Information; the idea

Information

What the hell is it? What has been thought about it? How has it been theorized? In which disciplines has it been used as a concept? Do we even need it as a theoretical concept? Might we be better of without it?

It seems that I have acquired another area of deep interest. Perhaps some of you could have predicted it—based on much of what I have been reading lately—before I even admitted it to myself. Once you see this week’s upcoming “Some things read…” post—and it is only Monday—it will be fairly evident.

Sure. I meant to “go in deep” and do a bit of reading in this area as I saw fit…

“…you’ll be the keeper of your Holy Grail…”

Pavlov’s Dog. Episode. Pampered Menial.

Sorry, minor musical interlude.

…but I hadn’t quite intended to head so far down the path. Honestly, I think pretty much everyone in our field ought to be seriously concerned with information as a concept. Reading an article or two (Buckland, probably) is simply not enough; as canonical (and good) as they may be.

I forced my way through Raber’s The Problem of Information and tracked down and read many of his very productive sources. If only his book read as well as some of the sources.

While reading Raber I serendipitously stumbled across (that is, I picked the print journal up off the shelf to leaf through) an article by Birger Hjørland in JASIST 58 (10) 2007. I commented on this article, which is a critique of a concept of information put forth recently by Marcia Bates, in my “Some things read this week, 5 – 11 August 2007” post.

Imagine my utter surprise and absolute delight when cleaning out the spam caught by Akismet a few days ago (1 Sep) to find a comment from Dr. Hjørland. He suggested that I send a letter to the editor of JASIST outlining my critique of his view to which he might offer a rejoinder. Wow!

Note: A proper theory of information needs to account for why a comment full of links about licking … ,well, you get the idea, gets through to moderation but a comment from one of our leading researchers with no links gets caught by the spam filter. [Although, perhaps not a theory of information for LIS.]

Lesson to the less “important” among us to check our spam filters and not just automatically trash everything.

As it is, my critique is only of one very small part of his paper. It is also an idea that I have read in many places, and has direct corollaries in other views within theories of information.

That is, that information is that which answers a question (his use) or it is that which reduces uncertainty. I maintain that information can just as often and easily cause an increase in uncertainty and/or generate more questions than it answers, if it even answers any.

In fact, if information did not cause uncertainty or generate questions, would we not quickly satisfy all of our information needs? Whoa! Sorry, just finally verbalized that. Is this so patently obvious that it is rarely acknowledged in our theories?

Anyway, I may well end up doing my bibliography on the concept of information in LIS. So much for doing something that I already have a lot of work done in. Oh well, I’m well on my way as it is.

Some things read this week, 20 – 26 May 2007

Sunday, 20 May

Harris, Roy. The Language Machine. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Read chap. 4-5, but over 2 separate occasions.

Jacob, Elin K. “Communication and Category Structure: The Communicative Process as a Constraint on the Semantic Representation of Information.” Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 4. Proceedings of the 4th SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 56th ASIS Annual Meeting, Columbus, OH, October 24, 1993. Medford, NJ: Information Today, 1995: 81-99.

I was excited to read this based on some of my recent readings via David Bade, as it makes use of Grice, Wittgenstein and others as it takes on the “classical theory” of categories and standard theories of communication. In the end, it was rather disappointing. It was of some value, though, as it provided me a bit more familiarity with some of these ideas.

Relies heavily on psychology and although it mentions a recent research program (1993) it barely mentions it. There is also really nothing to directly tie the ideas into LIS and especially to classification. Poorly proof-read and the content is somewhat repetitive and a tad rambling.

categories, communication, classical theory of categories, essential features, intension, extension, family resemblances, Wittgenstein, Grice, Putnam, reference, causal theory of reference, psychological essentialism, Saussure, Shannon and Weaver, Sperber and Wilson, conduit metaphor, Cooperative Principle, cognitive constraints, Chomsky, Freyd, graded typicality effects

Paglia, Camille. Break, blow, burn. 2005. Read:

Emily Dickinson, “The Soul Selects Her Own Society.”

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming.”

Lakoff, George. Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, ch. 16

Monday, 21 May

Soergel, Dagobert. “The Many Uses of Classification: Enriched Thesauri, Ontologies, and Taxonomies.” In Efthimis N. Efthimiadis, ed. Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 12: Proceedings of the 12th ASIST SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 64th Annual ASIST Meeting, November 2-8, 2001, Washington, DC. Medford, NJ: Information Today, c2004: 1-28.

This is a great intro article to (some of) the ideas of Terminology Services. It gives a clear exposition of the uses of thesauri and the potential benefits to users in the computing environment in which we find ourselves. I wrote on the paper when I finished it that it is an “Excellent “starter” article.”

It lists 7 areas where thesauri can be of immense value, but only covers the first 6 due to space limitations.

