The Use of Participatory Techniques inthe Communication of Information forCommunities: Information Literacy andCollaborative Work for CitizenshipDevelopment
Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares, Sely Maria de Souza Costaand Mark HepworthAbstract
This qualitative study was carried out in Candangolandia, in Brasiliassurroundings, Brazil. It comprised procedures that aimed to test theuse of participatory research and action (PRA) in interactive andmultidirectional communication amongst community members, inorder to enable them to work together in the identification, access anduse of information to solve social problems. The assumption behindthis proposal was that as doing so, citizens develop abilities ofinformation literacy and capabilities of collaborative work. Theresearch tested the efficacy of PRA specifically in information science,using principles of critical thinking and participatory techniqueswithin an epistemological interpretative approach in the identificationof community information needs, access and use. Specific techniquessuch as oral presentation, people introduction, cards, games, brain-storm, workgroups, discussion, and question and answer were appliedin 24 activities performed during six meetings with an intentionallyselected group of citizens. The set of activities in each meeting wasDeveloping Peoples Information Capabilities: Fostering Information Literacy in Educational,
Workplace and Community Contexts
Library and Information Science, Volume 8, 241265
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242 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.related to the meeting objective. Data analysis was based on groundedtheory principles, particularly the coding process. Findings confirmedthat PRA is a suitable methodology to explore abilities of informationliteracy and attitudes of collaborative work as a result of an interactiveand multidirectional communication. In fact, community participantswere able to identify, classify and prioritise information needs, as wellas use information solutions for a selected social problem. Ultimately,these actions have proved to be helpful for participants to develop aheightened sense of citizenship.
Keywords: Information literacy; collaborative work; participatoryresearch and action (PRA); critical enquire; interpretativismepistemological approach; Brazil; citizenship15.1. Introduction
The main aim of this research was to demonstrate that multidirectional andinteractive communication that uses participatory techniques contributes toenable people to develop information literacy abilities and work collabora-tively. Moreover, both information literacy and collaborative work, whenput together, are of particular importance to help people to develop aheightened sense of citizenship.
The chapter begins by presenting a discussion about information literacyand collaborative work within a multidirectional and interactive commu-nication process as an option to help people heighten the sense ofcitizenship. It follows by presenting a participative methodology used toenable people to work collaboratively in handling information in order tomake decisions and solve social problems. Results are then analysed andfindings are discussed, followed by conclusions met.15.2. Communication of Information for Citizenship
Citizens are free members of any society, integrated in it through either birthor adoption. They are also political beings who have potential to make theirown individual and social history. Through learning and understandingprocess, as well as through accessing information, citizens are able tointerfere in their destiny, improving their quality of life (Demo, 2002).
It is important to note that citizens have civil, political and social rights.While civil rights are connected with birth recognition, political rights are
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 243linked with the right to vote and to be voted. Both of them are easily assuredfor all citizens equally. On the other hand, social rights are not given in anequal and fair way for all citizens, since they are connected with education,housing and employment that are difficult to share uniformly in any society(Demo, 2002; Marshall, 1964).
In the analysis about who is responsible to guarantee social rights for allcitizens, history has shown that the State has not always assumed this dutyproperly, since it requires building a wide structure, which is hard to beefficiently managed and controlled. On the other hand, many researchers andexperts have pointed to the possibility of having citizens assuming thisresponsibility, therefore indicating the end of the Welfare State. Societiesare seeking a minimal social pattern in which all citizens may be included(Dean, 2004). It means that all people could have available high-qualityeducation, adequate public health systems and necessary technologicalresources, from which they could themselves have a chance to achieveautonomy, emancipation and dignity.
With this idea in mind, it is possible to re-establish citizens social rightsthrough information access (Calabrese & Burgelman, 1999). In reality, in aninformation era, information literacy is fundamental to help people to beinserted into the labour market. It is because information literacy is anability that helps people to conquer better jobs and, as a result, reach anappropriated quality of life for themselves and their family, meaning healthand social welfare (Freire, 2007).
More recently, the enquiry-based learning has presented an approach inwhich people are encouraged to become active learners rather than passiverecipients of information. It is to encourage people to make critical andsystematic use of information, helping them to deal with new and complexsituation (Hepworth & Walton, 2009, p. 7). As a consequence, particularattention has been paid to peoples information capabilities, that is theirinformation literacy, which can be defined as
A complex set of abilities, which enable individuals to engage critically with
and make sense of the world and its knowledge, to participate effectively in
learning and to make use of and contribute to the information landscape.
