Some things read this week, 14 – 22 December 2007

Friday – Wednesday, 14 – 19 Dec 2007

Harris, Roy, and George Wolf, eds. Integrational Linguistics: A First Reader. 1st ed, Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1998.

  • Ch. 16: Hutton, Christopher. “Analysis and Notation: The Case for a Non-Realist Linguistics.”
  • Ch. 17: Harris, Roy. “How Does Writing Restructure Thought?”
  • Ch. 18: Harris, Roy. “Writing and Proto-Writing: From Sign to Metasign.” (Sat)
  • Ch. 19: Cameron, Debbie. ” What Has Gender Got to Do With Sex?” (Sun)
  • Ch. 20: Davis, Hayley. “What Makes Bad Language Bad?” (Sun)
  • Ch. 21: Hutton, Christopher. “Law Lessons for Linguists? Accountability and Acts of Professional Classification.” (Tue)
  • Ch. 22: Davis, Daniel R. ” Teaching American English as a Foreign Language: An Integrationist Approach.” (Tue)
  • Ch. 23: Morris, Marshall. “What Problems? On Learning to Translate.” (Tue-Wed)
  • Ch. 24: Wolf, George, et. al. “Pronouncing French Names in New Orleans.” (Wed)

Thursday – Saturday, 13 – 15 Dec 2007

Toolan, Michael J. 1996. Total Speech: An Integrational Linguistic Approach to Language. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press.

  • Introduction
  • Part of Ch. 1 (20-22 Dec)

Saturday, 15 Dec 2007

Budd, John. “Exploring Categorization: Undergraduate Student Searching and the Evolution of Catalogs.” Library Resources & Technical Services 51(4), October 2007: 286-292.

I wasn’t too impressed with this article. Not sure why, but I certainly expected more from Budd. I think it tries to cover too much in too little space. Maybe the author never decided for sure what he was trying to say. He certainly does not do a good job tying the undergrad research part to the overall conceptual parts as far as I am concerned.

I also didn’t think the “come up with some subjects based on the title of these books” was the slightest bit useful or relevant. This is not to claim that this doesn’t perhaps happen on occasion with students, but it seems so far removed from the normal course of their scholarly habits as to have little, or no, applicability.

Two reasons: (1) That is, aren’t they generally going in the opposite direction? This is not to question whether having some idea how students would describe our resources is irrelevant, it isn’t. But Budd did not tie this in well with the theoretical part. (2) For that method to have much relevance the research would also have to include a study of catalogers assigning subjects based on title alone. But that is certainly not how we do it.

Nhat Hanh, Thich. Peace is every step : the path of mindfulness in everyday life. New York N.Y.: Bantam Books, 1991.

Finally finished this after leaving it the side for several months. I really need to internalize much of this way of thinking.

Sunday, 16 Dec / Thursday, 20 Dec 2007

Paglia, Camille. 2006. Break, Blow, Burn. New York: Vintage Books.

  • Wallace Stevens, “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock”
  • Wallace Stevens, “Anecdote of the Jar”
  • William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow”
  • William Carlos Williams, “This Is Just to Say”
  • Jean Toomer, “Georgia Dusk”
  • Langston Hughes, “Jazzonia”
  • Theodore Roethke, “Cuttings”
  • Theodore Roethke, “Root Cellar”
  • Theodore Roethke, “The Visitant”
  • Robert Lowell, “Man and Wife”
  • Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”
  • Frank O’Hara, “A Mexican Guitar”
  • Paul Blackburn, “The Once-Over”
  • May Swenson, “At East River”
  • Gary Snyder, “Old Pond”
  • Norman H. Russell, “The Tornado”
  • Chuck Wachtel, “A Paragraph Made Up of Seven Sentences”
  • Rochelle Kraut, “My Makeup”
  • Wanda Coleman, “Wanda Why Aren’t You Dead”
  • Ralph Pomeroy, “Corner”
  • Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock”

Thursday, 20 Dec

Hjørland, Birger, and Lykke Kyllesbech Nielsen. 2001. Subject Access Points in Electronic Retrieval. In Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 35 (2001): 249-298. Medford, N.J.: Information Today.

Some things read this week, 9 – 15 December 2007

Sunday, 9 Dec 2007 and Tuesday, 11 Dec 2007 +

Harris, Roy. 1990. The Foundations of Linguistic Theory: Selected Writings of Roy Harris. Ed. Nigel Love. London: Routledge.