  1. Convey meaning, orientation, and structure. Definitions.
  2. Provide rich relationships. Give facts.
  3. Support exploration and browsing, creativity, problem solving, planning, and design, both individual and collaborative.
  4. Support knowledge-based assistance for indexing and searching, behind the scenes or collaboratively with the user.
  5. Link to thesaurus entries from text. Link from one thesaurus into others. Construct an integrated access system to many thesauri.
  6. Assist users in maintaining their own thesauri. Collaborative development and maintenance of thesauri.
  7. Support semantic structure and processing, for example by agents, to unburden users from many task (as in the Semantic Web) (Figure 2., p. 2)

Discusses display issues throughout, providing examples where possible. In fact, the article is much shorter than the page length suggests due to so many illustrations.

Some of the comments that really stuck with me:

Knowledge organization systems (thesauri, classifications, ontologies, etc.) can do much more than support indexing and searching. They can help people to explore a domain, make creative connection between concepts, and solve problems (20). [Hell yeah! These are the sorts of things I want to facilitate by working in this area.]

Many users keep their own information systems. Actually just keeping track of email, bookmarks, files, and such becomes a problem. So users need their own personalized thesauri just to mange their own information. … Users would be well served by a system that, … puts together the results in a draft thesaurus, and then assists the user in editing and further customizing this draft thesaurus (28).

The classification researcher must be a renaissance person. Doing research about and building classification requires knowledge of many fields, many of which both contribute to knowledge about classification and use classifications (28).

Soergel goes on to list these as “the most important areas related to building and analyzing knowledge organization systems” (28):

  • Principles of classification and knowledge representation
  • Philosophy, esp. ontology and epistemology
  • Cognitive psychology, the workings of the human mind
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Linguistics
  • Instructional design, document design, interface design. Information architecture
  • Markup languages and data structures and their standards (XML, RDF, Topic Maps, thesaurus standards, lexicographic standards) and how they interact with display
  • Software considerations for thesaurus-building systems
  • Last, but not least, domain knowledge, often in multiple disciplines (Fig. 22, p. 28)

Exciting stuff, boys and girls! Are you prepared? Are our schools preparing new professionals to do this work?

This article should be required reading in thesaurus construction classes and in any other courses with a section on thesauri.

classification, thesauri, display, functions, meaning, multidimensionality, concept maps, disciplinary domains, context domains, definitions, relationships, indexing, searching, query term expansion, linkages, personal thesauri, Yahoo!, AAT, AOD Thesaurus, MeSH, UMLS, MedIndex

Harris, Roy. The Language Machine. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Read chap. 6.

Tuesday, May 22

Jacob, Elin K. “Classification and Categorization: Drawing the Line.” In Kwasnik and Fidel, eds. Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 2: Proceedings of the 2nd ASIS SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 54th ASIS Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, October 27-31, 1991. Medford, NJ: Learned Information, c1992: 67-83.

Cited by Uta Priss, “Multilevel Approaches to Concepts and Formal Ontologies,” p. 95. Read 16 May 2007.

Takes on the conceptual confusion surrounding classification and categorization, which are often conflated as being synonymous. Covers the classical theory of categories and the research (and resulting theories) that has undermined it. Suggests that the conflation of these two concepts is partly responsible for “the apparent failure of the classical theory to account for the instability observed in category membership” (67). Uses Keil’s notion of a communicative constraint to help understand the relationship between these two concepts.

The possibility that categories function in accordance with classical theory at one level while exemplifying aspects of instability, graded structure, and fuzzy boundaries at another should encourage researchers to set aside, for the moment, the emphasis on category structure and to focus their attention, instead, on the generation of cognitive categories and on the role(s) performed by these idiosyncratic categories in the processes of cognition and communication (81).

This is the 2nd article that I have read in as many days that claims that the classical theory of categories “rests on the assumption that intention and extension are synonymous: Being a member (extension) of a particular category entails possession of an essential and defining character (intension)” (69). Well, OK to the 2nd clause; that is simply definitional. But these claims are bugging me, nonetheless.

I think it must be because the writers are speaking “in the vulgar” as we took to calling it in Ontologies. Clearly, a member of a set is not synonymous with the characteristics which put it in the set in the first place. It possesses those characteristics; it is not those characteristics. Perhaps it would be better to say that the entities in a category are coextensive with the set of entities which bear the defining characteristics. Even that is rather loose, but seems somewhat better to me. Maybe Aristotle would claim the entity is synonymous with its essence, but probably only in a narrow sense and not in all senses. Maybe some later categoricians would, too. But I doubt anyone subscribing to the classical theory since the rise of set theory and logic would be so sloppy, if pressed. Perhaps this is a minor point, but considering the pains the author went to to pull apart the concepts of categorization and classification I find it hard to believe that they made this conflation.

classification, categorization, definition, arrangement, classical theory of categories, essential features, intension, extension, graded typicality effects, family resemblances, Wittgenstein, category construction, communicative constraint, Keil

Beghtol, Clare. “Mapping Sentences and Classification Schedules As Methods of Displaying Facets.” In Raymond Schwartz, ed. Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 6: Proceedings of the 6th ASIS SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 58th ASIS Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois, October 8, 1995. Medford, NJ: Information Today, c1998: 1-11.

