Health Communication , ,

What is Information Poverty?

The theory of information poverty was originally introduced by Elfreda Chatman (E.A. Chatman, 1991, 1996, 1999). The definition and use of information poverty has developed since Chatman’s original conception, and several scholars have attempted to trace this lineage (Haider & Bawden, 2007; Yu, 2006, 2011). However, Britz (2004) combines the connectivity, content, and human approaches to information poverty to outline seven important elements of information poverty. Using these elements, he provides the following definition: “Information poverty is that situation in which individuals and communities, within a given context, do not have the requisite skills, abilities or material means to obtain efficient access to information, interpret it and apply it appropriately. It is further characterized by a lack of essential information and a poorly developed information infrastructure” (Britz, 2004, p. 204). Lor and Britz (2010) also remind us to question what it means to have access to knowledge, specifically introducing access as an epistemological dimension that looks at information and knowledge socially and to understanding knowledge as a process, an idea derived from constructivist approaches to education.

For example, Lingel and boyd (2013) approached the extreme body modification community to understand information poverty experienced by its members and to examine the information world. Ultimately, they found that the community itself was highly knowledgeable, but stigma contributed to a security culture and hiding of information from outsiders. Further, Savolainen (2016) proposes six socio-cultural barriers to information seeking, which are “barriers due to language problems, barriers related to social stigma and cultural taboo, small-world related barriers, institutional barriers, organizational barriers, and barriers due to the lack of social and economic capital.”

Britz, J. J. (2004). To Know or not to Know: A Moral Reflection on Information Poverty. Journal of Information Science, 30(3), 192-204. doi:10.1177/0165551504044666

Chatman, E. A. (1991). Life in a Small World: Applicability of Gratification Theory to Information-Seeking Behavior. Journal of the American Society for Information Science (1986-1998), 42(6), 438.

Chatman, E. A. (1996). The Impoverished Life-World of Outsiders. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 47(3), 193.

Chatman, E. A. (1999). A Theory of Life in the Round. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50(3), 207.

Haider, J., & Bawden, D. (2007). Conceptions of “information poverty” in LIS: A discourse analysis. Journal of Documentation, 63(4), 534-557. doi:10.1108/00220410710759002

Lor, P. J., & Britz, J. (2010). To access is not to know: A critical reflection on A2K and the role of libraries with special reference to sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of Information Science, 36(5), 655-667. doi:10.1177/0165551510382071

Savolainen, R. (2016). Approaches to socio-cultural barriers to information seeking. Library & Information Science Research, 38(1), 52-59. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2016.01.007

Yu, L. (2006). Understanding information inequality: Making sense of the literature of the information and digital divides. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 38(4), 229-252. doi:10.1177/0961000606070600

Yu, L. (2011). The divided views of the information and digital divides: A call for integrative theories of information inequality. Journal of Information Science, 37(6), 660-679. doi:10.1177/0165551511426246