(2009, p. 10)
Additionally, for developing citizenship it is also necessary to enablepeople to work together in a collaborative way. If the proposition is to getcommunities growth, collaborative work has shown to be a helpfulalternative to make people become engaged and committed with theirsocial problems. It actually promotes personal and communities empower-ment, as well as develops a heightened sense of citizenship throughintensification of critical awareness. Interactions obtained by collaborativework support the duty of involving, besides encouraging people to get
244 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.consensus. Through these interactions, individuals assume equal responsi-bility for both their successes and failures (Duvall, 1999, p. 204), and it is,in thesis, engagement and commitment. The author adds that when anorganisation (public, private or nongovernmental)
creates an environment in which its members choose empowerment as a way of
being, the probability success is increased because the efforts of individuals are
focused toward the same goals. There is personal commitment to and
ownership of outcomes. (1999, p. 208)
Multidirectionality and interactiveness are important requirements forcommunication in communities. Communication is multidirectional when itallows a number of possibilities for representing message exchange frommany to many (Gomes, Rodrigues, Gamez, & Barcia, 2007). Likewise, it isinteractive when it involves mutual action and reaction between communitymembers. It is not important to know who begins the communicationprocess, but it is significant to understand that in the communicationprocess, when a person speaks, others listen and observe behaviour andreactions. As Tubbs and Moss (2003) assert, this is interaction.
Using participatory techniques in this kind of communication, abilities ofinformation literacy and attitudes for collaborative work can certainly bedeveloped. As a result, community members will become more confident toact. In other words, techniques can be applied in the development of bothindividual freedom and collective awareness, with the objective ofpromoting citizenship. These concepts have shaped the theoretical back-ground used in the present study. It consequently guided the researchconceptual model depicted in Figure 15.1.
The intrinsic theory of this model recognises that effective communica-tion of information between community members contributes to citizenshipdevelopment. Whenever people use participatory techniques to handleinformation, they will be able to develop information literacy abilities andcollaborative work capabilities. A combination of abilities and capabilitiescan help people to commit with social issues within communities as wellas contribute for peoples autonomy, emancipation and dignity throughenhanced capabilities to be inserted in an information era as well as engagedwith their community causes.15.3. Research Epistemological Background
According to Bryman (1996), there are three epistemological approachespresented in all sciences, yet more especially in social approaches, namedobjectivism, constructivism and interpretativism. While reality is unique and
Enable people tohandle information
Repository of information
Applying participatory techniques
Result in better working conditions
and commitmentwith social issues
Inside the multidirectionaland interactive
Meeting with members of a
communityEnable people to
work together(collaborative work)
Figure 15.1: Research conceptual model.
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 245singular for the objectivism, it is multiple in the subjectivism approach.Objectivism rejects or confirms hypothesis while subjectivism providessupport to illustrate different visions and interpretations. On the other hand,in the interpretativism approach, reality is political and it is understood bydiscussion and negotiation.
The objectivist researchers keep themselves far from the studied object,while constructivists stay close to their object, discussing, listening andprinting different interpretations. In the interpretativism approach,researcher and participants work together. There are not hypotheses orperspective, but a problem to be understood and analysed. The positivism isan epistemology of response, the constructivism is an epistemology of builtand the interpretativism is an epistemology of negotiation and learning.
The research described here adopts the interpretativism approach.Interpretativism emerged as a revolutionary approach to mix research withpolitical and social issues in order to contemplate values like justice andinclusion. As observed by Creswell (2007) researchers are concerned withrescuing marginalised people through participation, letting researcher andparticipants work together and negotiate knowledge.
Postmodernism, realism and critical thinking are some of theoreticalperspectives of the interpretativism epistemological approach. Critical
246 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.enquiry has been adopted as the theoretical perspective of this study, withthe aim of establishing its basis, particularly because:
The study is focused on the development of critical awareness ofparticipants and researcher, as well as is concerned with problemsolutions that also represent characteristics of the critical enquireperspective. Situations, phenomena, problems or issues constitute only amotivation for research, with participants working together to analyseproblems (Brookfield, 1987). The study is concerned with learning issues and knowledge exchange andsharing, which are the two most important issues of the critical enquireperspective. Therefore, involvement, engagement and participation aretaken as useful instruments to develop critical thinking and awareness(Chambers, 2005). The research is carried out in discussion forums or other environmentswhere people can teach, learn and present their ideas simultaneously.Critical enquiry is a set of strategies of action-report that allow people torespond and to begin a new discussion upon those answers (Hawkins,2003, p. 27).
The interpretativism epistemology seems to be adequate to ascertain thatmultidirectional and interactive communication should adopt participativetechniques, as it follows the way to learn and develop critical awareness,which is important for citizenship development.15.4. The Use of Participatory Research and Action (PRA)
van der Riet (2008) defined participatory research (PR) as an umbrella termfor different methods of participatory enquiry that emerged out ofdisenchantment with the positivist research paradigm, and a critique of therole of the researcher in the developing world (p. 550). According to him,participatory research keeps a deep concern with transformation and socialjustice, which, as a result, has the objective to create an environment oftransformation, where the living condition of people can be changed.