Compares the analytico-synthetic methods developed by S.R. Ranganathan and L. Guttman in bibliographic classification systems and in the behavioural sciences, respectively, with a focus on display issues.

facets, mapping sentences, classification, classification schedules, Ranganathan, Guttman, analytico-synthetic methods, displaying facet structure, library science, behavioral sciences, CC, BC2

Harris, Roy. The Language Machine. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Read ch. 7 and re-read the epilogue.

Thank you, David!

I must say that the lengthy paragraph on page 172-173 caused me to shudder to the core of my soul both times I read it; even more so the 2nd time having the full impact of the book behind it. I will most certainly be reading much more Harris.

Highly recommended! And do begin with the Epilogue.

Wednesday, 23 May

Crawford, Walt. Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. A Cites & Insight Book, 2007.

Read chapters 1-5. Am liking it quite a bit so far, but that was expected. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on how it would seem to one who doesn’t read library-related blogs. Only a few friends have shown up so far, but it’s comforting nonetheless.

My only small gripe (so far) is that while the UI Current LIS Clips does show up in the index, neither Sue Searing or Karla Stover Lucht do, although they do in the text (54). Of course, if I didn’t know these folks personally I probably would not be looking them up. A very small gripe, though.

Thursday, 24 May

Crawford, Walt. Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. A Cites & Insight Book, 2007.

Read chapters 6-8 in AM. Chap 9 in afternoon. Chap 10 in evening.

Albrechtsen, Hanne and Elin K. Jacob. “Classification Systems as Boundary Objects in Diverse Information Ecologies.” In Efthimis N. Efthimiadis, ed. Advances in Classification Research, Vol. 8: Proceedings of the 8th ASIS SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop, held at the 60th ASIS Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, November 1-6, 1997. Medford, NJ: Information Today, c1998: 1-16.

Uses Star’s notion of a boundary object to provide a dynamic role for classifications “in supporting coherence and articulation across heterogeneous contexts” (1). Also makes use of Nardi & O’Day’s idea of diverse information ecologies. Divides the epistemological approaches to classification in to two broad categories: Rational/Empirical and Historicism/Social Constructivism.

Argues that classificatory work is changing from a monolithic, top-down imposed structure to a more emergent, flexible and heterogenously accommodative form. When I look at Figure 1. Epistemologies for development of classification systems I can only agree that the Historicism/Social Constructivism side has far better answers to questions of basic view of knowledge, concepts, language and dialogue, info systems and their designers. While the chart is of necessity an oversimplification, it is the case that knowledge is historically, culturally and socially determined and is not infallible and objective. Concepts are culturally determined, domain-dependent and dependent on experience and use and are not objective modules of knowledge. And so on (14).

But I’m really beginning to have an issue with many of these articles, especially conference papers. Maybe I’m wanting more from them than what they are really designed to do. Maybe they are really just teasers and are not supposed to actually give any real information regarding what presenters are claiming. But as much as I love the theoretical ideas, I want to know what is actually being done with the theory. Is there anything being done? Perhaps this article is unfair to pick on for this specific fault because it is primarily theoretical, although it does report on two projects that supposedly involve their ideas. More in that in a moment.

Maybe a better example is Jacob’s “Communication and Category Structure: The Communicative Process as a Constraint on the Semantic Representation of Information,” found above. It goes on for several pages about some interesting ideas and then at the very end in a matter of sentences mentions that there is this research project. I could find many more examples of the same, and it isn’t all conference papers either. Where can one find the details?

A second issue I have with many of these articles (again, not necessarily only conference papers) is a lapse into flowery theoretical language. It sounds pretty and important and perhaps even meaningful until one re-reads, and re-reads, it. Then you just have to ask yourself, “Say what?” There is a better example from this week’s readings but I can’t find it quickly, so I’ll use one from the current paper.

In an information ecology, a classification system would function as a boundary object, supporting coherence and a common identity across the different actors involved. In its role as boundary object, a classification should be weakly structured in common use, while remaining open to adaptation in individual communities. Across diverse information ecologies, classification schemes would function as discursive arenas or public domains for communication and production of knowledge by all communities involved (6).

Well, after the just previous refresher by the authors on Star’s boundary objects and Nardi & O’Day’s information ecologiesI find myself shaking my head in agreement. But then I realize that this is simply definitional and is simply a recasting of the ideas inherent in these concepts into a different formulation. So. What does it mean? And, more importantly, what does it mean in practice? How is a classification scheme “weakly structured in common use?” How can it support “coherence and a common identity across the different actors?”

These are not the idle questions of a pedant on my part. I truly want to understand these ideas. I agree with a view of knowledge as socially constructed and historical. I like the concept of boundary objects and often consider myself one, to the point of seeing my professional identity and role as such. I also remember liking the concept of information ecologies from 501′s Nardi & O’Day readings, and have had their book (which I bought) on my desk to be read for a long while now.

