Understanding Complex Information Evironments: A Social Analysis of Watershed Planning

 Digital Libraries 97: Proceedings of the ACM Digital Libraries Conference,
Philadelphia, PA, July 23-26, 1997;  p. 161-186.
Lisa R. Schiff, Nancy A. Van House and Mark H. Butler
School of Information Management and Systems
102 South Hall
University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
Phone: 510-642-1464
Fax: 510-642-5814
email: {lschiff, vanhouse, markhb}@sims.berkeley.edu


This paper presents an approach to social analysis for the development of Digital Libraries. If digital libraries are viewed as both social and technological artifacts, then we must understand the context of the social world for which it is being designed. Situated action and the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu are suggested as a sound basis for this type of research. Initial findings of our work in the arena of watershed planning, the current phase of the U.C. Berkeley Digital Library Project are reported.



The U.C. Berkeley Digital Library, part of the National Digital Libraries Initiative, is a work-centered digital library focused on environmental information for California. The newest component of the project centers on the issue of watershed planning along a river north of San Francisco. The goal is to support the activities of the variety of people engaged in work related to watershed planning, from environmental planning to creek restoration.

The User Needs Assessment and Evaluation team is engaged in analysis of user group interests and requirements for the U.C. Berkeley Digital Library. We view a digital library (DL) as not only a technological artifact, but a social artifact. The DL must be designed and evaluated within the larger context of the social world in which it operates: the people who use it, the purposes for which they use it, and its intended and unintended consequences for, not just their work, but the complex web of relations among participants, work, tools, and technology.

This paper offers an example of an approach we feel is useful for DLs. This is not our final analysis of the community for which this component of our DL is being developed, but rather a discussion of our theoretical and research approach with some initial findings. We will first present the schools of thought that have we drawn on most heavily and will follow with results of our investigations.


Our work is rooted in two approaches to understanding human behavior: situated action and the work of Pierre Bourdieu. Situated action provides tools for understanding the mechanisms of that behavior, while Bourdieu provides an analytical framework.

To say that action is situated is to say that it is performed by specific individuals in specific socio-cultural contexts using tools and technologies for particular purposes. The person- acting, activity, and context interact to mutually constitute one another [10]. Practice both reflects and shapes understanding. Work, too, is situated. The person, community, technology, artifacts, and practices of work dynamically constitute one another. Available technology affords certain resources and constraints that affect practice; people's work practices affect how technology is designed and used. This does not simply mean that action derives meaning from its context: the person-acting, activities and practices, context, and artifacts are continually interacting and affecting one another. Praxis (day-to-day, routine, habitual activity) plays a key role in constructing meaning and in producing and reproducing social order [7] [11] [12] [15] [16]. The outcome of this are the work practices that we as researches can focus on in our effort to understand the world of the DLs potential users.

To create and assess technologies that support and augment work practices such as DLs, we must have a clear sense of those practices as they currently exist and of the social environment in which they occur, before the DL is developed and available for us. A DL alters the context in which people are engaged in their work, making available new tools and knowledge embedded in the equipment, technology and information that comprise the DL. This can restructure the relationships among participants as well as altering their work practices.

This effect is particularly evident in the contested area of environmental planning. Scarce environmental resources have different uses and values for different people. Information is one of the resources that people use and manipulate to create their own interpretations and to contest others'. The voluntary and regulatory actions that result from environmental planning can have substantial economic, political and practical implications for the participants. Design and evaluation of a DL must be sensitive to the work and its context, and the many possible consequences of altering the relations among participants, tasks, technology, and resources.

Watershed1 planning, as the participants in our project define it, is consensus-based decision-making intended to enhance water quality and natural resources, protect habitat, prevent erosion, and sustain resource-based economic activity while managing the pressures of population growth and urbanization. One of the analytical tools derived from the situated action approach is community of practice, defined by Lave as "...a set of relations among persons, activity and world, over time and in relation with other tangential and overlapping communities of practice. A community of practice is an intrinsic condition for the existence of knowledge, not least because it provides the interpretive support necessary for making sense of its heritage."2 People engaged in environmental planning for a specific area such as a watershed consitute a kind of a community of practice constructing a shared interpretation: in this case, an agreement about the current state of their watershed and the actions, voluntary and regulatory, that should be taken to meet these goals. They represent a variety of stake-holder groups with varying interests and training.