PRA is one of these approaches. On the other hand, critical enquiryshares many characteristics with PRA, providing the methodologicalframework and influencing the design of the intervention. According toChambers (2005) PRA is a family of approaches, behaviour and methodsfor enabling people to do their own appraisal, analysis and planning, taketheir own action, and do their own monitoring and evaluation (p. 3). PRAshowed to be the adequate methodological approach.
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 247According to Freire (2007), competences, skills and attitudes can bedeveloped through participatory work and it tends to promote both inter-action between community members and engagement in activities towardscommunity welfare. Recognising this, the use of PRA appeared to beadequate to allow people to participate in investigative processes and developcritical ways of approaching information, an ingredient shared withinformation literacy and problem solving. The research design was, therefore,entirely guided by critical enquiry and PRA, as described in the next section.15.5. The Research Design: Sampling, Environment andProcedures
Key concepts of this investigation are information literacy and collaborativework. With these concepts in mind, activities were planned as shown inFigure 15.2.
About information literacy, activities were planned in order to achievespecific outcomes, such as a social problem selected, information needsidentified, information behaviour patterns surveyed, information accessedand understood, social problem analysed and information solutions drawn.Effective communication of informationinside communities
Activities to select a social problem tostudy
Activities to identify information needsand analyse the social problems
Activities to classify information andseek information landscape
Activities to analyse information andsolutions for the social problems
Developing information literacy abilities
To work in groups during allactivities
To share information, experience and knowledge during all activities
Developing attitudes toward at collaborative work
To talk about commitment and social issues during all activities
To listen, talk and discuss duringall activities
Critical awareness and citizenship
Activities to identify informationbehaviour patterns
Figure 15.2: Plan of actions in participatory research.
248 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.Likewise, about collaborative work, all activities developed previously wereplanned keeping a deep concern with behaviour or attitudes likecommitment, engagement, solidarity working, participation, learning andnegotiation. This means that all of participatory activities applied in theinvestigation must focus on building collaborative behaviour.
In order to conduct the investigation, an intervention in a communityought to be done. The target audience of this research were Brasiliascitizens, which totalized 2,255,900 people. The Federal District (DF) ofwhich Brasilia is the capital, as it is of Brazil, too is organised in 30Administrative Regions (AR), where its population live.
In order to select a community to be studied, it was necessary to sort outARs by clusters of economic level. The assumption behind this procedure wasthat a community of medium economic level would fit better the researchpurposes; therefore, it should be selected from this group. In fact, people fromhigh economic level communities tend to show a privileged condition, as theyare expectedly aware of citizenship, have social rights assured and can payfor what they need. On the other hand, people from low economic levelcommunities presented basic needs that could prevent them to give impor-tance for social development, meaning that people in this level tend to focustheir attention in individual issues more than community or social issues.
From all the 30 ARs, Candangolandia, in Brasilias neighbourhood, wasthe community chosen, taking into account three favourable assumptions.First, and more important, it is a medium economic level community(Group II). Second, there were two major favourable conditions for theresearcher to approach the community and conduct the investigation, such aseasy contact and local availability. Easy contact refers to previous acquaint-ance with a community member, which, in its turn, resulted in sense of safety,confidence and collaboration amongst community members. Local avail-ability refers to an appropriate local available to conduct meetings. Third,the heterogeneousness found within the community, which brought abouthealth diversity to the study. A family and its neighbours constituted,therefore, an intentional and non-probabilistic final sample of 15 communitymembers. This sample also strongly resulted from previous achievementsduring the first intervention, that is, the pilot study. Such achievementswere the learning process and critical awareness developed by people whowere intentionally selected to take part in the major, second intervention.
Chambers (2005) recommends inviting not many participants for themeetings. He also suggests a payment for participation, in order toguarantee attendance and show respect for the participants time. Therefore,the decision of selecting 15 people and paying them for their collaborationwas based on Chambers recommendation, aiming at better outcomes.
The local set aside for the meetings comprises two plots of housing, eachone with ca. 240 to 400 m2. On each plot, there is a main house owned by
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 249the plots owners and very small flats in their backyards six flats in oneand seven in the other to let, in order for owners to gain extra income. Intotal, there are 15 families living on the two plots (Figure 15.3). In almost allof them there are two or three children. Men work in a variety of activitiesin restaurants and bars, civil construction and the commerce. Womenworked in residences as housemaids or at nearby motels, as cleaners.
To conduct the investigation, six meetings were planned and carried out.In each of them, which lasted between two to three hours in the evening,activities were performed and a variety of techniques applied, accordingto the meeting objective (Table 15.1). In total, there were 25 activitiesthroughout the six meetings.
The variety of techniques was necessary for three reasons. First, specifictechniques were required to investigate different topics and support differentactivities. Secondly, using a variety of techniques was more likely to lead toactive engagement, bearing in mind that most participants had had a longworking day. Thirdly, performing a number of activities and using a varietyof techniques gave time for reflection. Each meeting, activity and techniqueis described below.Figure 15.3: Plots of housing in Candangolandia, Braslia-DF, Brazil.
