This is a lynchpin chapter in that preceding chapters have provided the essential context for it and the following ones feed off it, and its relative significance is reflected by the greater space devoted to it. The massive exodus of the information user from the physical space to the virtual space and the opening up of information resources to millions of people who once had poor access to information resources requires us all to reflect on what this really means in information-seeking terms. This chapter enables this reflection by profiling and evaluating the information-seeking behaviour of the digital information consumer. This is largely undertaken by visiting the huge evidence base that the CIBER research group have amassed over the years during the Virtual Scholar research programme (2001–8), the biggest of its kind ever conducted. The evidence base is formed from the millions of digital footprints that people leave behind them after a visit to a digital resource. Using deep log analysis techniques, sense has been made of these data and they are stitched together to create information-seeking portraits for a wide range of scholarly communities, including staff, students and researchers. Via these portraits, user satisfaction and scholarly outcomes are investigated.
It has to be said that the characteristics of the information-seeking behaviour once uncovered come as something of a revelation, and are very different to what might have been expected from reading the established literature on information seeking. The behaviour resembles more that of an e-shopper confronted by the cornucopia of shopping opportunities offered by the web. It is frenetic, promiscuous, volatile and viewing in nature, and, as such, requires us all to radically rethink information provision and delivery to the digital information consumer.
The internet has moved into all corners of our life, online searching has become a daily activity for millions and millions of people. A fundamental shift in the information domain has occurred: science and the public sector are no longer the biggest markets for online services. In recognition of this CIBER (www.ucl.ac.uk/slais/research/ciber/) has spent the past seven years evaluating the information-seeking behaviour of a number of emergent, strategic digital information com munities, most notably those associated with news (Nicholas et al., 2000), health (Nicholas, Huntington, Jamali and Williams, 2007), voluntary and charitable work (Nicholas, Williams and Dennis, 2004) and scholarly publishing.