Institutional ethnography is a method of inquiry that brings attention to people’s everyday work while simultaneously highlighting broader sites of administration and governance that may be organising that work. The purpose of this paper is to argue that the integration of institutional ethnography in health information practice research represents an important shift in the way that Library and Information Science professionals and researchers study and understand these practices.
This paper first explores the key tenets and conceptual underpinnings of Dorothy Smith’s institutional ethnography, illuminating the importance of moving between translocal and the local contexts and identifying ruling relations. Drawing from a library and information science study that combined interviews and textual analyses to examine the social organisation of family caregivers’ health-related information work, the paper then explores the affordances of starting in the local particularities and then moving outwards to the translocal.
The paper concludes with an overall assessment of what institutional ethnography can contribute to investigations of health information practices. By pushing from the local to the translocal, institutional ethnography enables a questioning of existing library and information science conceptualisations of context and of reappraising the everyday-life information seeking work/non-work dichotomy. Ultimately, in considering both the local and the translocal, institutional ethnography casts a wider net on understanding individuals’ health information practices.
With only two retrieved studies that combine institutional ethnography with the study of health information practices, this paper offers health information practice researchers a new method of inquiry in which to reframe the application of methods used.