Rethinking context in information research: bounded versus centred sets

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Mon, 06/10/2019 - 13:38

Presentation at the 10th Conceptions in Library and Information Science Conference in Ljubljana based on the work developed in the context of the COST Action ARKWORK.


Introduction. Context is one of the key concepts in library and information science research. 
Method. This paper provides a conceptual overview of the use of the notion of usefulness in library and information science literature, explicates its relation to key parallel concepts, and on the basis of an empirical vignette in the context of health information research, discusses the potential limits and advantages of referring to usefulness instead of and together with other related concepts.
Analysis. The paper is based on conceptual discussion and a selective review of literature.
Results. This paper explicates the implications of the traditional approach of conceptualising context in information research as bounded sets or ’quasi-bounded-sets’, and to contrast an alternative view of treating them as centred sets or processes. Instead of seeing context as a single- or multi-layered surrounding, describing it as a centred set makes it a position with affinities to different factors, situations, people or things.
Conclusion. Even if all of the approaches have their inherent limitations, the notion of centred set provides means to rethink context and to help to avoid the temptation to treat it as an unspecified container and make it possible to explicate its constituents and their movement toward or from its nucleus.