Exploring information behaviour and meaningful experience amongst hikers on the West Highland Way

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Introduction. This paper discusses the information behaviour of hikers on the West Highland Way in Scotland by exploring meaningful experiences described by fifty participants walking the route.
Methods. Using an ethnographic approach, participants were interviewed in the field at sites on the West Highland Way using semi-structured questions.
Analysis. Qualitative results are discussed and analysed using inductive thematic analysis and links to literature are established.
Results. Two types of meaningful experience were found in the interview data: connections with nature and social connections. Profound natural connections were found to feature embodied information from sensory interaction with the environment, resulting in a contemplative mindset and offering well-being benefits. Social connections with family, friends and fellow walkers were also described as meaningful, situating the activity as a ‘higher thing’ and demonstrating further well-being benefits.
Conclusions. This initial study indicates that natural and social connections are key to meaningful experience in walking the West Highland Way. A broader information behaviour study based on this work will further explore the use of embodied information, contemplation in information science, serious leisure as a ‘higher thing’, and well-being benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2204
JournalInformation Research
Early online date26 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2022
EventISIC 2022 Information Seeking in Context Conference - Berlin, Germany
Duration: 26 Sept 202229 Sept 2022


  • information behavior
  • ethnography
  • hiking
  • contemplation
  • fieldwork
  • information practices
  • wellbeing
  • health
  • West Higland Way
  • Scotland
  • walking


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