Much of the research on communities of practice has assumed, if not homogeneity, at least a congruence among the participants [8] [12]. Environmental planning, however, is a delicate negotiation of limited agreement among parties with conflicting goals from differing communities of practice: landowners and environmentalists, scientists and farmers, biologists and engineers, government agencies and citizens.

The second platform for our efforts to understand the social arena of watershed planning is the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu [1] [2] [3] [4], who provides a theoretical framework and suite of analytical tools with which it is possible to reveal social relations and resources. This perspective forces us to recognize that we are always dealing with complex, interrelated, interdependent relations between people, and between people and institutions, which are fundamentally driven by a competition for control over resources and power. His focus on the interaction between diverse groupings makes his theoretical work especially useful for analyzing the field of watershed planning.

2.1 Bourdieu's Analytical Tools

Five analytical categories or tools are central to Bourdieu's framework: field, capital, habitus, agent, and practice. The field, defined as a network of relations among people and institutions, is a paramount notion because all action occurs within the logic of a given field. The field can be understood as an area of contested boundaries within which there is competition over resources and even the boundaries of the field itself. Bourdieu uses the metaphor of the game, with the "field" as the playing field. The competition, however, is not just to win but to define the rules, the players, and the extent of the playing field. For instance, within the field of environmental planning, conflict exists between resource use, exploitation and preservation and whose authority is valid for making those decisions.

The second and third of Bourdieu's analytical categories are capital and agents. In addition to the capital recognized by society, such as money, power, and recognition, fields often have their own capital. In the arts, for example, values are often the inverse of society at large: popular success may be disdained. Bourdieu identifies several large categories of capital: economic, social and cultural. Economic capital is financial and material resources. Social capital is standing or status, and cultural capital is the common sense, "innate" knowledge of how to do things "right.". Within any field, different people have different sets of economic, social and cultural capital, which to a certain extent can be converted from one to another. For instance, someone wanting to be a part of a certain social network may purchase what appear to symbols of that network (certain clothing, furniture, etc.), which will immediately be recognized as right or wrong to longtime inhabitants of that network. A piece of "bad" art will not usher one into circles of art aficionados, no matter how high the price tag is.

To illustrate with an example from our research, a family that has been farming for generations will have a great deal of economic capital bound up in their land and farming output, social capital derived from years of farming in that community, and cultural capital in the form of knowledge about farming practices and accepted land use. By contrast, the many newly arrived urban transplants do not have the social or cultural capital to fit in without conflict. Though they have the required economic capital to purchase the land (more economic capital than the family farmer has) and can perhaps even convert some of it to cultural capital by buying visible farming equipment, they do not have the cultural capital necessary to inhabit the land in ways deemed appropriate by the existing community, nor do they have the social capital (network of contacts with non-transplant landowners) required to ease their entry into the field.

However, the very conflict between "real" farmers and "hobby" farmers may change the way the capitals are valued. For instance, if the social capital of the new residents is weak among "real" farmers, it may be strong within local government, resulting in changes in zoning or permitting processes, which could alter what is considered legal land use by the community.

Agents, the next analytical tool, are the categories of people populating a given field. Similar agents have similar, though not duplicate, sets of capitals. These categories can be broadly or narrowly construed. The watershed planning field has several categories of agents--landowners, professionals, organizations, and government agencies. However, within the category "landowners," we can find several others: family farmer, corporate farmer, timber harvester, hobby farmer, residential land-owner, renter, and vineyard owner. Furthermore, an individual often occupies more than one agent location. A certified professional forester who also harvests timber from his own land is an agent in both the professional and landowner categories. At different times, different capitals will be invoked, depending upon the field, the practices and the relations with other agents.

Capital is acquired through formal and informal educational process and through one's lifetime of experiences. Individuals' initial set of capital is socially inherited from families and close communities. It is from these social units that we develop our first and formative set of tastes, understandings and behavior patterns, which together form what Bourdieu refers to as habitus, the fourth analytical tool discussed here.