Table 15.1: Outline of meetings and their objectives.
Meeting Main objectives
First meeting To present the research proposal, introduce people and select a social
problem to study
Second meeting To survey information needs
Third meeting To analyse information needs
Fourth meeting To analyse information needs and information-seeking behaviour
Fifth meeting To access and use information, to understand its content, to share
information with others
Sixth meeting To discuss and suggest solutions to the social problem selected
250 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.15.5.1. The First Meeting
The first meeting consisted of six activities, namely presentation of theresearch and PRA, people introduction, definition of values and rules,refresh activity, election of a social problem/situation and meetingevaluation. The main objective of this meeting was to choose a socialproblem to be studied by research participants, that is the researcher andmembers of the community.
The presentation of the research proposal by the researcher along withher expectations showed to be important to encourage participants to reflectabout what would occur during future meetings and to focus on the topic tobe studied. Moreover, it was essential to a warm atmosphere, givingopportunity to conversation and interactions amongst all participants.Another equally important achievement during the first meeting was thenegotiation of an agreement in which norms of behaviour and conduct wereassured. After free discussion, four norms were approved, namely respectdifferences, treat each other with love and care, be responsible and bepunctual.
The focus of the meeting then shifted to the selection of a social problemto be studied. Using cards for that, participants finally voted for publictransportation. It has been observed that participants were capable tonegotiate throughout the discussion, with agreements and disagreementsand finally a collective decision was made. An evaluation of the meeting wasalso performed, and showed to be important to the learning process and tocritical awareness development. Besides being a participant, the researcheralso acted as an observer, taking notes of all occurrences during the meeting.15.5.2. The Second Meeting
The second meeting involved a set of five activities, namely recalls of the firstmeeting, refresh activity, analysis of the social problem, survey of theinformation needs and meeting evaluation. The main aim was to identifyinformation needs.
Using the cause and effect diagram,1 people were able to explore andshare their views about public transportation, especially in terms ofproblems that affect their community. This view was built through1. Also known as Ishikawas diagram, as has been developed by Kaoru Ishikawa, from the
University of Tokyo in 1943, with the aim of explaining to a group of engineers from Kawasaki
Steel how a variety of factors can be sorted out and correlated.
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 251participants contributions and reflected their understanding of the problem.Closing this stage, they could survey a set of information that they need toaccess and use in order to well understand the problem.15.5.3. The Third Meeting
The third meeting involved a set of four activities, namely reflection on thesecond meeting, refresh activity, categorisation of information (having theinformation landscape in mind), meeting evaluation. The main aim ofthis meeting was to categorise information. This categorization has beenimportant to organize the information according to the informationlandscape where it can be found.
Classifying information needs provided material for the next step, whenparticipants and the researcher looked for information sources that wouldhelp satisfy the information needs identified. This enabled participantsto become familiar with the information landscape. They defined fourcategories of information, namely buses (cost, routes, situation, timetable,option); responsibilities (from government, owners and drivers); passengersrights and debts; and new public transportation projects. The first one couldbe sought at the web page of the Transportation Secretariat; the second, ina database of laws; the third at the Justice and Citizenship Secretariat;the last in the Governo do Distrito Federal (local government). Figure 15.4shows people working and discussing about information landscape versusinformation needs.Figure 15.4: Photograph print of the third meeting (manuscripts onphotographs are in Portuguese, the participants original language).2
2. Manuscripts on photographs are in Portuguese, the participants original language.
252 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.15.5.4. The Fourth Meeting
The fourth meeting involved a set of three activities, namely classification ofinformation needs by importance and accessibility, survey of information-seeking behaviour and meeting evaluation. The main aim, following onthe previous meeting, was to classify information in accordance with itsimportance (much or less important) and access (easy or difficult to access).This procedure was very important to eliminate redundancies and prioritiseinformation. Last but not least, information behaviour patterns weresurveyed from participants, essentially for getting preferences and limita-tions. At this point, information was surveyed, categorised and classified.Afterwards, the information landscape was mapped.15.5.5. The Fifth Meeting
The fifth meeting involved a set of three activities, namely refresh activity,analysis of a set of information and meeting evaluation. The main aim wasto enable people to handle information. Participants could work in smallgroups in order to format information according to their own informationbehaviour patterns. All participants could access and use the entire set ofinformation.
Working in small groups showed to be essential for participants to shareinformation, knowledge and experience. At the end of these activities, theywere able not only to understand the content of information, but also toexplain it for others (Figure 15.5).Figure 15.5: Photograph print of the third meeting (manuscripts onphotographs are in Portuguese, the participants original language).3
3. Manuscripts on photographs are in Portuguese, the participants original language.
Figure 15.6: Photographs of the third meeting (manuscripts on photo-graphs are in Portuguese, the participants original language).4
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 25315.5.6. The Sixth Meeting
The sixth meeting involved a set of three activities, namely reflection on thefifty meeting, analysis of the social problem and intervention evaluation, thelatter for evaluating the total of activities and techniques. Its main aim wasto suggest solutions to the problem chosen to study. Because this meetingwas the last one, additional time was spent in the evaluation of the entireintervention, activities and techniques.
