Power matters: Foucault’s pouvoir/savoir as a conceptual lens in information research and practice

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Information Research, 2015, 20 (4)
Issue Date:
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© the author, 2015. Introduction. This paper advocates Foucault's notion of pouvoir/savoir (power/knowledge) as a conceptual lens that information researchers might fruitfully use to develop a richer understanding of the relationship between knowledge and power. Methods. Three of the authors’ earlier studies are employed to illustrate the use of this conceptual lens. Methodologically, the studies are closely related: they adopted a qualitative research design and made use of semi-structured and/or conversational, in-depth interviews as their primary method of data collection. The data were analysed using an inductive, discourse analytic approach. Analysis. The paper provides a brief introduction to Foucault’s concept before examining the information practices of academic, professional and artistic communities. Through concrete empirical examples, the authors aim to demonstrate how a Foucauldian lens will provide a more in-depth understanding of how particular information practices exert authority in a discourse community while other such practices may be construed as ineffectual. Conclusion. The paper offers a radically different conceptual lens through which researchers can study information practices, not in individual or acultural terms but as a social construct, both a product and a generator of power/knowledge.
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