This past July 22nd, my boyfriend of five years proposed while we watched the sunrise on the beach. It was five years, to the day, after we met and it was the first sunrise we had ever watched together. As the sun was slightly over the horizon, he took my hand into his and asked me to marry him. My response to his question was a happy and excited yes.
Part 1: My search for wedding planning information
My next task, and what has consumed my life since I became engaged, has been the planning for our wedding and reception. I never realized the level of planning that goes into a wedding. My maid of honor, who coincidentally is working on her internship for event planning, highly recommended I start looking at Pinterest.com for ideas of what I might like and want to do. Since then, a day does not pass that I am not looking at something on Pinterest. Some days, an hour might not go by without me looking. Every time I sign in, there are new images posted setting my imagination awhirl. What I love most about Pinterest is that it contains easily found images of what other people are doing, or have contemplated doing, for their own weddings. I can type in “wedding favors” and see hundreds of images of what other people have collected and thought would be good wedding favors. I can then scroll through the pictures for ideas, and when I find one I like, I can click on the picture to link back to the original website that posted the picture. Frequently, the original website will indicate how to make the item or where it can be purchased, so I can shop and get do-it-yourself ideas at the same time. I can also re-pin my favorite images to my own boards, so locating the image/website/idea again later is possible. I can locate these images without having to hunt the internet or sort through a list of saved web pages while not really remembering what I am looking for at that particular site. Through Pinterest, I have chosen my wedding colors, invitations, ceremony details, reception decorations, wedding cake setup, and photography poses. I have read articles other brides have posted about how to keep wedding costs down, and etiquette on who is responsible to pay for what. I have even pinned timelines letting me know when I should have details finalized, and when I should pay for those details.
So, in less than two months, I have decided on most of my wedding plans. I have several decisions to make still, including which caterer has the best tasting food, but all the small details have been decided. I know what items are needed to be purchased and have a good idea on where to get it for the best price. Pinterest has provided the resources and ideas to start putting together my own dream wedding, hopefully one as romantic as my fiancée’s proposal.
Part 2: Pinteresting Information
Boulding stated information is any message producing a change in our image of reality, which manifests as a “picture in our head” (as cited in Case, 2012, pg. 62). Gregory Bateson further defined information as significant differences perceived by an individual, regardless whether those differences are derived from physical or psychological sources (as cited in Case, 2012, pg. 46). When I became engaged, my image of reality changed when I realized I was going to have to plan an event for a large group of people. This realization developed from the psychological acknowledgement that my present knowledge base lacked the information and experience to accomplish this new image of reality. I did not know who I needed to hire or the inventory of items I would need to purchase. Even with aspects of a wedding I was familiar with, I was unaware of the options available to fulfill those needs in the wedding merchandise market.
When I recognized my knowledge was inadequate to satisfy my goal, this generated a need for me to seek information to provide that knowledge (Case, p. 5). My initial information resource was my maid of honor. With her experience as an event planner, she knew I lacked sufficient knowledge about weddings to make decisions without first being aware of the many options available. She suggested my main information behavior be through searching the images posted on the Pinterest website, a searchable photo database inputted by users with images categorized by general topics for browsing.
My information needs continue to evolve while planning my wedding. The interconnected nature of event planning necessitates each aspect to be coordinated. No sooner do I resolve one issue before I identify another dependent issue needing to be addressed. Satisfying one information need leads to the realization of another gap in my knowledge, causing my information need to change during the process of seeking (Case, p. 84).
To fill my information need, I began to look at the images on Pinterest, accumulating information to satisfy the information needs I was identifying through my search for answers. I started with familiar aspects of a wedding, such as bridal dresses, hair styles, and invitations. Those first images led to host websites, which provided articles and information about other aspects of weddings yet unfamiliar to me. My initial search for wedding invitations led to information about save-the-date notices. I learned it is popular for people to send save-the-date notices to people who will be traveling long distances so they can arrange their travel plans in advance. My wedding will be in New York, and a large number of the guests will have to travel to get there, so I decided in favor of sending these notices. After reflecting about the save-the-date notices for a few days, I realized I had additional information needs to understand how far in advance of the wedding I should send them out and how they are traditionally formatted. I went back to Pinterest and found many images of the notices, including another image that listed a chronological timeline of when wedding planning components should be completed. That list indicated when the save-the-date notices should be sent, and when the venue should be reserved, which also led to the realization that I needed to find the place where we will have the ceremony and reception. A pattern emerged of finding solutions to information needs, which then caused me to realize another information gap.
