Information behaviours in disadvantaged and dependent circumstances and the role of information intermediaries

Buchanan, Steven and Jardine, Cara and Ruthven, Ian (2019) Information behaviours in disadvantaged and dependent circumstances and the role of information intermediaries. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 70 (2). pp. 117-129. ISSN 2330-1643 (

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The first empirical study focused exclusively on the information intermediary role in disadvantaged (socioeconomic) and dependent (support) circumstances. We report findings from semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 49 UK state and voluntary sector professionals providing support to young (<21) mothers from areas of multiple deprivations. We evidence an important information intermediary role with three key contributions to information behaviours in disadvantaged and dependent circumstances. Intermediaries: facilitate information needs recognition, and considered purposeful action within problematic situations; are a key source of information in themselves, and a key integrative connection to other external sources not otherwise accessed; and tailor and personalise information for relevance, and communicate via incremental and recursive cycles that take into account learning needs. We provide parameters for a theory of information intermediary intervention to guide future examination of an important and understudied role; and conceptualise important theoretical relationships between information behaviour and social capital, and in particular shared concepts of social integration, and the progressive and integrative intermediary role within. Our findings have significant practical implications for public health policy and digital health strategies, as they evidence an important human information intermediary role amongst an at-risk group, with implications for disadvantaged and vulnerable populations more broadly.


Buchanan, Steven ORCID logoORCID:, Jardine, Cara ORCID logoORCID: and Ruthven, Ian ORCID logoORCID:;