Habitus is an individual's particular outlook and orientation, developed primarily during childhood and youth and most strongly influenced by class and socio-economic background. It can be thought of as the common sense understandings which prism our view of the world, creating a tendency for each of us to see and not see certain things. It affects one's interpretations and even the set of actions that seem possible. Habitus is both structuring in that its permanent imprint colors our vision, and structured, in that we are constantly adding to it through the accumulation of our experiences. The nature of habitus allows for great homologies, though not exact duplications, across individuals within a particular class and across individuals who share a particular defining moment, such as professional training. Biologists, for instance, may think of water as a medium for fish, while farmers think of it as a resource needed by their crops.

Practices--how we act, what we choose to do and are able to do-- are influenced by the field and our habitus. This is the last of Bourdieu's analytical tools. To invoke Bourdieu's analogy of the game once more, players have a certain orientation and understanding of the rules, and certain capabilities which they bring to the game. As they play, they anticipate and respond almost instinctively, based on their habitus. Thus practices can only be understood and actually seen within the boundaries of a specified field, and will vary according to habitus. Someone attempting to move in a field, but not having the habitus to understand it will not be able to participate well. The hobby farmer may still be living in the world of residential home ownership and not land ownership, each of which has a different set of practices. When rains come, the hobby farmer may be waiting for road repair crews to come and fix the eroding driveway, while the real farmer will have already shored up their own road and will be annoyed that the hobby farmer's driveway is collapsing onto their property.

2.2 Practices and Artifacts

Bourdieu's analytical tools help us to identify and understand patterns of behaviors, and alliances and conflicts that otherwise would seem purely random, personality driven, or based on the most obvious of power struggles. Situated action reminds us that practices, tools, understandings, and actions are interdependent. Artifacts play a key role in structuring practice and understanding [8] [16] [15]. Latour [9] describes inscription devices such as texts and images as "immutable mobiles"-- instantiations of the work that has been done, the information being acted upon, and the work to be done--by means of which practice is aligned at various spaces and times. In cognitive work such as environmental planning, people create, act upon, and orient their work, individual and collective, around such "immutable mobiles" as reports, notes, minutes, memos, maps, graphs, to name just a few.

For example: an evolving draft of a report structures the work of the research group engaged in creating it. The structure of a required environmental impact report structures the practice by which a team will actually create the report. A map reflects the boundaries of an environmental planning effort and therefore the stakeholders and the problem domain. A map that shows soils types and vegetation but not the distribution of fish and animal species will orient the planning around some factors and not others. Artifacts provide an important orientation for both the work to be done and the researcher seeking to understand it.

These "immutable mobiles" are so powerful that the result of some environmental planning efforts is deliberately not instantiated in a "plan," a document. Our informants tell us of the value, sometimes, of a deliberate fuzziness of agreement: an agreement on broad principles that are never reified in a plan, to allow interpretive latitude.

In our work we have approached the study of people's information actions through their everyday information practices and the artifacts that they use and produce. These include not only paper documents but electronic items. The medium and the practices mutually constitute one another--we can do things with electronic texts that radically change the affordances of the text [5]. In the case of environmental planning, the tools enhance and constrain the process; the DL, by offering new tools and affordances, may change the work and the balance among the participants[17]. Effective design of tools and representations requires attention to this multidirectional, dynamic relationship.

Below we will discuss the preliminary results of our work to understand this set of relationships in the case of watershed planning. This should be seen as both an example of the approach to social analysis for DL development as outlined above and initial reporting of work in progress, in the spirit of the theoretical memo of ethnographic field work. While we are not engage in pure ethnography, our method of in-depth, unstructured interviews is inspired by that method.[13]


The U.C. Berkeley DL was approached by the Resources Agency of the State of California to help develop a system to support a demonstration project of cooperative watershed planning in an area just north of San Francisco. Given the diverse set of interests concerning the watershed and the fact that the land within it is almost entirely privately owned, cooperative efforts have been recognized as the only realistic manner in which to address the variety of issues faced in resource management.

