A73.  Cross, R., Rice, R.E., & Parker, A. (2001).  Information seeking in social context: Structural influences and receipt of information benefits. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics -- Part C, 31(4), 438-478.


Research in the information processing, situated learning and social network traditions has consistently demonstrated the importance of relationships for acquiring information.  However, we know little about the kinds of informational benefits that people derive from seeking information from another person or how formal or social dimensions of relationships impact who is sought out for various kinds of information.  This research builds on prior qualitative work illustrating that people often receive some combination of five informational benefits when seeking information from others: 1) solutions; 2) meta-knowledge (pointers to databases or people); 3) problem reformulation; 4) validation of plans or solutions; and 5) legitimation from contact with a respected person.  This study assesses the influence on these informational benefits from task and social structural factors such as similarity of job function, hierarchy, task interdependence, physical proximity, influence, trust, friendship and gender.  Task interdependence is the strongest and most consistent predictor of information seeking.  However, social dimensions of relationships also affect what informational benefits are received, especially as benefits become more representational and confidence-building, that is, as they become more conceptual and affective.  Implications are drawn for the study of social capital, computer-mediated communication and organizational learning.

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