You may now download a PDF of my dissertation, Where’d You Get Those Nightcrawler Hands? The Information Literacy Practices of Cosplayers. I’d love to hear about it if you use it in your research!


In a time of abundant information, misinformation, and disinformation, information literacy—the ability to find, evaluate, use, and share information—is a key competency for people of all ages. Traditional models of information literacy depict a universal set of skills that can only be learned via instruction from an information professional and must be used in a linear order. More recent models describe it as a set of fluid sociocultural practices that is unique to a particular context, shared by a group of people in that context, and able to be developed through both instruction and personal experience.

One context in which information literacy has rarely been studied is that of the affinity space, an informal space—physical or digital—in which participants come together around a shared interest and learn. This qualitative research study investigates the information literacy practices of participants in the affinity space surrounding cosplay, a creative pursuit in which people dress up and roleplay as beloved characters from narratives such as television, video games, and comic books. The study used information horizon maps to ask participants to graphically depict themselves, the information sources they use for cosplay, and relationships between themselves and the resources, as well as relationships the resources have to each other. Through information horizon interviews, participants discussed specific cosplay-related information-seeking incidents and the resources and strategies they used to find the information they needed.

Findings indicate that participants use a variety of resources, with all participants mentioning turning to other people for help. Participants also described using many different social media platforms, web-based resources, and events. Participants discussed the way they curate cosplay-related information and the role of trial-and-error in their information seeking process. Trial-and-error is not usually included in either traditional or recent sociocultural models of information literacy. This study suggests that future models should incorporate this part of the information-seeking process, especially when describing information-seeking and use in everyday life contexts rather than academic or professional contexts.

This dissertation concludes with a set of recommendations for information literacy instructors to leverage interest-driven information literacy practices in formal educational environments.

Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @kimberlyhirsh