Information Needs & Information Seeking Behavior

Nerdfighers Obama

With my last post, I stated that my chosen community is going to be Nerdfighters, or more accurately Nerdfighteria. Due to a lack of academic writings, I have both focused and expanded my research to look at the information community of youths(13-19), an age group that make up the majority of the Nerdfighter community, particularly examining youth’s engagement in virtual communities through the use of social media.

Most of the studies on youth information seeking is focused on the context of school and the utilization of electronic resources to meet their information needs and usually Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP) is the model used as a framework for those studies. However, as Nerdfighteria is a mostly virtual community fandom created around being fans of John Green/Hank Green, it definitely is part of a person’s personal interest/everyday life/identity and therefore the information needs of this community is generally personal and focus on an interest in John Green, his books, or looking for a positive interest-based community to join.

I first looked at using Savolainen’s Everyday Life Information Seeking (ELIS) which breaks down information seeking in informal environments through two veins (2010):

  • problem-specific information, meaning a specific information need
  • orienting information

While Savolainen’s model did open doors in information seeking studies and can possibly be applied to the non-work, non-school community of Nerdfigheria. However, it is Ederlez’s information encountering and Dresang’s Radical Change Theory that I apply more readily to the information seeking behavior of Nerdfighteria.

Information encountering is “a memorable experience of an unexpected discovery of useful or interesting information” (Ederlez, 1998) and Nerdfighteria certainly encompasses the possibility of that. On the Nerdfighter forum on Ning, you will see multiple discussion on everything from lifestyle advice to current issues to just about everything and even just in a Nerdfighter video alone, like this one, John or Hank Green might jump from multiple topics allowing a viewer an information encounter experience. In fact, Hank Green mentions in a discussion on the results so far on their 2014 Nerdfighter census that the #1 way a person hears about Nerdfighters is through accidental discovery.

A friend (she rather not list her name so I gave her a nickname), Anne, I interviewed is part of Nerdfighteria and coincidentally make up one of those numbers. She discovered Nerdfighters in early 2012 through a Livejournal link  and now she counts herself as part of the community of Nerdfighters. She’s seen almost every video and there are plenty. While she bumped into this community through her involvement in the community she also encounter new information about authors she has never heard of and social issues she is unaware of. (Anne, Personal Communication, September 24, 2014)

But speaking of social issues, one big part of the Nerdfighter community is the participatory culture around it for creative expression and civic engagement.  By participatory culture, I mean in this digital age, people are not only consumers of information, but also creators of it. In this new digital age, Radical Change Theory helps understand youth information behavior in the context of Web 2.0 and emerging technologies by looking not only at the people, but the changing nature of information resources as well. The theory is based on three digital age principles  (2009):

  • Interactivity – dynamic, nonlinear, and nonsequential learning and information behavior with an increasing sense of control by end-users
  • Connectivity – sense of community or construction of social worlds that emerge from changing perspectives and expanded associations
  • Access – breaking of barriers and the possibility of a wide diversity of opinions

Nerdfighteria is a fluid community with many emerging information resources from the development of a Nerdfighter wiki to collaboration projects on various topics to meet the information needs of the group. It is an active community with a participatory culture that encourages its members to “decrease world suck” by not just passively receiving information, but interacting and connecting with it. Decreasing world such may mean helping someone open a door or everyday goodwill acts or educating people or yourself about various social issues and how to help. Much of the writings on Nerdfighteria is focus on the community being a driving force for social change with yearly charity projects, political participation, micro lending on Kiva, etc. At this time, John Green is partnering with Bill Gates to raise money for water in Ethiopia and through the Nerdfighteria community, they more than met their goal. They almost doubled it.



Dresang, E. T. & Koh, K. (2009). Radical change theory, youth information behavior, and school libraries, Library Trends 58(1), pp. 26-50. Retrieved from:

Erdelez, S. (1999). Information encountering: It’s more than just bumping into information. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science 25(3). Retrieved from

Green, H. [vlogbrothers]. (2010, June 16). VidCon, Oil Spill, Punishments, Shane Dawson, and my Balls [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Green, H. [vlogbrothers]. (2014, May 29). 2014 Nerdfighter Census Analysis [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Savolainen, R. (2009). Everyday life information seeking. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences. Retrieved from


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