Consulting engineers’ social networks and their collaborative information behaviour
Madely du Preez and Hester W.J. Meyer
Department of Information Science, University of South Africa
Introduction. Investigates the role of consulting engineers’ social networks have in their information behaviour. Wilson’s (1999; 2000) information behaviour definition, and the contributions other researchers made to it, provided the theoretical background for a framework that was developed to guide the study.
Method. Narrative inquiry, a qualitative research approach and method, was used to collect and analyse the empirical data. Fifteen consulting engineers participated by sharing their experiences of building projects in narrative interviews. The engineers represented different engineering disciplines, levels of expertise and were employed by different organisations.
Analysis. Data analysis involved the re-storying of the engineers’ stories and a thematic analysis of the same data which was guided by the proposed information behaviour framework.
Results. The professional team members of building projects are employed by different organisations. Throughout a building project, consulting engineers collaboratively seek, gather, use, communicate and share information. Building projects can be broken down into stages and project stages influence the information behaviour of consulting engineers. Interdependency emerged as a prominent element in the effective structures of consulting engineers’ personal dimension and evidently plays an important role in collaborative information behaviour in consulting engineers’ team work. It serves as a contributing factor in the natural forming of their social networks, which proved to be important resources of engineering information.
Conclusion. The study contributes to an understanding of the important role that social networks play in consulting engineers’ successful accomplishment of engineering projects in everyday life.
Keywords. Social networks; social networking; consulting engineers; collaborative information behaviour; narrative inquiry; information sharing