n Mousaion - Exploring conceptual models to study consulting engineers' social networks




A literature review on the information behaviour of engineers revealed that engineers utilise various sources, including personal contacts, to complete their projects. This article is based on a paper presented at the ProLissa Conference held during March 2011 in Pretoria. It reports on an explorative study into information-seeking and social networking frameworks that could be used to support a study on the role of social networking in the information-seeking and -sharing of consulting engineers. First, an explanation of social networking is provided and shows that a social network can provide the foundation for collaboration. A brief discussion of the life cycle of such collaboration, and how the life cycle of social networks can accommodate the different stages in the life cycle of an engineering project, is shown. Four frameworks are identified and comparatively discussed with the requirements of consulting engineers' project networks to determine their suitability to guide such a study. The four frameworks that were identified are Fisher's (2005) information grounds, Chatman's (2000) small worlds, Jaeger and Burnett's (2010) information worlds and Sonnenwald's (1999) information horizons. In conclusion, the main features of social networks and the characteristics that need to be accommodated in an appropriate information behaviour framework to study information-seeking and information sharing in consulting engineers' social networks are summarised.


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