Participants could work in small groups, accessing and using informa-tion. They brought back the chosen social problem, and effectively usedinformation to analyse it and point solutions (Figure 15.6). All of themrecognised the importance of information to build knowledge and improveexperience.
All research findings emerged from these meetings. The researchers rolewas essential to provide room and mechanism so that meetings could takeplace. It was also crucial to help highlight key topics, to encourage people toexplore topics in depth and to ensure that experiences and thoughts wereshared.15.6. Analysis and Discussion of Results
The communication of information in communities is considered anapproach that enables people to act on their own benefit and on the benefitof their communities (Hepworth & Walton, 2009). Taking this assumptioninto account, the investigation applied discussion and negotiation duringthe data gathering process, which brought about a huge amount of raw data.4. Manuscripts on photographs are in Portuguese, the participants original language.
254 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.In order to analyse all these data, a codification process was required.Therefore, data transcription, coding and analysis were carried out inaccordance with grounded theory principles, as suggested by Bryman (2008).
Grounded theory has been defined as theory that was derived from data,
systematically gathered and analysed through the research process. In this
method, data collection, analysis and eventual theory stand in close relation-
ship to one another (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 12). Thus, two central features
of grounded theory are that it is concerned with the development of theory out
of data and that the approach is interactive, or recursive, as it is sometimes
called, meaning that data collection and analysis proceed in tandem,
repeatedly referring back to each other. (Bryman, 2008, p. 541)
The present investigation did not rigorously adopt grounded theory as aresearch method. It actually applied its principles to the data analysis only.This decision was made because participatory research usually leaves datacollection on the participants hands, so that they decide when to stopdiscussion and negotiation. It does not foresee a recurrent data collectionprocess, neither theory building as grounded theory does. Nevertheless,under the codification principles of the grounded theory an analysis modelto participatory research was built (Figure 15.7).
As stated before, coding was used in the analysis of data gathered in thepresent investigation. According to Bryman (2008):
Coding is one of the most central processes in grounded theory. It entails
reviewing transcripts and/or field notes and giving labels (names) to
component parts that seem to be of potential theoretical significance and/or
that appear to be particularly salient within the social worlds of those being
studied y The data are treated as potential indicator of concepts and theindicator are constantly compared y to see which concepts they best fit with.(Bryman, 2008, p. 550)
It is important to highlight that the objective of codification is totransform original data in research concepts. Coding served to label,separate, compile and organise data (Bryman, 2008), which showed to beimportant to understand data and create a connection between original dataand research concepts. For that, it was necessary to use three code levels inorder to make this association.
Table 15.2 highlights the three codification levels that emerged in theanalysis, as they showed to be enough for remitting data from participantswork, in terms of speech and material building, to research concepts. Itmeans that all data gathered were transcribed to a unique text that had itsdifferent components coded, from the beginning to the end. At the first level,codes are deeply close to speeches and research material. At the second level,
Analysis in PRA
Analysing thechosen social
Accessing andusing information
Activities04, 05, 08
Activities14, 15, 18
Figure 15.7: Data analysis in participatory research.
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 255previous codes were associated. Likewise, at the third level, new associationswere made until research concepts are finally reached.
Content analysis of the research data by means of codification proved tobe very important to both examine data and discuss findings, since it createda reference to remit researcher from raw data to research concepts. Researchfindings are presented in line with research questions.
Can abilities of information literacy be developed through multidirectional and
interactive communication that takes into account participatory research
According to Nicholas and Herman (2009), people do not have theirbasic needs mapped clearly, and, consequently, they cannot identifyinformation they need to supply their lack of knowledge. It begins to beclear when people face problems or difficult situations, or are under somekind of pressure. In such occasions, it is easily possible to identify cognitiveand emotional needs because of information needs emerge in that context.
With these authors idea in mind, this investigation began by setting asocial problem that constitutes a basic community need, given that it was
Table 15.2: Data analysis in participatory research.
First level of codification Second level of
Third level of
How to use y
How to do y
How to define y
How to act y
Exchange knowledge and experience Sharing
Do something in a different way Change behaviour
Do activities and tasks ParticipationCommitment
Be present Attendance
Start new activities
Introduce to each other
Present research work
Suggest changes and improvements
Work as a team
Discuss in activity context
Negotiate and seek consensus
Know how to listen, talk and discuss
Include people in discussions
Present and/or summarise work
Present positive criticisms
Use information critically to take
decision or to solve problems
Discuss in community context
Critical awarenessPerceive/discuss results and findings
Evaluate activities and learning
Reflect and give feedbacks
256 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 257common for all participants and was pointed as relevant by them.Participants were submitted to a set of activities needed to answer thisquestion, allowing them, therefore, to able to develop five abilities:
to identify a problem situation (activity 5); to identify information they need to supply their lack of knowledge aboutit (activities 9 and 10); to access and use information to both better understand and handle it(activity 20); to analyse information content and to point solution for the selectedproblem (activity 23).
