All the world's a stage: Making sense of Shakespeare

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Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the ASIST Annual Meeting, 2010, 47
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This paper reports on the findings of a study examining how theatre professionals (actors, directors and others) make sense of the works of a culturally iconic author (William Shakespeare). The findings of the study are based on interviews with 35 theatre professionals in Canada, Finland and the UK. The study aims a more holistic approach to the study of information behaviour, one which acknowledges the complexity of sense-making as more than the problem-solving behaviour of individuals - as an embodied, social process, involving emotion as well as rationality. In doing so it draws on theoretical approaches from a range of different disciplines and traditions, including Dervin's Sense-Making, Foucault's discourse analysis and Derrida's deconstructionism. Rather than active searching, the focus of most information research, the events that participants described as having the greatest influence on their understanding of Shakespeare were informal 'social' interactions. Participants in the study frequently explicitly linked their engagements with texts to their interactions with other people. Participants frequently described the significant influences on their constructions in terms of long-term relationships - with other people and with the written work of authors. For theatre professionals, understanding Shakespeare involved much more than a cerebral process: their professional lives are based on the ability to embody their knowledge: they need to manifest their understanding in the physical world as physical actions in physical space. The study demonstrates the need for information behaviour research to expand its focus beyond active information seeking and searching and to devote greater attention (both theoretical and empirical) to such factors as: informal knowledge-sharing; sense-making as an affective as well as a rational process; and embodiment as a central aspect of information use.
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