In fact, robust (oral) information systems that do not rely on technology persist and dominate even after technology-based resources are introduced. Having studied oral information in oral cultures, oral tradition, and contemporary organizations in the United States and Finland and having introduced the concept of an oral document, I can distinguish between important and trivial utterances. While acknowledging that not everything needs to be digitized, my research seeks to inform the design of and to ensure success when investing in technological resources.
This three-year collaboration, involving Drexel College of Medicine in Philadelphia and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and funded by Rotary International, brings medical professionals, health care workers, and information science researchers together to study and improve health care education and infrastructure. My role relates to the behavior and information habits of women in oral cultures as they access and process information and educational materials about health, particularly from community libraries.
CHOICES Uganda is an international, multidisciplinary effort to improve maternal and child health in Uganda by ensuring access to needed information. Professionals and researchers in health sciences, library and information science, and the performing arts collaborate with community members and organizations—in Uganda and in the United States—to create plays that help disseminate health information. The project involves creating the plays and measuring their impact.
In some cultures and situations, oral information continues to be preferred and to dominate. For example, after a child of immigrants reads some formal document, her parents may turn to her expectantly, waiting for her to translate orally the information it contains into a language they can understand. The same dynamic can occur with semiliterate adults. Other situations in which this may occur involve a crisis, an emergency, national security, domestic safety, or just a lack of time. Finally, what we say and how we say it can be impacted by the introduction of a new technology, like a system of writing. What these situations seem to have in common is the use of oral information in ways informed by the context in which they are used.
Through an understanding that acknowledges that orality evolves over time, from the first writing systems to the printing press to the Internet, my research delves into new kinds of orality to understand how people who prefer oral information evaluate, parse, and access information.
My study of video blogging, or “vlogging,” delved into questions about the nature of oral documents and social media. Studying non-traditional, oral documents can inform efforts to extend traditional library and information science practices of description, storage, and retrieval to artefacts made available through emerging media. This study extends the method used to identify a document by determining whether an online artefact incorporates one or more properties of documents, to identify how a document can incorporate a dialogue.
I worked as a research assistant under Michael Eisenberg and others on this now-completed longitudinal study that examined the impact of secondary school reform on school media centers.
Turner, Deborah, & Rodgers, Michelle. Understanding the health information infrastructure in Uganda. IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.
Turner, Deborah. The fourth orality. New Media & Society.
Turner, Deborah, and Michelle Rogers. Documents and diagnosis. Information Research.
Turner, Deborah. Sustainability and library management education. Journal of Sustainability Education.
Turner, Deborah. Reconsidering library collections: Community services as documents. Annual Meeting of the Document Academy. Sydney, Australia, July 2015. Read abstract.
Turner, Deborah. Orality, technology, and library services. Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology . St. Louis, MO, November 2015.