Research Output
Talking to imagined citizens? Information sharing practices and proxies for e-participation in hyperlocal democratic settings
  Introduction. Prior research in Information Science often uses constructs from Social Exchange Theory to explain online information sharing. Exchange theories have a strong focus on reciprocity, yet in some communities, such as elected democratic representatives at hyperlocal level, it is observed that information is shared online for little visible return. This raises questions as to the extent to which existing models of online information sharing based on the tenets of exchange are applicable across a full range of contexts. In the case of hyperlocal representatives, this also prompts consideration of their motivations for online information sharing, and their response to apparent non-participation or 'lurking' in this process on the part of citizens. In this paper an information sharing practice-based approach is deployed to explore the means by which hyperlocal representatives in Scotland handle their information sharing role and address their relationship with their online 'lurker' audiences.
Method. Hour long interviews were conducted in November and December 2016 with 19 representatives who serve on Scottish community councils.
Analysis. Qualitative analysis of the interview data generated the results of the study.
Results. Information sharing is regarded as an important duty of community councillors. It is largely practised as transmission or broadcast (rather than exchange) using a variety of channels, both online and face-to-face. Such efforts are, however, limited. This is due to restricted resources, a lack of familiarity with the information users (and non-users) that community councillors serve, and poor knowledge of tools for analysing online audiences. Attitudes towards online communities that largely comprise lurker audiences vary from frustration to resignation.
Conclusions. While some of the findings articulate with extant knowledge and extend it further, others contradict the results of prior research, for example on online platforms as deliberative spaces. The practice-based approach as deployed in the study surfaces new contributions on proxies in information sharing. Amongst these, it adds to prior work on information seeking by proxy, and introduces the concept of information sharing by proxy.

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  • Date:

    31 December 2020

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  • Funders:

    CILIP Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals


Cruickshank, P., & Hall, H. (2020). Talking to imagined citizens? Information sharing practices and proxies for e-participation in hyperlocal democratic settings. Information Research, 25(4),



democracy; e-participation; information behaviour; information dissemination; information exchange; information needs; information seeking behaviour; information use; lurkers; practice theory

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