The task of the User Needs Assessment and Evaluation Team is to discover what kinds of information and practices various people employ in watershed planning. These understandings can almost be directly translated into information stored in the system and tools that can be developed. The Resources Agency provided us with our initial entree into the community by organizing a meeting of many key players involved in environmental planning, including the local Resources Conservation District, environmental restoration groups, the Department of Fish and Game, the National Resources Conservation Service and others. These sources provided us with additional contacts.

Our primary data gathering method has been video and audio recordings of unstructured interviews with representative individuals engaged in watershed planning. Interviews focus on how people use maps in their work. Maps were chosen as an organizing artifact because they are important to land stewardship for all types of individuals, they are a natural jumping off point for talking about other information uses and they reflect a pre-existing interest on the part of the developers of the U.C. Berkeley DL.

3.1 Interview Findings

Using Bourdieu's theories as a guide, we have analyzed our interviews for invocations of various fields, their capitals and boundaries; categories of agents and relations between them; and practices and tools surrounding maps.
3.1.1 Fields
Our first task has been to identify the field in which we are operating, because it is the logic of the field which helps us to understand the practices agents engage in. We have identified several primary fields: Natural Sciences (a conglomeration of biology, hydrology, ecology, etc.), Planning, Land use/Landownership, and Politics. These fields are central in the sense that they are primary fields for the categories of agents in whom we are interested. However, these agents also inhabit a common field, that of Watershed Planning. The figure below illustrates how these primary fields overlap at one point, the field of Watershed Planning.

Fields A, B, C and D are the respective fields of Natural, Planning, Land use/Landownership, and Politics. The field of watershed planning is represented by the black area within the overlapping space of the other fields.

3.1.2 Capitals
The conflict within Watershed Planning can be seen in the capitals over which there is competition. The first is water, which is understood and valued differently in different fields. Massive floods, the most recent in Winter of 1997, remind participants that water is not simply a resource but also a force of nature to contend with. Fisheries biologists see water as fish habitat; water agency officials think of water as a resource needed by a growing population; foresters consider water runoff; for vineyard owners it is needed for their crops. The common agreement within the watershed planning field is that the health of the watershed is critical to all their interests. Common experiences such as massive floods during the Winter of 1997 show agents where their interests coincide and diverge. This area has flooded several times in the last decade, and opinions about the causes and remedies differ: fingers are pointed at urbanization (and the removal of vegetation for home-building), timber clear- cutting, farming practices, government neglect of dams and reservoirs. Some argue for letting the river reclaim its natural floodplain, others for more engineering.

Watersheds, being geographically-based, are larger and smaller and contained within one another. A stream watershed is a subset of a river's. The same is true, then, of the agents within the field. The agents differ, however, according to the watershed with which they are most concerned, and so the breadth of their definition of the field of watershed planning. A landowner may think only of the creek(s) on his or her land. As we move out to larger watersheds, more stakeholders become involved, the stakes get higher, and the competition more intense.

Another contested capital is authority over land. Landowners exert the authority of ownership. They can use their land as they wish within the constraints of regulations such as zoning. They can deny access to their land. They generally act to preserve their ownership rights and autonomy. They do not wish to be "told what to do with my own land." For example, although many support efforts to identify and preserve endangered species, they fear the legal constraints that could result if an outsider were to find an endangered species on their land. So they ask for the information to make their own survey and preservation decisions.

Government organizations have authority to protect the public interest via regulation. To avoid antagonizing the landowner community, they tend to exercise those rights only in proportion to the importance of the land for the watershed's health. They often try to exert and extend this authority through persuasion rather than coercion: for example, funding and education is often available to encourage landowners to act in more environmentally- responsible ways. Other agents may have some degree of authority. For instance, the Open Spaces District only has regulatory powers on those lands for which it has purchased development rights, exchanging economic capital for authority Landowners exert a moral or social authority over one another by trying to persuade their neighbors to behave in ways that are sensitive to their impact on one other.

