An information need for emotional cues: Unpacking the role of emotions in sense making

Dept. of Information Studies, University of Sheffield
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Information Research, 2013, 18 (1), pp. 1 - 10
Issue Date:
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Introduction. The contribution of emotions to collective sense making in virtual communities is explored, by examining implicit and explicit emotional support. Theoretical approach. Informational processes are considered from a social constructionist perspective informed by sense-making and ethnomethodology. Theories of normative behaviour and practice theory are used to explore the interplay between social and individual contributions to emotional sense making. Analysis. A single 'typical' thread is translated into thematic charts to display particular emotional elements. Results. Emotional support emerges by development of consensuses in tones and mirroring of vocabulary and ideas. Explicitly supportive statements are not the main source of support: additionally, interactions between tones and ideas enable substantial shifts in meanings. Thus, emotional cues are an intrinsic element in the informational processes observed. Practical implications. Emotional information is an information need for contributors to discussion boards, because of its relevance during the negotiation of meaning in interactions. Tone emerges as an important emotional guide. Conclusions. Emphasising factual information during one-off interactions is problematic if people are also looking for emotional sense making cues. Information providers should consider ways to enable access to emotional information for clients and support the need for time in which emotional understanding may develop
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