iConference 2016, Philadelphia - Mapping the Positive Turn for Information Science

February 25, 2016    News iSchool Conferences iConference Positivity

Jenna Hartel, Andrew Cox, Robert Stebbins, & I ran a half-day workshop at the iConference about the positive turn in Information Science.

Mapping the positive turn for information science

Abstract: This half-day workshop will bring together scholars, practitioners, and students from across the iSchool community to discuss current research around “positive” information phenomena, that is, non-problematical perspectives on the information experience. The session will explore a range of positive concepts recently emerged in information science, such as: well-being, happiness, leisure and positive computing. Throughout the session, our conversation will move between information science to specialties such as positive psychology, positive sociology, and the sociology of happiness; we will clarify terms, concepts and themes and ultimately generate an interdisciplinary map of positive scholarship. Participants will share their own thinking and research on these topics, map current and future research trajectories, and produce a foundation for future collaboration. In keeping with a spirit of interdisciplinarity, the event will feature a keynote by the architect of positive sociology, sociologist and leisure scholar Dr. Robert A. Stebbins.

Purpose: The purpose of the workshop is to bring together iSchool researchers working in the areas of positive information science, well-being, happiness, and leisure to map such research to other academic disciplines, such as psychology, sociology and health. Kari and Hartel (2007) have argued for a positive information science, to escape the tendency to see information as always associated with a status of deficiency, problems or overload. There have been a number of responses to this call, particularly in the growth of studies of information behaviour in serious leisure (Hartel, 2003). Casual leisure also has its information aspects, and Tinto and Ruthven (2015) have recently explored the sharing of happy information. In the wider scene, economists and psychologists have been very successful at putting the concept of well-being on the political, and so the research agenda (Layard 2005; Seligman, 2003), though the “happiness industry” is not without its critics (Davies, 2015). Well-being is a theme of EC horizon2020 funding. The term positive has had particular traction. For most of the past century, psychology focused its research on problematic mental states and processes. In response, a movement toward a positive psychology emerged as “the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive” (Positive …, 2007). Calvo and Peters (2015) have recently proposed “Positive computing” as a way of realising the benefits of positive psychology, with obvious connections to other trends such as affective computing. Stebbins (2009) has proposed a programme for positive sociology exploring how, why, and when people pursue those things in life that they desire, and the things they do to make their existence attractive and worth living. There is also a “sociology of happiness” (Cieslik, 2014; Hymans, 2014). Another strand in a “positive turn” could be seen in appreciative inquiry, a popular method for analysing and changing organisational experience (Cooperrider et al., 2008). There are wider resonances in agendas driven by policy such as around flourishing communities and resilience.

Read the official abstract.