This paper does discuss two projects in Denmark that supposedly fit their ideas (Database 2001, Book House). But while I can see how they do one one hand, I also can just as easily see that they don’t on the other. Much like my (still perhaps to come) critique of Hope Olson. It seems one wants to have their cake and eat it too. It seems that they fit their ideas because these systems were jointly designed by librarians and users using collaborative prototyping. These are important steps and ended in (one case) a classification scheme that would not fit within a disciplinary view (horses are separated from animals). The designs are visual, metaphorical, and allow for different search strategies to be employed. Again, important.

But a bit later we read, “…the Book House is a general system for fiction retrieval, which, in it s present form, cannot be customized by individual libraries to support the idiosyncratic needs of specific user communities, …” (10). Cake. And. Eating.

Nonetheless, despite my critiques of this literature in general and this article in specific, it was interesting.

classification, boundary object, information ecologies, Turing test, rationalism, empiricism, historicism, social constructivism, Star, Nardi & O’Day, Hjørland, Book House, Database 2001

Friday, 25 May

Crawford, Walt. Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. A Cites & Insight Book, 2007.

Read chapters 11-2 in AM. Read chap 13-15 in afternoon. The End.

I hope to write a separate review of this soon, so I’ll leave off any more commenting for now.

Paglia, Camille. Break, blow, burn. 2005. Read:

William Butler Yeats, “Leda and the Swan.”

Saturday, 26 May

Harris, Roy. The Language-Makers. London: Duckworth, 1980.

Read chap. 1 and 2/3ds of chap. 2.

Relationships: a primer

This morning I actually got fresh, hot cookies straight from the oven for the 1st time in almost two years! I stepped into The Cookie Jar and saw that there weren’t any chocolate chip with walnut cookies and was immediately disheartened. Then I realized I was in a bit early and just perhaps….

Ed, the owner, came around the corner from the back and when he saw me said, “They’ve just come out of the oven.” I must have lit up like a 1000-watt bulb cause he immediately said, “I don’t think I can even handle them yet. They’d probably just break apart.” I responded with, “Ed, I don’t want you to burn yourself, but otherwise just put them in the bag. I’m just going to chew them up; I’m not putting them on display or anything.” He said that I might need a spoon and I said, “I’ll manage. Somehow.” With a huge grin on my face, of course. :)

I had four wonderfully warm, fresh from the oven, cookies this morning. I ate one on the way to the coffee shop and as badly as I almost needed a spoon I can guarantee you that I did not spill a crumb! They were so fresh from the oven that the other three were still warm once I finally had my coffee and got over to GSLIS.

Oops. This post wasn’t supposed to be about cookies, but it was an awesome way to start the day.

In Representation and Organization this morning, I gave my presentation about my final project all wrapped up with my book report. The book I reviewed is: Bean, Carol A. and Rebecca Green, Eds. Relationships in the Organization of Knowledge. Information Science and Knowledge Management, v. 2. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.

My final project is an annotated bibliography of all the various and sundry things that I’ve been reading about the highly interdisciplinary—quite possibly the epitome of interdisciplinary—topic of relationships since I started down this road at the end of last fall semester. I will be turning that in some time before next Wed. at 5 PM.

So my presentation was a combined book review and very quick introdution into the broad topic of relationships.

Relationships: a primer.

It doesn’t cover near enough, nor much of anything at any kind of depth. But with only 45 minutes total to present Kathryn and I both knew that I couldn’t do much. Still, I intentionally over-designed the presentation so that folks could use it to explore a bit more on their own if they desire. I can only hope they will.

To spare you the effort, I’ll cut to the chase and give you my conclusion:

While I certainly cannot expect everyone in LIS to be enamored of every one of these types of relationships, I most certainly do expect every LIS “professional” to be concerned with the kinds that most directly impinge on their particular area(s) of expertise.

Relationships are everywhere. There is no reality without them, at least not a reality processable by humans or any other form of life as we understand it. Seeing as LIS is concerned with the recorded forms of human knowledge, they are inescapable.

We have been obsessed with “entities,” things, for far too long. Perhaps it is time we pay more attention to what it is that allows us to recognize any entity in the first place.

Yes, you know me, folks. I’m all about imposing moral imperatives on others. ;)

The semester is certainly winding down, although it’s hard to really feel that way yet. I still need to finish the annotated bibliography and the actual written book review before next Wed. morning. And I still have to revise my paper for Ontologies, sometime before the end of the semester.

I’m really glad I’m not taking a class during Summer I. So I’ll have a sort of break before the main summer session begins. Lots to do during that time frame though. Oh well.

Good luck to all students out there and here’s hoping you all can finish your semester on a high note. Or at least breathing and still on two feet. And a hearty congratulations to all the soon-to-be crowned librarians!

One semester bleeds into the next

Woohoo!