Activity 5 identified the problem situation (basic need), which was writtenby each participant on cards. Then, participants stick their cards in a longlarge sheet of paper on the floor. Cards were then organised by participantsby subject. The topic first chosen for further discussion by the group waslocal commerce and entertainment. However, after a long discussion publictransport was their last decision.
Activity 9 had the objective of analysing the chosen social problem inorder to identify information needs. Both causes and effects associated withthe problem were pointed by participants, and listed on a long large sheetwhere the problem was written in the middle, causes on its left and effects onits right. As regard causes, four groups of problems were pointed. The firstwas related to drivers, the second was related to government policies, thethird related to transportation companies and the last was concerned withtransportation customers.
As concerned with effects, participants mostly pointed economic issues,constant delays, heavy traffic and road damages. They also referred todrivers health problems as an important issue.
Activity 10 had the objective of identifying information needs based onthe cause and effect diagram that result from activity 9. Each item in thecause and effect diagram was analysed in order to identify informationneeds. For instance, when people said that old buses are the cause of delays,they identified size of bus fleets, frequency of buses maintenance, rules torenew bus fleets and norms and rules to which owners are submitted asinformation that would help them to understand and confront the issue.Following in this way, participants identified 28 kinds of information thatthey judged necessary to help address the problem.
Activity 20 was concerned with linking information needs withinformation seek and use. As Choo (2006) and Freire (2007) previouslyasserted, the three strategic use of information to create meaning, to buildknowledge and to make decision could be achieved through participatorymeetings, where people had opportunity to convert information to knowl-edge and make decisions regarding the chosen problem.
258 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.Activity 23 had the objective of using information to propose solutions tothe problem chosen. Findings have shown that by working in small groupsparticipants were able to understand the information content so that theywere able to share it with others. Abilities to critically discuss and analyse thesituation, as well as get consensus were also achieved. As a result, participantscould handle information in order to point a set of solutions to improvepublic transportation especially in Candangolandia as cited below:
More comprehensive public biddings with the aim of guaranteeing bettercontracts Authorisation for taxes and minivans to officially provide low capacitypublic transportation Continuing training for drivers Better income distribution through tax incentive All buses equipped for the handicapped Information available in texts, sound and images Popular deliberation about prices of bus tickets and bus lines and routes Car rotation and toll New buses circulating mostly in peak hours
Hepworth and Walton (2009) define information literacy as a complexset of abilities, which enable individuals to engage critically with and makesense of the world and its knowledge, to participate effectively in learningand to make use of and contribute to the information landscape (p. 10).With this idea in mind, all activities in the present participatory researchwere carried out with the intention of making possible the development ofparticipants information literacy capabilities.
Participatory techniques led people to learn through experiences andknowledge exchange. In truth, participants of the present research were ableto analyse their reality and, more importantly, they showed committed to thesolution pointed. Chambers (2002) emphasises that people mainly poor ormarginalised are capable of analysing their own realities, and they canand should be empowered to that. Gonzales Rey (2005) adds that the realityis political and complex, and it is understood through discussion andnegotiation. Brookfield (1987) complements these thoughts with the idea thatcritical enquiry is concerned with critical awareness. In fact, the analysis anddiscussion of the social problem was a motivation to put researcher andparticipants together, consequently enabling them to critically handleinformation. It is actually creation of information literacy abilities.
Can attitudes towards collaborative work be developed through multidirectional
and interactive communication that takes into account participatory research
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 259All activities explored in this investigation allowed developing attitudestowards collaborative work. Participants worked in small groups all thetime. They discussed and both prepared and presented their results. Theyhad also opportunity to know and explore their reality, by analysingsituations and pointing solutions for a social problem chosen. When theydid it in groups through discussing and getting consensus, they worked as ateam, and became committed and engaged with their social situation.Examples of speeches that both summarise discussions and illustrate thecollaborative work development are presented in Table 15.3, along with thecode that represents the achievement.
A not foresaw finding was obtained from the participation of an illiterateperson. In the evaluation of the fourth meeting, the participant said: I likedthis work a lot. Firstly, because I had fun. Secondly, because I learnt a greatdeal about public transportation. I appreciated knowing about my rightsand duties and how to act when my rights are not respected. Asked abouther illiteracy condition, the participant answered: The fact of not knowinghow to read or write did not prevent me of learning. People read to me allthe time. Furthermore, we discussed about problems in my community,where I have lived for 30 years and I know about these problems more thanalmost everyone here. Asked about benefits of receiving information inother formats, participant answered: I do not think so, because I liked tohave people available to read to me. They could explain aspects I did notunderstand, which cannot be done by using video, for example. I goteverything that was discussed here; everything that all of you learnt, I alsodid. It seems that an appropriate code for this participant speech would beovercoming barriers.
