A look at information access through physical, intellectual, and socio-cultural lenses

Kim M. Thompson, Waseem Afzal

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Information access can be thought of as a continuum beginning with information acquisition and culminating at information use. Information access begins at a point where a user comes into contact with information. The nature of this contact is largely determined by three facets of information access, namely the physical, intellectual, and socio-cultural access to information (Burnett et al., 2008). Use of the acquired information is also affected by this tripartite model. A holistic study of information access must take these three facets into account when determining the likelihood with which information might be used by a user to satisfy her/his need. Physical access to information is often addressed in digital divide studies, and intellectual information access tends to be a strong component of information literacy research. There are some studies (although limited in scope) exploring the socio-cultural aspect of access to information, but holistic discussion of information access that incorporates all three lenses in examination of access issues is largely absent from the information studies literature. This paper presents an overview of the complexities of this holistic model of information access, with an emphasis on understanding of the socio-cultural elements that support or prevent group access to needed information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-42
Number of pages21
JournalOMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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