I just emailed my seminar paper on mapping thesauri for use by interdisciplinary scientists to my professor. Fall 2006 is finally over, at least for me. I have a few friends still struggling with papers due soon. I wish them well.

The “beauty” of it all is that the new semester starts tomorrow. Where, oh where, did break go?

Now I need to get on designing and getting approval for my independent study on thesauri. I am particularly interested in interoperability and embedded services. In that regard, I will be definitely looking into both OCLC‘s and JISC‘s Terminology Services research and projects.

Once I get far enough along in my research, I would love to visit OCLC to get a first hand glimpse at some of the work they are doing. Maybe over Spring Break I can go visit my daughter in Cleveland and stop by Dublin on the way. I did make one OCLC contact while at ASIS&T 2006, so maybe…. I would absolutely love to visit UKOLN at the University of Bath, but I don’t even have a passport, much less that kind of money. :(

I know I promised a copy of my paper to JennyB, jennimi, and my boss at IFSI. I will get off my lazy butt after I eat lunch and watch a movie and email it to you. If I promised anyone else, please just remind me. The last few weeks have been mostly a blur. I bet what you really want is the next paper, though. I am not ashamed of this one, not in any sense, but it is also not what I really became interested in. I guess it provides a decent selective overview of interdisciplinarity and the mapping of thesauri, along with some related methods. I tried to write it in the style of an ARIST chapter, which is a new genre for me, so I’m a little hesitant to say how useful it might be for someone else. It can serve as a decent source for citations, though. And then there are the scores of others I wasn’t able to incorporate…. Ah well. Onward, if not exactly upward.

Me. I’m off to enjoy the last few hours of “break.”

Let the reading of 2007 begin…

I only have a moment as it’s time to relax before bed. I’ve been studiously busy researching for my paper on the use of multiple conceptual thesauri by interdisciplinary scientists [and yes, I'm being intentionally vague].

I have probably read, or re-read, somewhere around 8-9 articles in the last 2 days. And a dozen more in the last days of 2006. More to go, too. And some books to probe….

I’m going in to see my advisor tomorrow and have emailed Dr. Palmer, too, to see if she is around to help me focus my paper a bit. I just need to catch up with Kathryn, but also talk about an independent study for Spring, which is rapidly approaching. I also want to talk to her about my paper for Dr. Palmer. With what I’m seeing at the moment, I could continue my work on this paper for a few more hours and maybe actually say something, besides learning a massive amount more. But this paper comes first.

Regarding the post title, or motivation therefor, last night I began reading Foucault – The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language. I only got about 15 pages, but it’s a start. I also continued reading Epictetus’ The Art of Living yesterday.

So, I seem to be off to a good start in my reading for 2007. I just hope I’m able to process some of this….

Where I am with this semester?

590IML – Information Modeling — We got our marked exercises on conceptual modeling (ER, EER) back a couple of days ago and I was super excited to discover that I had aced it. Yay me!

I’m working on my DTD and document and got an early but nearly complete version to validate earlier today. Yay! Now I need to add an element with mixed content and maybe another attribute somewhere and then validate that. I also need to add comments for everything and then revalidate to ensure I didn’t dork anything up. I have until Monday for this.

[Right before I went to the GSLIS Holiday Party early this evening I add a mixed content section, added some mixed content to the document and validated it. I went to the party momentarily ecstatic. :) Now I just have to add a few minor touches and revalidate.]

I ran into Allen yesterday and asked him about finishing the 1st assignment or what. He said just go ahead and finish it. Seems kind of silly [for various reasons], but fair, too.

590TR – Information Transfer and Collaboration in Science — I have finally found a paper topic; just a little late in the semester, which means once I get my advisor’s signature my semester will go on for just a bit longer. :(

My topic is, for me, a bit like climbing over the wall with the sign that says, “Here be monsters! Keep out!” Some of you might be able to guess where this is heading with all my “word issues” lately.

I am going to look at the mapping of multiple, conceptual vocabularies for use by interdisciplinary scientists. Mapping work (for various purposes) has been going on for decades now; much of it “lost,” some of it found again, much of it being redone.

The reason this “be monster” territory for me is because I have serious doubts about how well these techniques can work. I have no doubt that they can in some limited domains, but how generalizable are the techniques, intellectual or machine? Another issue is the limited number of relation types in most thesauri. Much research, in many disciplines, has gone into lexical-semantic relations. Some researchers have discovered as few as 5, 7 or 9 types of relations, while some have found as many as 400+!

I don’t know what the “real” number of relation types is, or if there even is one “true” number that holds across languages. My guess is certainly not, especially to the latter. But I am well aware that a thesaurus with only BT, NT and RT is sorely lacking in its relationships and is a poor model of the rich lexical-semantic relationship between words and concepts. But do I want to be the one coding those relationships? Hard to say, but I’m guessing ….

I also owe Carole some comments on the assigned readings for the week I led discussion since I said I would provide them.

