SLIS Research Spotlight: Dr. Gary Burnett

Dr. Gary Burnett is a Princeton graduate who arrived to the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) with an interest in how different spheres of social communities interact and react, stemming from his PhD in poetry: “The experience of spending so many years with poetry allows me to focus on other kinds of cultural productions in ways that are outside of standard social science methods.”

Dr. Gary Burnett, Professor at the School of Library and Information Studies

Dr. Burnett’s work has established theoretical linkages between the sociological behaviors of users on the Internet and in the physical world that we occupy.   He and a former FSU doctoral student, Dr. Paul Jaeger, have authored a book called Information Worlds, in which Dr. Burnett posits that “in social settings, from the smallest to the largest instances, information is conceptualized, used and interwoven into social interaction.”   His work began with studies of online communities’ use of texting to exchange information as part of their day-to-day social activities, but has grown to examine the ways in which multiple social worlds interact – or conflict with each other – because of differences in how they value or conceptualize information and its place in the larger world.

This singular unification of information sharing could greatly affect the way in which we understand human interaction.  Since information sharing occurs at all levels, these theories and insights can be applied widely and in many different contexts.  In a development that Dr. Burnett finds both flattering and energizing, several doctoral students – both at FSU and elsewhere – are using the theoretical framework from Information Worlds to study phenomena as diverse as the relationships between players in massive online gaming, library history, the exchange of political information in South Korea via Twitter, the information-related activities of homeless youth, and the information worlds inhabited by groups of parents of children with Down Syndrome.

Dr. Burnett is excited about his next steps in forwarding this theoretically-rooted analysis of social contexts, and is currently working, with an FSU doctoral student, on a study of the rhetorical framing of political information shared by Tea Party and Occupy Movement groups on Facebook.