  • Editor’s Introduction.
  • Ch. 2: Words and Word Criteria in French.
  • Ch. 3: Semantics and Translation.
  • Ch. 4: Performative Paradigms.
  • Ch. 5: Semantics, Performatives and Truth.
  • Ch. 6: Truth-Conditional Semantics and Natural Languages.
  • Ch. 7: Making Sense of Communicative Competence. (Tue)
  • Ch. 8: Communication and Language. (Tue)
  • Ch. 9: The Speech-Communication Model in Twentieth-Century Linguistics and its Sources. (Wed)
  • Ch. 10: Must Monkeys Mean? (Wed)
  • Ch. 11: Scriptism. (Wed)
  • Ch. 12: Language as Social Interaction: Integationalism versus Segregationalism. (Thu)
  • Ch. 13: The Semiology of Textualization. (Thu)

I had read a few of these pieces before as a couple are excerpts from other things, but many of them were new. All in all, I found this to be an excellent volume and overview of Harris’ thought.

Harrison, Colin. “Semantic Specification/Semantic Emergence: Against the Container Metaphor of Meaning.” In 23rd LACUS Forum (1996), pp. 95-107.

Cited by Walrod (2006), “Language: Object or Event?”, p. 72.

Critiques Lakoff’s handling of polysemy in Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. Proposes a connectionist explanation that is a far better neurocognitive model.

OK. I have no idea how this got published already. I’m giving up and going to bed.

Thursday, 13 Dec 2007

Morgan, Eric Lease. Today’s digital information landscape.

Pointed to by someone on AUTOCAT trying to stir up even more hornets. I take the gist to be reasonably accurate but it was a little overwrought at times. And I absolutely do not like his ideas of automatic search refinement/relevance ranking. In fact, I think “relevance ranking” as a term is one of the worst named concepts we have and we have some doozies.

Thursday – Friday, 13 – 14 Dec 2007

Halpern, Joseph Y. and Vicky Weissman. “Using First-Order Logic to Reason about Policies.” ACM Transactions on Computational Logic Vol. V, No. N, May 2006, 1-39.

Um, no. I did not choose this for myself. Read it for my Python class final.

This is most likely the last edit. I swear. I still have no idea how this ever got published a couple days ago. Clearly, I must have clicked Publish and not Save. But knowing that I must have is not the same as knowing that I did. 🙁

Some things read this week, 18 – 24 November 2007

Sunday, 18 Nov

Norman, Richard. “Holy Communion.” Eurozine [First published in New Humanist 6/2007].

Discusses New Wave Atheism and how it is aggressively antagonistic to religion, which is the wrong way to proceed. I most certainly agree with this.

When recent books by Dawkins, Hitchens and others began coming out I was excited at first. It was good to see that intellectuals were once again engaging with the issues of the day. But as soon as the reviews started appearing I was more appalled than anything. The overly simplistic argumentation, the selective choice of examples, and the tack taken was wrong, for many reasons.

I am what many would call an atheist. I much prefer the term agnostic, though, as that is the best I can epistemologically claim. If you like, I have faith that there is no god (or gods), except those which we create in our own likeness. But I cannot know this.

Whatever our beliefs, be they atheism, humanism, Hinduism, Catholicism, some form of Protestantism, Islamism, etc., we are all in the same boat. Many of us have the same beliefs and goals about how others ought to be treated or how the world could be. We need to work together toward these. Clearly, there are differences between people and groups of people, but aggressive differentiation serves no useful purpose.

Hjørland, Birger and Jeppe Nicolaisen. “Bradford’s Law of Scattering: Ambiguities in the Concept of “Subject.” In F. Crestani and I. Ruthven (Eds.). CoLIS 2005: Context: Nature, Impact, and Role; Lecture Notes in Computer Science 3507: 96-105.

Hjørland, Birger. “Towards a Theory of Aboutness, Subject, Topicality, Theme, Domain, Field, Content . . . and Relevance.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 52.9 (2001): 774-778.

Sunday – Tuesday, 18 – 20 Nov

Hjørland, Birger. Information Seeking and Subject Representation: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Information Science. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

  • Ch. 4: The Concept of Subject or Subject Matter and Basic Epistemological Positions

Monday, 19 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996. [Re-reading]

  • Ch. 8: Metalinguistic Improvements
  • Ch. 9: Metalinguistic Mistakes
  • Ch. 10: Metalinguistic Illusions

Monday – Tuesday, 19 – 20 Nov

Hjorland, Birger. “Information Retrieval, Text Composition, and Semantics.” Knowledge Organization 25.1/2 (1998): 16-31.

Argues for a broader—and different—view of semantics within LIS. Primarily contrasts Wittgenstein’s early “picture theory” with his later “theory of language games,” but has several useful touchpoints for shifting to a more integrationist theory.

Tuesday, 20 Nov

Harris, Roy. The Language Connection: Philosophy and Linguistics. Bristol, U.K: Thoemmes Press, 1996.

  • Postscript

Tallis, Raymond. Escape from Eden. New Humanist 118(4), Nov/Dec 2003. Found via The End of Cyberspace blog.