590CS – Seminar in Classification Systems for the Organization of Knowledge — Been finished. Ha ha ha. Now that‘s funny! One is never finished with Pauline. ;) I’m still doing thesaurus work since early summer and I’m now hip deep in CS stuff, and it seems like I will be for many a year. :) So, yes, class is over and I got an A, but the work continues …. I am so blessed to be able to learn from, and be guided by, Pauline.

Dang! I need to get my coffee date scheduled.

Oh, on a non-school note, it’s official … I am a member of the ASIST Standards Committee.

Tentative ASIS&T Schedule

ASIS&T 2006 starts in a week in Austin, Texas. My professors, my advisor, Dean Smith whose class I broadcast, and others from GSLIS will all be there. I just sent in my dues for my 2nd year in ASIS&T a few days ago. Having just gotten my ALA renewal, I can say ALA will be a tougher choice; will probably drop ACRL. Add LITA? Don’t know yet.

Here’s a possible and tentative schedule that will end up deviated from for my visit to Austin:

Sun Nov 5th

New Members and 1st Time Attendee’s Brunch

Plenary Session: Albert-László Barabási

Theoretical Topics in FRBR (CR), Allen Renear (moderator), Jonathan Furner, Jerome McDonough, Carl Lagoze

Welcome Reception and SIG Rush — 69th Annual Meeting

Mon Nov 6th

The I-School Movement (ED), Andrew Dillon, Harry Bruce, Michele Cloonan, Leigh Estabrook or Linda Smith, John King, James Thomas, Ray von Dran

Forgetting and (Not) Forgotten in the Digital Future (HFIS), Howard Rosenbaum (moderator), Jean-Francois Blanchette, Michael Curry, Leah Lievrouw, Ronald Day

Designing for Uncertainty (USE), Theresa Dirndorfer Anderson, Marcia Bates, Jennifer Berryman, Sanda Erdelez, Jannica Heinstrom
OR

*Philosophy and Information Science: The Basics, Don Fallis, Jonathan Furner, Kay Mathiesen, Allen Renear

Marcia on use or philosophy with Furner and Renear? Tough one.

Toward a General Approach to Information Organization (CR), Francis Miksa, William Moen, Joseph Tennis, Frank (Little Bear) Exner

Alumni Reception — I’ll be representing our student chapter at this.

Tue Nov 7th

Paul Otlet, Documentation and Classification (HFIS, ED), Boyd Rayward, Jonathan Furner, Kathryn La Barre

Building a Digital Teaching Commons to Enhance Teaching and Learning: The MERIC Experience and Challenges, Ingrid Hsieh-Yee, Sherry Vellucci, William Moen, Francis Miksa, Diane Hillmann

Awards Luncheon

*Education for Digital Librarianship: Employers’ Needs and How They Can Be Addressed (DL, ED), June Abbas, Kyung-Sun Kim, Barbara Wildemuth, Youngok Choi, Javed Mostafa, Kristine Brancolini, Jeffrey Pomerantz, Abbie Clobridge

New Theoretical Approaches
Conception-based Approach to Automatic Subject Term Assignment for Scientific Journal Articles, Eunkyung Chung, Samantha Hastings
Formal Definitions of Web Information Search, Su Yan, Lee Giles, Bernard Jansen
*Modeling Our Understanding, Understanding Our Models – the Case of Inheritance in FRBR, Allen Renear, Yunseon Choi
OR

Collection Analysis
Mapping Interdisciplinarity at the Interfaces Between the Science Citation Index and the Social Science CItation Index, Loet Leydesdorff
Trailblazing Through a Knowledge Space of Science – Forward Citation Expansion in CiteSeer, Chaomei Chen, Xia Lin, Weizhong Zhu
Collection Definition in Federated Digital Resource Development, Carole Palmer, Ellen Knutson, Michael Twidale, Oksana Zavalina

This one’s kind of tough. I much prefer the New Theoretical Approaches but need to be concerned with the 1st two in Collection Analysis for my 590TR paper in a few weeks. Oh well, we’ll see.
Annual Business Meeting

SIG CON: Come see the lighter side of ASIS&T!

Wed Nov 8th

Personal Digital Collections (DL), Deborah Barreau, Christine Borgman, William Jones, Cathy Marshall, Luz Quiroga
Plenary Session: Susan Dumais, Senior Researcher, Adaptive Systems and Interaction Group at Microsoft Research

Historiography of Information Science (HFIS), Michael Buckland, Julian Warner, Geoffrey Bowker

Philosophical
A Semiotic View of Information – Semiotics as as Foundation of LIS Research in Information Behavior, Sheng-Cheng Huang
Weak Information Work and “Doable Problems” in Interdisciplinary Science, Carole Palmer
Data Realities in Plural Contexts – Appraisal of a Definition [of Social Informatics], Fletcher Cole
OR

Access to Scientific Data (pt 2) – Panel Two will focus on the micro-level: emerging structures at the discipline or personal level to facilitate archival and promote use of data sets and collaboration among scientists.
President’s Reception

Looks like more than enough to do. And this leaves out all of the interpersonal stuff; possibly the most important.