A third key capital is information: information about the state of the watershed, about the land and activities within it, about environmentally-friendly and economically-viable methods of agriculture, and so forth. Information is a scarce and contested capital for many reasons. First, information may give a stakeholder a competitive edge. Our subjects often distinguished between the information that they want to see and what they want someone else to see. Timber harvesters are reluctant to share detailed plans with their competitors or with environmentalists. A landslide threat destroyed several homes in an area north of our study area is being blamed on clear-cutting: the only good data on the slide area belongs to the timber company.

Second, information is often difficult to acquire. It often involves, for example, laborious field work by trained natural scientists. Such costly information may not be shared, or only at a price. One professional forester told us that the reproduction costs of others' reports were too high for him and he had to do without.

Not only the content but the presentation and intelligibility of the information affects its value. One issue in planning is the precision or scale of the data. Natural resources inventories within a watershed involve walking the entire creek and making finely grained assessments of the wildlife and habitat. Habitat restoration requires pinpointing exactly where action is needed. However, landowners are actively disinterested in this level of information. They don't want to know exactly where an endangered species is on their land because that could require them to act in ways they may not want to.

Because different disciplines come together in watershed planning, there are differences in what information people find understandable and usable. Scientists have different needs and skills than landowners. It's not simply that the public has less expertise than the specialists, however. Respondents tell us that landowners often have a much more interdisciplinary understanding than the scientists who may be narrowly specialized. Since watershed planning is multi-resource, an interdisciplinary perspective is important.

3.1.3 Agents
Once the fields have been identified and the boundaries of the primary field determined, we then began to listen for the categories of agents who populate that field. Within the field of watershed planning, we have identified four primary categories of agents, distinguished by the types of practices they engage in and the capitals they hold. Those categories are landowners/land users, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and professionals. Access to technology varies widely not only across types of agents, but within types. A professional forester we interviewed has no phone in his office; a biologist has Internet access and sophisticated data analysis tools; a government soil conservation employee has no Internet access at the field office, despite his agency's World Wide Web presence.

Landowners hold primary authority over property (and thus the watershed) and actively use the land. They are also the conduit for other members of the community who don't own land but use it for recreational, for aesthetic purposes, or indirectly by consumption of certain goods.

Government agencies are historically well established institutions that serve key regulatory roles. These occur at the Federal, state, county and local levels, and include such organizations as the Department of Fish and Game, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and county water agencies. Government agencies hold great regulatory capital, have some land capital, gather information, help landowners act as successful stewards to their land and engage in restoration work.

Non-governmental organizations rarely have regulatory or land authority; they have no land capital, but they have tremendous social capital. They gather some information, promote stewardship by forming alliances with government agencies (so the more social capital they have, the more successful they are) and actually engage in watershed restoration work themselves.

Professionals are similar to consultants. They are independent of government agencies and non-governmental organizations and are hired by others, such as landowners, to complete certain regulated tasks. Professionals include certified foresters, certified tree planters and certified restoration workers. Successful professionals have a high degree of information capital, social capital and cultural capital within the group of agents for which they work.

Again, a given individual can occupy more than one position of agency. We have observed this for instance with a vineyard owner (landowner/land user) who also sits on the board of directors of a non-profit environmental restoration organization (non- governmental organization). In these cases there can be some crossover of capitals. For instance, the cultural capital of being a landowner allowed the vineyard owner to successfully start a watershed group with other landowners along the same creek. Her interest in this however, was due to her position as an agent in the organization category.

3.1.4 Information Practices and Maps
Many environmental planning practices cut across categories of agents. We are interested in widespread practices that can be supported in a DL. A caution: this research is on-going, so this initial report should be read in the manner of the theoretical memo of an ethnography which is used throughout the research effort and undergoes regular revision [13]. We are focusing on maps because they are central to watershed planning, have embedded in them a wide variety of information, are a springboard for other information actions, and reflect a strength of the developers of our system.

Types of Maps

A myriad of maps are employed in the variety of practices of watershed planning. Often. several maps are required for a particular task. The primary types of maps used are county maps, topographical maps, topographical maps, soils maps, vegetation maps, relief maps, parcel maps and vector maps.

