Battling the knowledge factor : a study of farmers" use of the internet to support information seeking, learning and knowledge processes in Queensland

Starasts, Ann Maree Taylor. (2005). Battling the knowledge factor : a study of farmers" use of the internet to support information seeking, learning and knowledge processes in Queensland PhD Thesis, School of Natural and Rural Systems Management, The University of Queensland.

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Author Starasts, Ann Maree Taylor.
Thesis Title Battling the knowledge factor : a study of farmers" use of the internet to support information seeking, learning and knowledge processes in Queensland
School, Centre or Institute School of Natural and Rural Systems Management
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2005
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr. Jeff Coutts
Dr. Warwick Easdown
Total pages 414
Collection year 2005
Language eng
Subjects 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
Formatted abstract

This thesis explores the use of internet technology by farmers in relation to individual learning and knowledge processes. Despite increasing rural internet connections, little has been identified in regard to the information needs and expectations of users in applying internet technology to individual and community goals of sustainability and economic viability. This contrasts with an apparent 'supply of information' focus by rural institutions.

Literature on the application of internet technology in rural contexts includes largely demographic barriers to adoption, and quantitative studies of use. In contrast, this research occurs within theoretical frameworks of learning and knowledge development, and incorporates a significant focus on the specific context of the learner.

The research incorporates three phases. Following an exploratory pilot phase, a series of qualitative case studies with 16 grain and cotton farmers in south Queensland explored use of the internet to support self-directed learning and information seeking. Longitudinal case studies based on interviews and information -seeking protocols were performed over an 18-month period. Issues that emerged were tested with a larger group of rural internet users across Queensland through an on-line survey in phase three.

Although the technology was adopted among users in terms of accessing marketing, weather and production updates, key themes related to its application in rural knowledge domains emerged. Participants' highly situated nature of learning and information seeking contrasted strongly with much on-line information. Participants only saw new information as related to their learning if it was accessed through processes strongly linked to their individual properties and issues they saw as relevant. Experiential processes and content formed the basis of much information seeking, learning and knowledge development. Much on-line information and services was seen as devoid of this dimension.

Participants were using on-line information systems to communicate with others and seek out new contacts in line with their highly social nature of knowledge and information processes. The potential of internet technology to support learning was seen in expanding networks of contacts and facilitating communication.

This research highlighted that avid users of the technology in the study were increasingly looking to internet technology as a source of information and learning about new rural technologies and research, and had high expectations of accessing new information from on-line sources (as opposed to information they could access from within more traditional information sources and networks). The study highlighted that even fanners not connected to the internet were accessing on-line information through advisers, family and friends.

The study contributed to the development of a greater understanding of the emerging digital divide as described in literature on technology adoption. This divide is seen as not purely one dimensional, but rather as including aspects of skill in on-line environments, awareness of relevant resources, time to explore and search for information, and information literacy. Users differed in their ability and preparedness to evaluate information from a range of differing contexts as presented in on-line hypertext and discussion environments.

Users in this study were firmly committed to the value and potential of this technology as an information and communication resource, but its potential as a knowledge resource was largely yet to emerge. One issue in supporting rural communities in applying internet technology to knowledge processes is the need for cross promotion of on-line information within traditional media of newspapers and through networks of industry contacts. Information targeting through brokerage and subscription services, and the production of directories of web sites and email contacts may facilitate application of the technology.

This study concluded that in order to re-align technology-based information and services within community knowledge frameworks, systems should be developed that are based on people, dialogue, and sharing information about experiences and perceptions.

Keyword Agriculture -- Computer network resources
Internet -- Australia
Agricultural information networks -- Australia
Information storage and retrieval systems -- Agriculture -- Queensland
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Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
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Created: Wed, 18 Nov 2009, 12:57:48 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service