Off to take a nap; then more productivity

I gave a presentation on “authority control” in an international environment to Terry Weech’s LIS590IL Global Perspectives in LIS class this morning. Kathryn LaBarre had been invited as a guest speaker in Dr. Weech’s class and she asked me if I’d “freshen up” some of the international bits from my “Free the Authorities!” presentation.

It allowed me to spend a few hours looking a bit further into some things I find interesting and exciting. I mostly talked about various recent and ongoing projects, many of which are European-based. I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening on it, and got up at 5:30 this AM to put some finishing touches on it. I hope someone found part of it interesting, at least.

Then I went and visited the lawyer again about my stupid deposit check. I’m at the decision point as soon as they return a phone call to him. I may just take what they offer as I don’t think suing them is worth my time for the amount they are “stealing” from me. *sigh*

Now I’m off to take a nap. I got up early and didn’t sleep so well knowing I had a presentation to proof/finish.

Then I hope to get productive and maybe do a little cleaning around here. Maybe it’ll cloud up while I nap and then the sun will come out when it’s time to be productive. For some reason, I feel much better about cleaning when it is nice and sunny and bright naturally in the apartment.

After that it is on to more prepping for leading my 590TR class discussion on Thursday on Boundary Work and Collaboration. That’s the next “big” thing on my schedule. Need to relook the three articles we’ll discuss this week. There are a couple more that we won’t get to until our next class (16 Nov) because we are trying to finish some from last week too. So, I’ll relook the ones for this week and check the notes I already took. Maybe add a little more structure and connections/differences of the articles to my notes.

habitually probing generalist1

habitually probing generalist

In a bit under 2 weeks, we’ll be discussing Boundary work and Collaboration in LIS590TR ITCS. I am the discussion leader for these topics and readings. Besides the instructor assigned readings (below), I get to pick one to be read. Excerpt from syllabus here:

A. Discussion facilitation. Each student will be responsible for in-depth reading and analysis in one of the topic areas covered during weeks 6-13. As a discussion leader you will need to identify key themes from the syllabus material and facilitate the discussion for the assigned class session. While you should give some attention to all of the designated readings for the week, you may concentrate on the items that you find most central or pertinent to your interests. Please let the class know in advance if you plan to emphasize particular readings.B. Selection and analysis of additional reading. For your discussion week you will also be required to select one supplementary reading for the class that relates to the topic area for the week. The article or chapter can be from the LIS literature or another field of study. Make a copy available to class members at least 3 days before the scheduled class session. In class you will provide an introduction to the paper and facilitate a discussion of the paper’s contribution to LIS and science studies. Turn in a short 2-3 page paper discussing the rationale for your selection and a brief critique of the paper.

Everyone else has brought a copy for the others the week before. Being one of the last, I’d like to reciprocate; thus, have to have it picked out and multiply photocopied by noon on Thursday.

To that end, I am reading the assigned articles (see immediately below) so I can find another good angle or something that bears repeating.

  • Palmer, C. L. (1999). Structures and Strategies of Interdisciplinary Science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50(3), 242-253.
  • Cummings, J., & Kiesler, S. (2005). Collaborative research across disciplinary and organizational boundaries. Social Studies of Science, 35(5), 703-722.
  • Hara, N., Solomon, P., Kim, S.-L., & Sonnenwald, D. H. (2003). An emerging view of scientific collaboration: Scientists’ perspectives on collaboration and factors that impact collaboration. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 54(10), 952-965.
  • Haythornthwaite, C. (2006). Learning and knowledge networks in interdisciplinary collaborations. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57(8), 1079-1092.
  • ??? Picked by me.

I read the Palmer last night and this morning. The “study explores the information processes and work situations of interdisciplinary scientists” (242). It “examines the process of boundary-crossing inquiry, identifying how researchers use information, develop knowledge, and work within various structures to conduct interdisciplinary research” (243).

About halfway in it got very interesting for me. The Discussion section just slowly built through “Research Structures” into “Research Modes,” where things really started warming up. In “Information Practices” things got very intriguing; I discovered that I am a “prober” and maybe even a “generalist.” Seeing as the “groupings … are not mutually exclusive,” at least some of these categories are really making sense as I can see myself in them (247). “Knowledge strategies” made me conclude that Carole had, at the very least, described me perfectly.

At the bottom of p. 249 (Info Practices) I had sketched out a small t-shirt design that read: habitual prober / citation. On the next page (Knowledge stategies), after verifying my generalist tendencies and deciding Carole had described my educational soul, I sketched: habitually probing generalist / citation.

The above picture is an early try at what I want. I just don’t do graphics very often.

