do whatever lies within our power. What the these powers that are in us may be no one has truly dared to imagine. That they are infinite we will realize the day we admit to ourselves that imagination is everything. Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything God-like about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything [from Sexus, I know not which page].

How amazing the everyday is! And when did I become such an optimist?

But if anyone asks, I’m going to chalk up the length of my lit review to innovative thinking and the need to explore many possibilities and connections. It’s not just that I appear to be constitutionally unable to write concisely.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
1. Final version was 171 pages, citing 663 sources.
2. Hartel, Jenna. 2007. “Information activities, resources & spaces in the hobby of gourmet cooking.” PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.
3. Kari, Jarkko and Jenna Hartel. 2007. Information and higher things in life: addressing the pleasurable and the profound in information science . Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58 (8): 1131-47.
4. de Certeau, Michel. 1984. The practice of everyday life. translator Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press

6 thoughts on “back to the everyday.”

  1. Kristina,

    I remember you asking for recommendations for new music. I like to recommend the artist Hammock. They recently released an album called “Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow,” and ther debut album Kenotic is also worth a listen. I saw them with Stars of the Lid this past weekend. The show was definitely a memorable experience for me. Sorry if I seemed disinterested in your class because half the time I was just very sleepy. Maybe I listen to too much ambient music. I think all I am going to remember is you had very interesting cataloging examples of cats and spirits.(j/k).

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Raymond. I’ll check it out.

      And also for the apology. No worries… it is cataloging class. For most people, if you weren’t sleepy before class you are going to be sleepy after, whether from boredom or information overload.

      Then there are those of us who get all into it.

      Just be glad you didn’t take it when I taught it as a 2.5 hour night class… even I almost fell asleep by the end of that class. 🙂

      And good…. my examples are working…

  2. I was walking back from Chancellation event when I ran across D. and fellow committee member S. Bother were very pleased with the writing quality, all though there was some trepidation on S.’s part that based on the lit review, the dissertation itself should be provided with wheels and a handcart 😛

    Me, I’m glad that turnit in doesn’t do lit reviews yet cos I can use great big chunks of review. J

    1. I’m not going to admit how long I just stared at “and fellow committee member S. Bother” trying to figure out who you would be referring to as “S. Bother.” Finally my eyes went to the next line… ooooh…

      You mentioned this elsewhere and I thought “that had to be S. That sounds like S.”

      I promise I am not trying to beat Helen Tibbo’s record. :-p

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