Maps are most frequently used in their paper form because it is most accessible, portable and modifiable. Graphical Information Systems (GIS) are used by a selection of government agencies and organizations. A true GIS consists of "...a body of data, a means of processing those data, and a mechanism to control that processing."3 However, as GISs and desire for them have begun to proliferate, we have found that the term has been loosened to include electronic and non-electronic geographic layering systems that do not necessarily provide access to that underlying database. For instance, the predecessor to a GIS is a lightbox and sets of paper maps, which successfully serve to bring together complex sets of information, presenting them in a visual way that makes it possible to see more than each map reveals separately.

Functions of maps

Maps are employed in a variety of ways, for a myriad of purposes. We highlight several key functions of maps for our respondents: creating geographically-based representations of information; educating particular groups; and orienting group work. Each of these functions has an interpretive aspect, in that they all involved choices about which information to bring together, in what manner, for what desired end result. And each of these functions has design implications.

Geographically-based representations

Existing maps are often used as the starting-point for the creation of new representations. Maps are merged or new data is grafted onto a base map. This is often done by actually piecing together or juxtaposing several maps. The result may be one map of a larger geographic area--with no sacrifice of scale, the entire representation simply becomes larger-- or one map that has blended onto it information from multiple sources. Typically, an agent will start with a base map from a county office or from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and then add permanent layers (for example, by hand-coloring in new data) or creating plastic overlays (again, often by hand). For instance, government agencies, organizations and professionals almost always annotate their large topographical maps with outlines of the watershed. Additionally, some maps simply do not exist and need to be developed from scratch.

People do this with paper, mylar, and pens in part because they lack access to more sophisticated technology. The whole process can be quite time-consuming and the result is not easily copied on standard photocopiers. Representing many kinds of data on one map creates graphical difficulties, such as layers and layers of overlays that become opaque. Paper-based technology has its advantages, however. It is easy and readily accessible. Education

A key part of watershed planning is situating people's own actions and interests in the watershed, showing them the interrelationships between their actions and others' and the specific attributes of the watershed (which endangered species exist where, where is creek restoration needed). This is especially important with private landowners who have primary control over almost the entire watershed.

The goal is to promote stewardship of the land by altering peoples' conceptions of the land and land ownership. Government agencies and some non-governmental organizations accomplish this by using maps to boil down an immense set of data about a piece of property--often the audience's own--and represent it in readily-understandable way. For instance, a simple map may show roads and creeks, demonstrating to the landowner which creeks are where on their property and how their unpaved roads drop sediment into the creek. Larger maps pinpointing someone's property within the larger watershed enable a landowner to see their property in context, as both upstream and downstream from neighbors, showing that practices such as disposing of waste in the creek running through their property have a tremendous impact on those downstream.

Orienting Group Work

Watershed-based planning is an activity of many groups, homogeneous and heterogeneous. Maps, especially large wall maps, layered or otherwise, are used to focus discussion and action. First, large maps foster discussion. One non-governmental organizational employee pointed out that a large map demonstrating proposed reorganization made the option "real," more effectively eliciting responses than the smaller report-size maps mailed out before the meeting. Another non- governmental organization always provides multiple views of the same land, often an aerial photograph and a county map, because some people can "see" with pictures and some can see with representations.

Second, maps situate discussions. Topographical and relief maps, along with aerial and ground photos, give participants a "sense" of the land.

Third, maps are used to help make arguments. One landowner, in the middle of a controversy about urbanization, hand-colored a map of the county with different land uses to show a relatively small amount of urbanization. As supporting documents, maps provide a secondary way of viewing information provided in a database, table or narrative. A description of a proposed project gets supported by a map detailing the boundaries of the land in question.

Maps are used as constant reference points during discussions, requiring, we found, continual visual access to maps, often multiple maps simultaneously. Although at first glance it would seem logical to project these large maps via a computer and LCD panel, the paper print-out actually serves the needs of the group much better. As one interviewee said, until LCD panels and computer equipment are cheap enough to allow a small agency to have five or six setups, paper maps are more than adequate.


