A new model for information literacies of community representatives

   School of Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment

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  Dr Peter Cruickshank, Dr Bruce Ryan  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Direct participation has been an important threat in democracy for some decades now. However, the ideals of widespread individual participation are often in reality under threat of hijacking by a minority of self-efficacious individuals. As a result community representatives often take on the role of seeking information from officials/government then sharing it with communities, and vice versa (Hall, Cruickshank & Ryan, 2018; de Souza et al, 2022). Some (such as community councillors) are formally appointed, others are members of local voluntary and religious (e.g. church) groups.

Our past research has established that community representatives occupy a zone between elected representation and citizenship, the workplace and volunteering, and occupy a mix of physical, digital and blended spaces (Acedo et al, 2019; Cruickshank et al, 2020; Marzoukou & Abdi, 2017). They are generally seen as part of civil society – that is, they are different from elected representatives at local authority or government levels. They work in a multi-channel context, mixing in-person and digital communication, so the concept of hyperlocal representation can be a useful definition in this context, defined as: “The actions of representations in the context of the lowest level of democracy: digitally enabled, geographically based, community-oriented and intended to promote civic engagement”.

Past research has identified that community representatives face significant informational barriers in (a) learning about their role (b) understanding the information needs of the communities served and (c) gathering and sharing information about local issues with stakeholders. Information literacy (IL) represents one approach to investigating these topics (Cope, 2010; Saunders, 2017). However, although there are IL models that cover citizens, the workplace, and everyday life, there is no obvious model that accounts for the information activities of community representatives.

This PhD project will develop a new model of information practices and literacies for community representation. The Research Questions that this project will therefore address are:

1. What information practices are involved in understanding the role, and (information) needs of the communities served?

2. How do community representatives navigate between sharing information with their communities, campaigning and liaising with government?

3. How do existing models of literacies apply to the information practices of community representatives as they work jointly?

The research will be conducted within the social informatics research group, where the PhD student can will join a lively and support community of researchers. The group was highly rated in the recent REF2021 assessment exercise, with a very strong research environment. We have excellent international links and a good track record of working collaboratively with partners in the UK and around the world.

Perspective applicants are encouraged to contact the Supervisor before submitting their applications. Applications should make it clear the project you are applying for and the name of the supervisors.

Academic qualifications

A first-class honours degree, or a distinction at master level, or equivalent achievements ideally in Information science or an allied subject, alternatively, a background in studying community representation (e.g., through politics or sociology).

English language requirement

If your first language is not English, comply with the University requirements for research degree programmes in terms of English language.

Application process

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the supervisor, Dr Peter Cruickshank ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss the content of the project and the fit with their qualifications and skills before preparing an application. 

Contact details

Should you need more information, please email [Email Address Removed].

The application must include: 

Research project outline of 2 pages (list of references excluded). The outline may provide details about

  • Background and motivation, explaining the importance of the project, should be supported also by relevant literature. You can also discuss the applications you expect for the project results.
  • Research questions or
  • Methodology: types of data to be used, approach to data collection, and data analysis methods.
  • List of references

The outline must be created solely by the applicant. Supervisors can only offer general discussions about the project idea without providing any additional support.

  • Statement no longer than 1 page describing your motivations and fit with the project.
  • Recent and complete curriculum vitae. The curriculum must include a declaration regarding the English language qualifications of the candidate.
  • Supporting documents will have to be submitted by successful candidates.
  • Two academic references (but if you have been out of education for more than three years, you may submit one academic and one professional reference), on the form can be downloaded here.

Applications can be submitted here. To be considered, the application must use:

  • SCEBE1123” as project code.
  • the advertised title as project title

All applications must be received by 3rd December 2023. Applicants who have not been contacted by the 8th March 2024 should assume that they have been unsuccessful. Projects are anticipated to start on 1st October 2024.

Download a copy of the project details here.

Communication & Media Studies (7)


Acedo, A., Oliveira, T., Naranjo-Zolotov, M., & Painho, M. (2019). Place and city: toward a geography of engagement. Heliyon, 5(8). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e02261
Cope, J. (2010). Information Literacy and Social Power. In E. Drabinski, A. Kumbier, & M. Accardi (Eds.), Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (pp. 13–28). Library Juice Press.
Cruickshank, P., Hall, H., & Ryan, B. M. (2020). Information literacy as a joint competence shaped by everyday life and workplace roles amongst Scottish community councillors. Proceedings of ISIC: The Information Behaviour Conference Pretoria, South Africa, 28th September to 1st October, 2020, 25(4), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.47989/irisic2008
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), 1–26. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.47989/irpaper880
de Souza, A. A. C., d’Angelo, M. J., & Lima Filho, R. N. (2022). Effects of Predictors of Citizens’ Attitudes and Intention to Use Open Government Data and Government 2.0. Government Information Quarterly, 39(December 2021). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2021.101663
Hall, H., Cruickshank, P., & Ryan, B. M. (2018). Exploring Information Literacy Through the Lens of Activity Theory. European Conference on Information Literacy, 810, 803–812. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74334-9_81
Martzoukou, K., & Sayyad Abdi, E. (2017). Towards an everyday life information literacy mind-set: a review of literature. Journal of Documentation, 73(4), 634–665. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-07-2016-0094
Saunders, L. (2017). Connecting information literacy and social justice: why and how. Communications in Information Literacy, 11(1), 55–75. https://doi.org/10.15760/comminfolit.2017.11.1.47
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 About the Project