There are four key research modes: Team Leader, Collaborator, Generalist, and Problem-oriented. Against these research modes are plotted Approach, Info Practices, Knowledge Strategies, Scope and Outcome. Approach consists of: managerial, cooperative, individualistic, and multi-modal. Info Practices are gathering, finding and probing. Knowledge strategies are: recruiting, consulting and learning. Scope is breadth or depth, or some mix. Outcome is productive, integrative, or both.

For all the combinations (and other reasons), read the article. The Generalist (generally) uses an individualistic Approach, probing Info Practices, learning Knowledge Strategies, breadth of Scope, and integrative Outcomes (from Fig. 3, 248).

Generalists tend to work alone, building their personal base of knowledge to address broad research problems (248).Probing is exploratory in nature–searching for the unknown, often in unfamiliar domains (248).

Building one’s own personal knowledge base is achieved by learning (248).

Breadth refers to the practice of asking broad questions and endeavoring to master more than one domain (248).

Integrative modes publish fewer papers, but they take a broad perspective and strive for synthesis across domains (248).

I am glad that these aren’t strict categories, as I do have some of the Collaborator and Problem-oriented, and even Team Leader, in me when needed. And, of course, I gather, find, recruit, consult, go for depth, etc.

Information probing, however, takes place on a grander scale, and is an intentional effort to change ideas and directions by searching or browsing in new domains. As pertinent information is assimilated, the realm of relevant subjects to search and keep current in is altered and, in most cases, expanded.Probing was emphasized by the problem-oriented researchers and the generalists who found it good for gaining exposure to new information. Yet, the scientists who do a lot of information probing are faced with the task of sifting and evaluating all the ideas and “pet theories” they encounter. Moreover, with each new domain there are terms and concepts to learn and analytical approaches to understand (249).

[Damn, I knew I was setting myself up.]

The results of this study support Klein’s (1990) assertion that interdisciplinarians need to know “what information to ask for and how too acquire a working knowledge of the language, concepts, information, and analytical skills pertinent to a given problem, process, or phenomenon” (p. 183) Petrie (1986) suggests that researchers must acquire an interpretive level of tacit knowledge to do interdisciplinary work, designating two basic criteria: knowledge of another discipline’s observational categories and understanding the key terms in the other disciplines (250).

…scientists who practice in the generalist mode strive for comprehension beyond the understanding of terms and categories (250).

These descriptions are better than any horoscope, web quiz, or whatever, at getting at an important essence of what is to be, and experience “learning” as, me.

I showed my design to Carole today and she loved it. I told her it felt like she had laid bare my educational soul. She suggested we should be recruiting “habitually probing generalists” to LIS.

So I am going to try and get myself a shirt made. Maybe some others like, “interdisciplinarians united” and who knows what else? “Interdisciplinarians” is such a fun word to type. And I’ll bet it is an awesome or handsome word in the right font. Perhaps both with and excellent font. And a t-shirt with a footnote is, by default, a winner.

Klein, J.T. (1990). Interdisciplinarity: History, theory, and practice. Detroit: Wayne State University.

Petrie, H. G. (1986). “Do you see what I see? The epistemology of interdisciplinary enquiry.” In Interdisciplinary analyis and research: Theory and practice of problem-focused research and development (pp. 115-130). Mt. Airy, MD: Lomond. Reprinted from Educational Researcher, 5(2), 9-15.

Quote of the day, week 9

Each week, in my Info Transfer and Collaboration in Science seminar (590TR), we each post a “quote of the day” from one of our readings for that week. Carole makes copies for everyone. Then, during class we each read our own and say why we chose it.

For today, I posted the following from the article chosen by this week’s discussion leader:

Therefore, it is the particular cultural identity of the specialism that shapes patterns of scholarly communication and information seeking practices, even more than the discipline. To this end information science must recognize and reflect in its own practices the knowledge producing formations of scholars, rather than clinging to overly coarse-grained analyses that better suit the conveniences of data gathering than the scholarly communities that we endeavor to serve. [28, from conclusion]

Fry, Jenny and Sanna Talja. “The Cultural Shaping of Scholarly Communication: Explaining E-Journal Use Within and Across Academic Fields.” Proceedings of the 67th ASIS&T Annual Meeting, vol. 41, 2004: 20-30.

I like Lian’s choice from another article, too.

The perspective of epistemic cultures, as an approach to understanding knowledge production, keeps sight of the fact that science is pursued not only by individuals or collections of individuals. Knowledge-making must be understood in terms of the material and symbolic dimensions needed to run experiments and communicate with others in the field. This notion helps to maintain an analytic stance that avoids technological determinism (the idea that technology determines social relations), that keeps sight of the contents and specificities of different types of work and that doesn’t overly focus on the technical requirements of new tools

Wouters, Paul and Anne Beaulieu. “Imagining E-Science beyond Computation [chap. III].” Hine, C. (Ed.), New Infrastructures for Knowledge Production: Understanding E-Science. Hershey: Information Science Publishing, 2006.

The important question, for me, is what these ideas—taken seriously—mean for the design of systems that serve interdisciplinary “scientists?” And, of course, the myriad questions that simple one implies.