What is information behaviour? The many ways in which human beings interact with information, in particular the ways in which people seek and utilise information. (Bawden, 2012)
Just this morning, with some trepidation, I loaded Eve Online. Upon installation, I was immediately pulled in by the powerful narrative and graphics. A view of Earth appears: “The origin of our ancestors.” The Eve Gate has collapsed. Four different faces of humanity exist. A new kind of human in possible – immortality is real. This is a genuine participatory experience; very quickly I was faced with the need to build and name an avatar – a visual representation of the character that I am to play (Adams, 2009). His race and bloodline have also been chosen by me. I also had to pose him for some portrait shots. Talk about ownership and agency.
This is Wilson, my Avatar. He now exists in Eve Online, on board his ship that he is currently learning to fly, while being fired upon! So, online Wilson is required to quickly learn skills of survival so as to participate in and contribute to the Eve Online universe that two years ago had something like 500,000 registered players.
That’s the thing about games like Eve Online, a Massively-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). To participate as a gamer you are required to learn quickly. And the learning that is needed is actually quite daunting. I had to log off after a 45min immersion as I began to experience information overload (aka sweat). What will keep me going back though is that experience has taught me that the game will actually support me in my efforts to learn, as will the community of players who participate in this game. That is how these games are designed. They use components of game mechanics such as narrative, competition, missions and quests to keep you engaged and learning. They are also collaborative. The Eve Online narrative tells me that I am immortal (phew) so presumably I can survive my ship being blown to pieces. So, the learning is hard but I suspect I will persist.
Have a look at the highly complex graphical user interface (GUI) show in the image to the right (click to enlarge), including a user HUD at the bottom of the page. As a gamer in this space, I certainly ask myself if I can navigate this game and develop the appropriate knowledge and skill to survive. And yet, don’t we expect our students to do this on a daily basis? Picture textbooks or laptops as user interfaces to knowledge and learning. How do they cope with what we as teachers present to them?
Looking to literature for explorations on this issue Adams (2009) describes what are called information behaviours. Citing other work (McKenzie, 2002) Adam’s introduces the following terms (amongst other viewpoints):
*Active seeking: the most active mode
*Active scanning: including semi-directed browsing or scans of the environment
*Non-directed monitoring: which includes serendipitous kinds of discovery
*By proxy: A situation is which an individual gains the information through the agency or intermediation of others.
So that we (educators) and our students can cope in a world of ubiquitous knowledge need to view ourselves as knowledge workers who have highly developed informations behaviours.
I have for years encouraged secondary ages students to ‘take ownership’ of their learning. I say this to them, write it on assessments and repeat this philosophy to parents. My students generally know what I am on about. However, the lessons I have learnt via game immersion, alongside academic insights have made me think that I should ask my students how they actually go about about finding information. Perhaps they can tell me how they learn in game environments and thus develop an understanding of their own information seeking behaviours i.e how they as gamers and learners retrieve information in order to solve problems or make sense of situations. Where and when do they fit into the above categories?
As mentioned by Adams (2009), often educators and academics can hold onto beliefs that video games are trivial and therefore are resistant to their use in educational settings. As I am realising, to overcome such beliefs does take immersion so as to acknowledge the in-world learning that occurs.
Look for me in Eve Online, I will probably need your help!
Adams, S. S. (2009). What games have to offer: Information behavior and meaning-making in virtual play spaces. Library Trends, 57(4), 676-693.
Bawden, D. & Robinson, L. (2012). Information behaviour. In Introduction to information science (pp. 187-210). London : Facet.