Dissertation Information for Linda Lillard
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: Information seeking in context: An exploratory study of information use online byeBay entrepreneurs
Abstract: This study explored entrepreneurship within the context of the online auction eBay to determine how this population locates and uses information. Following assumptions of the interpretive paradigm and a grounded theory methodology, the investigator conducted two online focus groups, 31 online interviews, and document analysis on information resources on the eBay web site over a period of four months. Social constructionism, role theory, and the theory of bounded rationality provided theoretical frameworks, and Taylor's model of the Information Use Environment provided a structure for data analysis and presentation. This dissertation extended Taylor's work by studying the information use environments of entrepreneurs while suggesting several additions to Taylor's model that more accurately portrayed online entrepreneurs operating in the eBay context. According to Taylor, individuals entering a profession are "socialized" into a common stock of knowledge, which creates for them specific roles. eBay informants, with diverse educational backgrounds and varied life and business experiences, lacked this sort of entree. Their information behavior can be understood in terms of Simon's theory of bounded rationality since their lack of knowledge prevented awareness and use of available information resources. Organizational, eBay-generated rules and unwritten rules of the informants also enabled and constrained actions and behaviors within this environment, including information behaviors. Study results indicated major problems experienced by informants were related to technology, though problems changed with more experience working in this environment. The predominance of females parallels research suggesting that women choose entrepreneurship because they desire challenge and self-determination, a balance of family and work responsibilities, and career advancement. Taken together, the problems, problem resolutions, and information behavior of the study informants closely resembled models of organizational socialization described in the business literature. A model based on the data shows the importance of studying individual information seekers in the context within which they operate when information is sought rather than in isolation.
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