As regards these results, it is interesting to recall Chambers (2005) ideas,according to which people, even poor and marginalised, are able to analysetheir realities. Gonzales Rey (2005) added that the reality can be understoodthrough discussion and negotiation. This critical thinking process is, per se,connected with critical awareness that emerge from practices of solvingproblems in a collaborative way (Brookfield, 1987). These authors ideaswere, therefore, the foundation that sustains this investigation, as findingsshowed it is possible to use participatory techniques to enable people todevelop attitudes towards collaborative work. Through the findings, it wasobserved that people could be training to reflect, evaluate, argue, discuss andget consensus.
Can citizenship be developed by mixing both abilities of information literacy and
attitudes towards collaborative work through a multidirectional and interactive
communication that takes into account participatory research techniques?
Citizenship was understood in this research in two perspectives. The first isconcerned with social rights that can be acquired by citizens themselves when
Table 15.3: Examples of Participants Speech Illustrating CollaborativeWork, and the Corresponding Code.
Participants speech Code
In the process of choosing a social problem to be studied, one
participant said that the most voted problem was trade
and entertainment, and I am not interested to study it,
because I disagree with people who asked for discos in
Candangolandia. Actually, I think we do not need discos,
we need churches. Other three participants protested
saying that young people need to have fun and it is not fair
going to other places to get entertainment. A fifth
participant tried to ease the discussion stating we can
study another social problem, the second most voted, for
instance. Entertainment is not a subject that all of us are
interested, but transportation (the second one) is.
Everybody immediately agreed.
Getting consensus through
discussing in groups
In a discussion about all the activities, one participant said: I
noted all activities were a continuation of the previous
ones. Besides, I do not know if everybody agrees with me,
but when doing one activity I could understand the
previous one much better. So, I felt able to add something
about the previous activity in the next day, even though it
Evaluating activities through
In a presentation about the information content, participants
talked about what they learnt from information they
accessed. Accordingly, they said:
I would like to present what I read about a kind oftransportation that the government is implementing,
namely light rail. It is important to know the project costs,
who will pay for it, who the beneficiaries are, and when it
will be done. Well, in accordance with I have read articulated buses are
much bigger than the conventional ones because they
comprise two buses coupled to each other. This kind of
transportation is efficient mainly in case of lines with high
demand, because buses capacity is increased and costs, on
contrary, are decreased. The first plan of the government
is to use articulated buses in three most populated regions
of the Federal District. About free tickets, all workers have the right of spending
only 6% of their earning with transportation. The
difference, when exist, is paid by the employer. Likewise,
students have 50% off and the elderly do not pay for
transportation. There is a telephone number through
which complaint and grievance can be done in case of bad
Learning through information
260 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 261they are well inserted in the labour market. In this way, this researchexploited abilities of information literacy to enable people to act in theinformation age. The second perspective is concerned with critical awarenessdevelopment that is achieved with the engagement and commitment ofcitizens with solution of problems faced by their communities. It wasexploited through collaborative work when participants could shareexperiences, information and knowledge in order to point solutions forsocial problems.
Both information literacy and collaborative work are approached in theresults presented to the two previous research questions above. In fact, thetechniques adopted in this investigation showed to be useful to help peopledevelop critical awareness relating to both activities carried out anddiscussions. It is important to note that critical awareness is crucial toimprove the sense of citizenship. It is also important to highlight that thesame group of people participated in the pilot study and the majorinvestigation, with very little variation of people, as the initial group was20% bigger. The researcher observed that there was a progress from the pilotstudy to the major study. In order to illustrate this progress, results of thesecond meeting carried out in both interventions are presented in Table 15.4.
The present research findings showed that through evaluation andreflection, collaborative work by means of multidirectional and interactivecommunication within a community contributes to citizenship development.People also become engaged with problem solution and communitydevelopment. This is in accordance with Audard (2006), who asserts thatpeople with access to information and with capability to discuss are able tointerpret their obligations and duties as a public gesture, with goodconsequences for all.
In fact, information literacy contributes for promoting citizensemancipation, autonomy and dignity, given better chances for people tobe inserted in the information age. This research has shown that peoplelearnt how to identify information needs, to access and to use information.As Demo (2002) emphasised, it is impossible to think in a total autonomywithout information and knowledge access, in the extent to which well-informed people become independent and contribute to build an equal-itarian society.
When information literacy is associated with collaborative work, itcontributes to promote citizenship through participation that allows bothinteraction and structural changes. These, when well handled, becomeimportant tools to guide people towards aims and changes (Maturana &Varela, 2001). The setting created for carrying out this research took intoaccount participation and interaction, as well as information and knowledgesharing, and these did contribute for the growth of citizenship awareness.