My information behaviors include more than the active seeking of information from friends and through Pinterest. Tom Wilson stated information behaviors include “passive reception of information…without any intention to act on the information given” (as cited in Case, 2012, p. 90). Friends who are aware of my engagement or have seen my Pinterest wedding ideas board have given unsolicited suggestions and vendor referrals. I feel obligated to listen out of politeness, even though the suggestions and referrals are usually impractical. Contextual advertising, which is advertising based on web browsing activities, constantly invades my browser. Even now, I have an advertisement on my browser window stating, “Bridesmaid Dresses! Classy dresses, free shipping, over 700 styles. Browse now!” I have no intention of following the advertising links, no matter how attractive the headline, but they are still there reminding me of additional information needs. I have also started to receive catalogs and mail for wedding products, although I have not requested any of it nor do I want to receive it.
John commented on my week02 blog post how Pinterest has become an integral part of social media, and it has become common to see the “pin it” icon next to images while browsing the internet (J. Yackulics, personal communication, September 9, 2012). This information behavior is shaped by using images to create a new image of a desired reality. My use of Pinterest demonstrates a willingness to use popular social media as an information source. Social media allows an instant exchange of ideas impossible to duplicate with printed material. In retrospect, I could have easily looked through books about wedding planning. If I had used published material, I might have understood all the aspects of event/wedding planning from the beginning of my information search. Instead, I wanted to know what is popular today, and not what was popular when a book was published.
Part 3: Applying the ELIS Model and the Theory of Least Effort
Savolainen’s ELIS Model
Reijo Savolainen developed the model of everyday life information seeking (ELIS) while interviewing “ordinary citizens pursuing nonwork activities” (Case, pg. 149). His information model differs from other models because he examines the information seeking of everyday life, and the overlap of everyday and work life. Isolating information seeking habits as work or non-work discounts the complexity of information seeking performed to fulfill multiple needs at once.
Studying the ELIS Model.
Lisa Given applied Savolainen’s ELIS model to a study of the information seeking of mature adult undergraduate students. The study included the reported information seeking habits of 25 undergraduate students at a single Canadian university who were at least 21 years old and who also had a gap in their higher education for at least three years. Givens reinforced through the study how “job-related information seeking and ELIS complement each other” (Savolainen, pg. 266), and should not always be considered separately.
Students in the study reported information needs to fulfill academic obligations, and separate needs “arose out of their engagement with the university” (Given, pg. 5). These needs included child care, employment, and housing, which they sought to fill through academic resources in spite of the need being outside of academic learning. The academic resources were used as primary information sources solely because they were the easiest and most familiar to engage, and because the students believed they would have the best solutions. The students later found the most appropriate solution did not necessarily originate from the university resources, but they frequently relied on these answers until another resource presented itself or their information need became dire.
The article further discusses how overlap behavior between everyday and work information seeking can influence each other. Given (2002) stated how a student “chose assignment topics related to her occupation, and used information from colleagues and other work resources for her studies” (pg. 8). Students utilize personal and social information resources in their academic work, saving time by combining everyday information seeking with work and academic obligations. Given suggests through her study that blending the purpose of information seeking between everyday and work life is common and beneficial for saving time and resources.
Applying the ELIS Model to my information behavior.
The ELIS Model is evident in my information behavior because of the nonwork nature of my information behavior. Through Pinterest, I am seeking information to plan an event and make purchases for a life event, and this behavior is not connected or directed by my work life.
Zipf’s Theory of Least Effort
Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort indicates individuals will expend the least effort needed to satisfactorily accomplish their work (Case, pg. 175). This effort could be the positioning of often used tools close to the work area, using the same words repeatedly when writing, or using the same database to satisfy information needs (Case, pg. 175). The Theory of Least Effort states researchers will “take a path of least resistance when seeking information rather than focusing primarily on quality” (Bronstein & Baruchson-Arbib, 2008).
Studying the Theory of Least Effort.
Jenny Bronstein and Shifra Baruchson-Arbib explore how Jewish studies scholars in Israel utilize information resources. The study included the reported information habits of 135 researchers from four universities in Israel, followed by an additional 25 researchers from various Jewish studies academic departments at the same universities. To avoid bias, the study was sent electronically and through the mail. Bronstein and Baruchson-Arbib (2008) reinforce through the study how operational difficulty does not significantly influence the scholar’s choice of information resources within the field of Jewish studies scholarship. Unlike most studies which corroborate the idea of researchers preferring online databases, Jewish studies researchers within this study did not indicate any preference to an electronic resource type. They indicated they were inclined to browse libraries hoping for “serendipitous discovery” (Bronstein & Baruchson-Arbib, 2008) and willing to wait extended periods for printed resource materials to become available.
