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iSpy iSchool & iSquare at International Conference

Submitted on Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dr. Jenna Hartel and the iSquare research team are representing the University of Toronto on a global stage at the ASIS&T (Association for Information Science and Technology) annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, November 6-10.

The group will report emergent findings from their study of visual conceptions of information across 12 countries.

Accompanying Jenna will be four iSchool students who each contribute their unique skills to the project: Pavel Danzanov, Bridgette Kelly, Rebecca Noone, and Stephanie Power.

Stephanie, the team’s Data Coordinator, says, “I think the research we are doing is exciting with respect to the number and diversity of countries we have managed to collaborate with.” She continued, “The iSquare project has a very participatory and inviting feel, and our international partners are hugely important to understanding information from various perspectives around the world.”

Over the summer of 2014, the iSchool and collaborators from Australia, Brazil, Croatia, England, Finland, France, Ghana, Iran, Malaysia, Russia, and Taiwan, explored visual conceptions of information.” They asked the question, “How is the concept of information visualized in my community and beyond?”

To answer this question they used the “draw-and-write technique.” Research subjects were given a 4″ by 4″ piece of paper and asked to express their understanding of information in the form of a drawing. On the back side of the same paper they are prompted to “say a few words about your drawing.” The resultant product has been coined an “iSquare,” short for “information square.”

iSquares were collected from graduate students at 12 information studies programs worldwide. In seven cases the exercise was conducted in English, and at five sites it was presented in another first language, namely Farsi, Spanish, French, Russian, or Croatian. In total, 541 iSquares from around the world were created.

Back in Toronto, the iSquares were analyzed through a content analysis, spearheaded by MI student and the team’s research manager, Dr. Pavel Danzanov. The process identified common visual motifs related to humanity and sociality, information behaviors, information representation and organization, information and communication technologies, and print artifacts.

The work has generated new insights into information as a visual phenomenon. What is more, “some of the international iSquares are incredibly beautiful,” says Hartel, whose favorites appear below.

untitled-11During the conference, there will be an on-site exhibition of the 541 international iSquares, designed by Rebecca Noone and funded by ASIS&T’s Special Interest Group for International Information Issues.

The panel will include presentations from the Toronto based research team as well as six pre-recorded 3-minute videos from contributors in Brazil, France, Finland, Iran, Malaysia, Russia, and Taiwan. The formal presentations will conclude with the remarks of Dr. Toni Carbo.

The panel at the ASIS&T annual meeting presents preliminary findings. Ultimately, the results from the project will be reported in peer-reviewed journals of information studies in 2016. MI student Bridgette Kelly, the Social Media Manager for the study, will be live Tweeting as the panel unfolds.