The design implications are really two-sides of the same coin: unless we take the time to complete the underlying social analysis, we may inadvertently "break" the successful practices of our users or we may develop tools and collect resources that are irrelevant to our users. If our system does not support the printing of large wall-sized maps, we will leave our users with projectable maps that cannot successfully be used throughout the duration of a meeting. If we don't support zooming and screening features, we will preclude entire categories of agents from using our system to learn about their land, or the land around them. Alternatively, this analysis also points to rich areas for development. Users report great problems with scale: they need to bring several maps together, but each one is at a different scale. How can colors dynamically adapt to each other as new layers are added, so that each layer doesn't actually mask previous layers? How can we structure in several standard views of the same sets of data, so that those with varying needs, interests and capabilities are assisted? What are the documents, databases, images and other materials that are of central use to both narrow and broad groupings? These are all possibilities for development that are indicated via the type of social investigation in which we are pursuing.

Completing an analysis of the social setting for which a DL is intended before any system is developed provides us with a richer understanding of the people involved, their relative interests and abilities to act, their opportunities and constraints, and their very goals. With this more intimate view, we are more likely to discover the specific practices that people engage in and how they pursue those practices. This in turn helps us to explore how the tools of a DL could interact, enhance or alter those practices and which groupings of people would be most fruitful to work with during the development and evaluation modes. In this style of research, needs assessment, development and evaluation become grounded in the realities of our users, because our work becomes based in an understanding of the central relations within which all of the activities we are concerned with take place.


This project is funded by the NSF/NASA/ARPA Digital Libraries Initiative CONTRACT # IRI-9411334 , Robert Wilensky, Principal Investigator. The documentation on this project is available at http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu. The content of this report is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the positions or the policies of NSF, NASA, or ARPA. No official endorsement should be inferred.


1. A watershed is a geographically defined area: it is an area bounded by mountain ridges into which water drains. Smaller watersheds exist within larger watersheds.

2. Jean Lave. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991. P. 98.

3. Mapping Science, Committee, United States Geological Survey. Spatial Data Needs: The Future of the National Mapping Program. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1990. p.16.


1. Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1984.

2. Bourdieu, Pierre. "The Forms of Capital." In Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. Ed. John G. Richardson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 1986.

3. Bourdieu, Pierre and Loic J. D. Wacquant. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1992.

4. Bourdieu, Pierre. The Logic of Practice. Stanford. Stanford University Press. 1990.

5. Butler, Mark, Lisa R. Schiff, and Nancy A. Van House. ``Digital Library'' a ``Digital'' ``Library'': Affordances. of the Metaphor (unpublished manuscript). 1997.

6. Chaiklin, Seth and Jean Lave, eds. Understanding Practice: Perspectives on Activity and Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.1993.

7. Giddens, Anthony. The Constitution of Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1984.

8. Hutchins, Edwin. "Learning to Navigate." In Seth Chaiklin, and Jean Lave, Understanding Practice: Perspectives on Activity and Context. Cambridge University Press. 1993. P. 35-63.

9. Latour, Bruno. Science in Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1987.

10. Lave, Jean. Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics, and Culture in Everyday Life. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 1988.

11. Lave, Jean. "The practice of Learning." In: Seth Chaiklin and Jean Lave, eds. Understanding Practice: Perspectives on Activity and Context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 1993.

12. Lave, Jean and Etienne Wenger. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 1991.

13. Lofland, John and Lyn H. Lofland. Analyzing Social Settings : a Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis.3rd ed. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth. c1995.

14. Mapping Science, Committee, United States Geological Survey. Spatial Data Needs: The Future of the National Mapping Program. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 1990.

15. Suchman, Lucy. "Reply to Vera and Simon's Situated Action: a Symbolic Interpretation." Cognitive Science 17 (1993) 71- 75.

16. Suchman, Lucy A. and Randall H. Trigg. "Artificial intelligence as craftwork." In: Seth Chaiklin and Jean Lave, eds. Understanding Practice: perspectives on activity and context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University press. 1993. P. 144- 178.

17. Van House, Nancy A., Lisa R. Schiff, and Mark H. Butler. The Situated Nature of Information: Practices and Artifacts. (Unpublished manuscript). 1997.