Me and My Antennas: A Validation of Information Needs

I first read Wiegand’s Mom and Me article published in 1998 a couple of years ago when I was taking “Understanding of Information” at Pitt. I had a chance to read it again for the User Perspectives class recently. The article raised a case where the author as a son helped his mom to buy a car. Although he had gone through all kind of research process, his mom seems neglected the information gained from “should-do” or “best practice” process.

Personal Information Economy of Mom and Me?
Professor Wiegand refers to personal information economy as the way the people value information differently. However, this might not be a case if he realized that his mom already made up her mind for whatever reason. In that case, the issue might fall into communication component rather than the personal information economy. As in library perspective, it could be compared to reference interview. One this that he may need to know is his mom wanted to buy a specific brand name car from a specific dealer rather than wanted to buy a car. Well if his mom wanted a specific car, why did she ask him to help her then?

As he stated when he told his mom that we would bring her to a public library to check out consumer report. She agreed but “seems confused“. Yes, she maybe confused whether she should be consulted by consumer report. Or she maybe confused that why he has to go to public library to get a consumer report. Or the confusion may come from the uncertainly of getting the one in her mind. But… what was it exactly her confusion? and what exactly in her mind?

Maybe she just wanted someone to validate her decision making. In this case, she already made decision and that car was the only one choice in her mind. She might just want him to go help for helping in negotiation and collect information just for that specific car with that specific dealer. As we all know, two is more powerful than one in doing both activities… So maybe he was just a source of validation of his mom’s decision.

Transferability of value of information
Anyway, the personal information economy is still a case for this case study, if we know how his mom value information. Regardless of serious research actions, we know that they went for a test drive. However, this might not help that much. Let remind back to when she “realize” that she need a new car.

From the article, he said his mom’s best friend was the referee with all information about the car and benefits. At this point, when actually her need emerge? Before or after she got that information? (Well, information could stimulate more needs though, not just only serving needs.) Absolutely it seems to be literally obvious that she valued the information provided by her friend a lot. Does that mean such value of information from her friend can be transferred to herself?

What I do mean by that is that his mom valued information gained from her friend who valued the information before her. (Wait! Just want to make sure that you realize that I am talking about the value of information, not the information itself.) In another word, his mom carried/was transferred all or some value of information from her friend. Her friend may different ways of valuing information and might be totally based on consumer reports and intensive library research. It would be more interesting if that was a case. Then the question would be “is it as good/appropriate/valid as the information from her son (as information professional)?”.

However, in general, personal information economy could be inappropriate when people do not make decision based on “information” perceived, but cognitive and/or affective preferences (i.e., color and nice model). Nonetheles, I do not know what the possibility is.

Selecting the Best TV Antenna: Spinning Around
After reading and thinking about the article, I thought reflectively about my own experience recently on buying a TV antenna. I have to say upfront that I am NOT going to review what is the best antenna (in case someone lost from a search engine to this page).

I used to have cable TV for the first six months. Then I realized I watched TV less than 8 hours a week. So I decided to stop cable service and use an in-door antenna instead.

I had no idea about the reception in this area in general. However, I “guessed” it should be “not bad” because there are antennas selling in many stores in this area. With my limitation in transportation, the most accessible place for me to get the antenna was Ace. I remembered that my eyes ran pass that section once, but not even picked it up to get information (not even price).

When I went to buy it, I saw only one model in the store. And it is Ace TV antenna. I do not know about the quality of the brand in general. But my perception about the product with the same brand as the store has been just “OK” or “good enough” with lower price. Yes, the price was not bad for me. It looked like general antenna as I have seen before.

I then tried to learn about the product by reading the description on the box instead of asking for the detail from the staff (though a guy asked me once and I said no). I am kind of appreciated to learn about the product myself since I thought it was quite straightforward. Also I hate to listen to the staff and try to jugde the bias from their suggestions or information. Since I do not need anything complicated or advance, just reading the box should be enough. After reading the detail on the box and turning the box around for 2 minutes, I walked out the store with my first antenna.

While I was in store and investigating the antenna, I saw such thing called VHF, UHF,FM amplifier. It was somewhat pricey in my opinion (2-3 times higher than the antenna itself. I learned that there was such thing exist but did not pay attention to buy since I thought I would want to try the antenna first.

