Within library and information science (LIS), the study of information behavior has traditionally focused on documentary sources of information and to some degree information that is shared through interaction.1 Such an emphasis reflects the origins of the whole field in the study of the information behavior of users of libraries and other institutions that provide access to encoded forms of knowledge. Yet the centrality of embodied experience in all aspects of human life makes the relative neglect of the body in information behavior studies surprising and potentially problematic, as a number of authors have suggested (Cox, Griffin, and Hartel 2017; Lueg 2014, 2015; Lloyd 2009, 2010, 2014; Olsson, 2010, 2016). This special double issue of Library Trends on “Information and the Body” brings together researchers interested in embodied information, including in how we receive information through the senses, what the body “knows,” and the way the body is a sign that can be interpreted by others.
Several intersecting research developments suggest a need for greater attention to embodied information. There are early hints at the importance of this theme in a number of information behavior studies, for example, Bates (2010), Prigoda & McKenzie (2007), and Hartel (2007). An increasing focus on information practices in the field offers a useful starting point for more fully theorizing the relationship between information and the body (Lloyd 2009). There is a growing interest in phenomenological studies of information, which would also be likely to elaborate our understanding of the role of the body in information behavior. Other perspectives are important too; for example, Lueg (2014, 2015) has drawn on notions of embodied cognition in his work on the role of the body in information behavior. The growing interest in materiality and the senses in studies of museums and archives, and also in the changing nature of [End Page 219] reading and the internet to include multisensory experiences are also relevant. While emerging from different philosophical roots, these strands of thought seem to be coming together as an important new direction in information research, toward information and the body. In many other disciplines, such as anthropology, education, communication, history, geography, and sociology, the body and materiality have been of central interest for several decades, and this should motivate information researchers to catch up.
The need to recognize the importance of the body in information behavior scholarship may also be prompted further by developments at the level of professional practice. Heightened interest in the library world in the importance of physical space and its design also implies a concern with the body and the material world. Haptic interfaces that allow the user to interact with a computer in rich sensory ways or self-tracking of bodily functions using apps and wearable devices are just two of many trends that signal the end of the myth of disembodied virtuality. Interest in information phenomena within contexts that are centered on the body, such as medicine, sport, music, and cooking likewise demand new approaches—and it has already been shown to be relevant in everyday workplace contexts.
As other disciplines have begun to engage with bodily experience, a corresponding methodological debate has also occurred (Pink 2015). This typically points to the value of ethnographic and auto-ethnographic work, as well as arts-based, visual, multimodal, and other sensory methods. Relatively few connections have been made to date between work in information behavior and these wider methodological developments.
The collection of papers in this two-part issue of Library Trends, 66 (3) and 66 (4), offers a rich sense of how this area of study is developing in LIS, drawing on diverse influences and methodologies. The strength of the response to our call for papers reflects the breadth of interest in this emergent field and determined the decision to produce a double issue. Given this diversity, each author has been asked to establish for the reader their interpretation of embodied information within their metatheoretical commitments. In addition, some broader context is offered in the paper by Cox. Yet, reflecting different traditions, basic terminology in use itself varies. Blackler (1995) is often cited by scholars working in the area...