Table 15.4: Comparative results of the evaluation made by participantsduring the second meeting.
Evaluations during the
Results from the pilot study Results from the major study
First evaluation question:
what did you like in this
meeting, and why?
Almost all participants
answered using expressions
like it was good, I liked it
all, with no justifications.
A number of participants
(33%) point out activities in
group and discussion. The
justification was that these
activities allowed them to
know each other and to
learn how to listen, talk and
accept different opinions.
Other 33% said that
adopting values and rules
for meetings was a great
idea to keep focused and to
question: what do you
did not like and why?
Almost all participants (93%)
answered with words like
Nothing or I did like
everything. Only one
criticism was made by one
participant about too long
The majority of participants
(ca. 70%) criticised people
who talked too much, did
not give time for others to
talk and did not respect
Third evaluation question:
what could we do to
correct things that you
do not like?
Nobody suggested anything,
seeming that people were
not comfortable to criticise,
as they always praised
things even when they
clearly did not like them.
Suggestions came from eight
participants (ca. 55%) as
changes like signing or
standing up for talking, and
to read values and rules for
meetings before talking.
Other 33% suggested that
people should be more
punctual in order to not
disturb the meetings.
Forth evaluation question:
what did you learn
Answers were almost
unanimous, as 93% said
they learnt to work
How to listen and talk, as well
as how to get a consensus
were the answers of ca. 55%
of the participants. Another
ca. 20% commented that
the work flowed better
when they respect others
and are engaged.
262 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.According to Freire (2007), for citizenship development, individualchanges are required. Such changes are based on ethics, respect of dignityand autonomy. In fact, autonomous citizens have abilities to make choices,to make decisions and to criticise processes, as well as to actively interfere
Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication 263in social order to change and to guide it to their welfare. Brookfield (1987)adds that the reality is understood through discussion and negotiation(critical thinking) that emerge from practices of problem solution.15.7. Conclusions
The main aim of this study was to demonstrate that a multidirectional andinteractive communication that takes into account participatory techniquesis appropriated to enable people to develop information literacy abilities andattitudes towards collaborative work. Moreover, both information literacyand collaborative work together can be helpful to develop a heightenedsense of citizenship. Results showed that it is possible to enable people tocritically and systematically handle information, and this is citizenshipdevelopment. In order to achieve this main aim, three objectives wereproposed, and conclusions drawn from each of them are presented asfollows.
As regard the first objective, the use of PRA within a multidirectional andinteractive communication process allows people to exploit situationsthrough which abilities of information literacy are developed. Indeed, it ispossible to conclude that community members, properly guided andinstructed, can develop abilities of information literacy. According to theresults found, people are able to survey and handle information to makedecisions and solve problems. Additionally, and more important, they areable to act actively inside their community without interferences frompoliticians and experts.
Concerning the second objective, the use of PRA within a multi-directional and interactive communication process allows people to developattitudes towards collaborative work. According to the results found,participatory techniques used in a collaborative work with the aim ofsolving social problems help people to adopt new social behaviour, such asto pay attention to what others say, to accept different opinions and to shareknowledge and experiences. It is also useful to motivate people to beengaged and committed to their community.
In relation to the third objective, citizenship can be developed by meansof the association between information literacy and collaborative work,through the use of participatory techniques within a multidirectional andinteractive communication process. In the present research context, it ispossible to conclude that citizenship can be achieved whenever people actcritically and effectively inside their communities, as well as when they takemore opportunities to conquer social rights (autonomy, emancipation anddignity) through information literacy. Critical awareness, as an important
264 Rosemeire Barbosa Tavares et al.attribute of citizenship, is developed when people discuss, present ideas andopinions, and develop capacity to analyse social problems.
From the theoretical point of view, it is important to emphasise thatinformation science benefits from results such as the ones found in thisinvestigation. Traditionally, the field of information science has focused oncommunication of information in science and technology. A discussion thatfocuses on communication of information inside communities certainly castsmore light on the field.
As a practical application, results of this research are useful to giveinsights for government policies and programmes related to citizenship. TheFederal District government in Brazil do not have an effective channelto communicate with citizens, meaning that the communication seems tohappen in a linear way more than multidirectional and interactive. There-fore, the investigation brought about new alternatives of citizen participa-tion, which can be helpful to guarantee autonomy, emancipation and dignityfor all citizens. It can be done by using the methodology applied in thisparticipatory research.References
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The Use of Participatory Techniques in the Communication of Information for Communities: Information Literacy and Collaborative Work for Citizenship DevelopmentIntroductionCommunication of Information for CitizenshipResearch Epistemological BackgroundThe Use of Participatory Research and Action (PRA)The Research Design: Sampling, Environment and ProceduresThe First MeetingThe Second MeetingThe Third MeetingThe Fourth MeetingThe Fifth MeetingThe Sixth Meeting
Analysis and Discussion of ResultsConclusionsReferences