The study also evaluates how academic research generalizes all disciplines within the humanities, and these finds do not take individual discipline’s needs and usage into consideration. The study explores how a specific group, in this case Jewish studies scholars, as atypical from generalized research results which typically reflect Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort. The researchers prefer to use traditional methods as they are effective resources for their discipline.
The study proposes Jewish studies researchers are not influenced by the difficulty of accessing a resource, but will choose information resources based on the quality of the information provided. Applying a model, paradigm, or theory to a broad group can give the wrong impression of the information needs of smaller subgroups. Only through further studies can the information of each subgroup be understood and used to make the process more efficient.
Applying the Theory of Least Effort to my information behavior.
The Theory of Least Effort is evident in my information behavior because of the first resource I decided to use, my event planner maid of honor. I decided without personal knowledge of her planning expertise to use her as my primary knowledge base. In retrospect, calling her and asking her what I needed to plan the wedding was not the most effective method, but it was the most convenient. Her recommendation to use Pinterest to learn about wedding planning was also the most convenient, instead of borrowing or buying books that would take me longer to read. The amount of time I spent viewing pictures on Pinterest could have been used for researching formal information sources, but instead I depended on social media for all of my information due to easy accessibility.
Part 4: Comparing and contrasting the results of my analyses
My Pinterest use was initially shaped by my desire for the newest and most current information available for wedding planning, and my need to control and direct information resources while researching. Along with planning a wedding, I have the responsibility of working full time job and taking graduate classes full time, so I also wanted to acquire the information without difficulty.
Applying Savolainen’s (1995) ELIS model to my information search, a “mastery of life” (pg. 259) has emerged and I have solved “problems not directly connected with the performance of occupational tasks” (pg. 267). The ELIS model discusses how “mastery of life” can create order and influence decision making for everyday life projects, such as buying decisions, time budgeting, and enjoying hobbies (Savolainen, pg. 263). I have used Pinterest exclusively to explore my options for “money spent on the acquisition of various goods and services” being used for my wedding (Savolainen, pg. 263).
The ELIS model further discusses two vitally important dimensions of information seeking which include the “seeking of orienting information concerning current events and second, to seeking of practical information which serves as the solution to specific problems” (Savolainen, pg. 272). When I first became engaged, I initially sought orienting information from another person, who then recommended Pinterest as a better orienting resource. Dervin (as cited in Case, 2012, pg. 177) explains how common it is for people to rely “on close friends and relatives for their information” based on the Theory of Least Effort. I explored Pinterest to determine how a wedding is typically planned, and obtained an overview of what decisions must be made. I then explored Pinterest in further detail to find practical solutions to the specific issues needing to be resolved. In the end, Pinterest has familiarized me with wedding planning, and it has also offered real world information which I can use to resolve my individual wedding planning issues.
Another aspect of my information behavior has been how I have linked my Pinterest use as an academic topic in multiple classes this semester. Savolainen’s ELIS model discusses the non-work information seeking habits of ordinary people, and it also discusses the complimentary relationship between non-work and work information seeking (Case, pg. 149). To isolate each aspect can be misleading because combining the two can explain how many information decisions influence each other. Many models focus on work information needs, and exclude “way of life” (Savolainen, pg. 263) aspects from being an influence. The information study by Lisa Givens made me recognize how my own academic information behavior has frequently reflected my personal and professional goals. The majority of my academic life has been as a mature student and I have used nonacademic experiences to inspire my research topics and information needs. In doing this, I have saved time by connecting my academic, professional, and personal information seeking techniques.
Bronstein, J. & Baruchson-Arbib, S. (2008). The application of cost-benefit and least effort theories in studies of information seeking behavior of humanities scholars: the case of Jewish studies scholars in Israel. Journal of information science, 32(2), 131-144.
Case, D.O. (2012). Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior (3rd Ed.). Bingley, UK: Emerald.
Given, L. M. (2002). The academic and the everyday: Investigating the overlap in mature undergraduates’ information seeking behaviors. Library & information science research, 24(1), 17-29.
Savolainen, R. (1995). Everyday life information seeking: Approaching information seeking in the context of way of life. Library & information science research, 17(3), 259-294.