I had used that antenna for more than 6 months. It was not that perfect, but “good enough” for me. Until I found difficulties when the weather is quite poor condition, I thought about the amplifier I saw. I thought it would help the antenna to get better signal and deliver better quality of image.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across eBay searching on “TV amplifier”. However, instead of TV amplifier, I found out that there is such a thing called HDTV antenna with amplifier. I was quite intrigue but the “HDTV” word because of my TV set is HDTV. To maximize the use of performance (in addition to watching DVD) would be another great idea. Also the prices are close to the one I have had. I decided to do a little bit research more about that.

After seeing the whole list of indoor HDTV antenna available on eBay, I found the one I am interested which was Philips with 50dB amplifier. However, I wanted to compare the normal price before I started bidding. I used the price comparison prices and found out that amazon has the best price for this model. On Amazon, there was only one review of that product with 2 (out of) 5 star. I read the review and the reviewer talked about the difficulties she had. Also she suggested the one that works for her which was the cheaper Zenith.

Zenith had about 200 reviews with 4.5 stars on average. However, the reviews are ranged from worst-1 to best-5 experience.

I was reluctant to make decision at that time when I tried to compare these two products. I like Philips as it is a good brand. Also my TV and DVD player are also Philips. It would be more compatible, I guessed. The most interesting part for me was it was the highest frequency amplifier I had ever seen. Therefore, it should work really good well, especially with HDTV signal. However, the only one review makes me unsure about the quality of the product.

In the contrary, the Zenith model was cheaper and had a lot more reviews, though mixed by good and bad feedbacks. But the number of feedbacks should tell you something. Also the zenith got better reviews on other sites. Pretty much based on the number of reviews and rating, I chose to buy Zenith.

The Zenith was pretty good, at least a lot better than the first one. However, the picture quality from the antenna was still not quite extremely impressed, especially HDTV (I might expect too much for HDTV). But it is good for me, although the signals of some channels were weaker than the first one. I though I would end up using this one.

A couple of days later, I had a chance to go to Wal-Mart and saw the Philips in-store. I thought “Well, it is nothing wrong for testing if it is better. I could just return any of them (I mean Zenith and Philips). I bought the Philips just to validate whether I made a wrong decision. I came home and checked immediately. And I made the right decision. The Philips did not deliver better picture quality. So I returned it.

I told this story to my friend. He said he ran across such a thing once on Radioshack website. He later printed the detail out for me. The price was not on the top priorities. However, instead, the design looks nicer with the LCD, which makes it looks more “hi-tech”. I decided to get it from the local store, tested it at home. The result was it was not better than the Zenith. So I am going to return the one from Radioshack and no longer validate it anymore. I think that is “enough” since I have spent “enough” resources to validate it.

This experience was not just about exploration or information discovery, but involved validation, mostly at the end. This case is different than Mom and Me in a number of ways. For example, my case began with no referee. The information was gained onsite. I had a few “basic” presets and no other choice.

For the second, I pretty much relied on “positive social experiences”, though with not much capacity to judge the trustworthiness of the sources, instead of “negative individual experience” or the information I gain directly from the packages themselves.

The third purchase was the pure validation action, at least, to confirm the decision-making. For the forth time, I carried the value of information that my friend suggested that it was very relevant and trustworthy to buy the antennas.

Two out of four antennas were bought for validation my decision-making. However, it might not be the good comparison since you could not validate the decision to buy car as the way you buy the TV antenna because of, obviously, the price and return policy. But at least, it is to confirm that the validation is actually needed for information interaction, especially as a part of decision-making process. But how people validate? and what do they really validate? I (or we) may need to find out more…


Wiegand, W. (1998, August). Mom and me: A difference in information values. American Libraries.


One response to “Me and My Antennas: A Validation of Information Needs

  1. You make interesting points with regard to ‘value’ and ‘validation’. The idea of giving weight to something promoted by someone you trust or whose opinion you value is not something that occurred to me before. I have done similar to your ‘validation’ example. It works with something that is easily carried. I have been thinking about buying a new TV. It would be great to try some out in my home, but the act of getting them from the store to my home and unpacking, testing, returning those that don’t work as well is daunting.


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