CoLIS11: Keynotes

Marcia J. Bates

Title: Fragments of a Paradigm for Information Studies.

Bio: Marcia J. Bates is Professor Emerita in the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Information Studies. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she is a leading authority on information search, user-centered design of information systems, and information practices. She was Editor-in-Chief of the 7-volume Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd Ed. (2010) and has received numerous awards for her research and leadership, including the Association for Information Science and Technology’s Award of Merit. She has been a technical consultant for a number of organizations, including government agencies and technology start-ups. Her three-volume Selected Works of Marcia J. Bates (2016) are available in online bookstores.

  • Abstract

    In 2022, Järvelin & Vakkari, reviewed 50 years of research in library and information science (LIS) and concluded: “A field of research may institutionalize both cognitively and socially.  …[I]t is questionable whether the 50 years have led to cognitive institutionalization in LIS as a whole.  There hardly exists a shared understanding of principal research problems and goals.”  I would have to agree that a serious, coherent paradigm does not yet lie at the heart of information science. However, the field’s strong social institutionalization through journals, conferences, peer review,  awards and all the other social apparatus of a research discipline indicates that we know that we really do have a discipline here, yet we have still somehow failed to articulate its core paradigm in a way that can enable us at last to build a satisfactory intellectual edifice for our discipline. 

    Instead of debating the roles and relationships of various sub-fields of LIS, I plan to tackle this question at its most difficult, nutty core: If information science studies information, then what is information and how can this discipline study this phenomenon?  I need hardly say that conceptualizing information is the most contested question in the field and difficulties with it go a long way in explaining our persisting problems with disciplinary integration and coalescence.  

    I will be proposing an information definition that, I argue, is at the necessary and appropriate level of generalization to be usable as a basis for paradigm-building, without excluding the possibility of discovering and using other conceptions of information as a part of our intellectual territory.  I provide a from-the-ground-up framework for thinking about information in all the contexts in which the field uses the concept. I propose that we can begin the process of developing a true paradigm based on that framework.

    I speak of information first as existing independently of sentient beings, then move to humans and animals and consider how, within the realm of sensing animals, we may think of information in all its variety, subjectivity, and nuance.  I put these ideas in a broad geographic and historical context, so that we can see the increasing sophistication around information processing, use, and transmission as a natural part of the development of biological evolution on the planet. I conclude with suggestions for how information science can build on this information framework to begin the work of serious paradigm construction. 

Ian Ruthven

Title: Information Sculpting: shaping information solutions

Bio: Ian Ruthven is Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde where he leads the Strathclyde ISchool Research Group. He is also a Visiting Research Associate at the University of Pretoria.

He works across the areas of information seeking and retrieval: understanding how and why people search for information and what might help them search more successfully. This has led to many studies of information seeking, especially working with those in marginalised communities, the design of novel interfaces to search systems, and the development of new theories of information interaction. He is the author of Dealing With Change Through Information Sculpting: Becoming Different, a major new text on information behaviour during life transitions.

  • Abstract

    In this presentation I shall propose a new way to think about how we use information to create information solutions, that of Information Sculpting. I will propose that the same shaping processes used by the earliest humans to interact with their physical environment underlie how we create information solutions, and that the process of sculpting offers a useful analogy to understand how information solutions are created. I will propose a set of analogical mappings between the processes of sculpting and creating information solutions to demonstrate the similarities between these two processes and propose how these analogies may be useful in thinking about coordinated information behaviours.

Jack Andersen

Title: “Let’s talk about information science…”

Bio: Jack Andersen is an Associate Professor, PhD, at the Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen. His primary research interests are place at the intersection of classification/knowledge organization, digital media, non-fiction, and genre theory. Jack has contributed with several scholarly articles in information, media, and communication journals and edited several books about these issues. In 2016-2019 Jack was a co-leader of the then Center for Genre Research at the University of Copenhagen. Particularly he is known for working for a genre agenda in information studies as this is developed in the edited work Genre Theory in Information Studies (Andersen, 2015).

  • Abstract

    In this talk I am going to thematize and discuss how digital media saturation has contributed to think about the organization of knowledge in a decentered and centered mode and how digital media has spawned a concern with matters of knowledge organization outside of information studies. The implication(s) of thinking about the organization of knowledge in such a manner paves the way for both revitalizing and rethinking it along the lines of digital media.

    Information studies has historically acclaimed to be the discipline uniquely concerned with studying the organization of knowledge. With digital media such a position and such a claim are challenged or even negated. Nowadays, we see new actors, new aims, and new roles in the business of organizing knowledge. We see people on a very ordinary basis tag, share, link, arrange, and/or search for items. But people do not do that because they necessarily have in mind building up structured collections of items for the purpose of retrieval. Rather, people do that because tagging, linking, or sharing are communicative actions we routinely perform because digital media invite exactly such actions. Digital media are search, archival, and classification media at the same time. They are logistical media, as John Durham Peters (2015) claims about them. Possessing such a property and because of digital media saturation in society and culture helps to explain how we can conceive of the organization of knowledge as decentered.

    Strangely enough, it is the exact same condition opening up for understanding the organization of knowledge as centered. Not centered in terms of particular institutions but centered in terms of a particular analytical construct for examining and understanding modes of digital communicative actions. Fundamentally, then, digital media enforce us to address the age-old question of the political relationship between the classifier and the classified. The organization of knowledge becomes a highly pertinent and critical tool with which to ask questions about digital communication. In digital culture, then, the organization of knowledge can be positioned as a novel form of social and material analysis of digital media and communication. People and their actions are the object for algorithmic processing of platforms in order for them to offer, recommend, predict, and/or monitor actions in the social world. The basic analytical set-up is to interrogate who is classified and who classifies. Attempting to understand how these actions are categorized for these purposes, turns classification into a form of socio-material analysis.

    Given these two observations, we can come to understand the organization of knowledge is at one and the same time both decentered and centered in digital culture. This historical moment prompts the occasion to think about what it does mean to theorize the organization of knowledge in contemporary society and culture saturated by software, platforms, and other digital media devices. What does it tell us about the activity and practice of knowledge organization accomplished by people in everyday life? Why are they doing it? Also, what does it tell us about culture and its accompanying cultural forms where structuring items in some sort of collection seems to be a key feature?