I know what I said—and I stand by it—about link posts but I’ve gotten more interesting links from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s link posts than everyone else combined.

By the way librarians, have you seen his post from 17 Nov, “Libraries as space 2.0…and early indicators of social IT trends?” He ends with the following:

But if I’m not mistaken, librarians started talking about information commons around 2001– well before Friendster, LinkedIn, and all the rest of Web 2.0 happened. I wonder what librarians are talking about these days?

Perhaps some of you can help him out with that question.

From the Tallis article which is a discussion of how it is that humans are more than just the animals that we are.

Criticising the language of the biologisers is not, however, enough. Defenders of human exceptionalism must, given our undoubted biological origins, find a ‘biological’ basis for our unique escape from biology and a ‘biological’ explanation of how we acquired the ability to run our lives — as opposed to being run by genes that happen to delude us into believing that we are running our lives. Given the relative triviality of the genotypical and phenotypical differences between ourselves and our closest primate cousins, this may seem a tall order.

Harris, Roy. Language, Saussure and Wittgenstein: How to Play Games with Words. London and New York: Routledge, 1988.

  • Ch. 1: Texts and Contexts (Tue)
  • Ch. 2: Names and Nomenclatures (Tue-Wed)
  • Ch. 3: Linguistic Units (Thu)
  • Ch. 4: Language and Thought (Fri AM)
  • Ch. 5: Systems and Users (Fri)
  • Ch. 6: Arbitrariness (Fri)
  • Ch. 7: Grammar (Sat)
  • Ch. 8: Variation and Change (Sat)
  • Ch. 9: Communication (Sat)
  • Ch. 10: Language and Science (Sat)

Despite the differences between Saussure’s and Wittgenstein’s later thoughts on language they are remarkably similar. In this book, Harris explicates the games analogy that both used.

Saturday, 24 Nov

Winograd, Terry and Fernando Flores. Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1987.

  • Ch. 1: Introduction.
  • Ch. 2: The rationalistic tradition.
  • Ch. 3: Understanding and Being.
  • Ch. 4: Cognition as a biological phenomenon.

Hjørland’s Semantics and Knowledge Organization, pt. 2

Hjørland, Birger. “Semantics and Knowledge Organization.” ARIST 41 (2007): 367-405.

Originally read 18 June 2007 because it was cited by Zhang, J. (2007). Ontology and the Semantic Web. Proceedings of the North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization. Vol. 1. Available:

Re-read 28-29 Sep 2007 for two reasons: (1) Seems vastly relevant to my CAS project and (2) it is one of two articles referenced for Dr. Hjørland’s Research Fellow lecture [9 Oct 4-5 PM, Rm 126 GSLIS].

I will not be explicating this article as such here. I am going to use this post to note some of the points of contact that I noticed between Hjørland’s thoughts and Integrationism, to record and ask questions that I had and need to find an answer for, etc.

Semantics and Its “Warrant”

Theories of semantics should be formulated in ways that provide methodological implications for determining meanings and relations in semantic tools such as thesauri and semantic networks. Often such theories are not clear; this renders the theories vague and unhelpful (377).

What does i.v. say on this?

Frohmann (1983) has discussed the semantic bases and theoretical principles of some classification system. His is one of the few papers in IS to recognize that problems in classification should be seen as problems related to semantic theories (378).

Read this 19 June 2007; re-read this for an i.v. angle?

Frohmann presents two semantic theories. … According to the second, the categories to which a concept belongs must be found in the specific literature or discourse of which the associated term is a part. Consequently, the semantic relations are not given a priori, but are formulated a posteriori. This distinction has implications for classification theory (378).

Oh boy, does it ever?

Thus, a basic problem in KO is whether semantic relations are a priori or a posteriori; … (378).

This question is also related to one about the possibility of universal solutions to KO because a posteriori relations are unlikely to be universal (379).

Is there a way to incorporate both? How would be go about truly trying to incorporate a posteriori relationships?

However, it is well known that, for example, synonyms are seldom synonyms in all contexts. It thus becomes important not to think of semantic relations as simply “given,” but to ask: When are two concepts A and B to be considered synonyms ( or homonyms or otherwise semantically related?) When is a semantic relation? We should again ask the pragmatist question: What difference does it make whether, in a given situation, we choose to consider A and B as semantically related in a specific way? (379, emphases mine).

This certainly made me think of Harris (1973). What is the i.v. on “When is a semantic relation?”?

Short discussion of Ogden and Richard’s (1923) triangle of meaning/semiotic triangle (379-380). Where did I see Harris’ take on this?

Hjørland then goes on to discuss “some theoretical possibilities about the nature of concepts and semantic relations: (379):

  • Query/situation specific or idiosyncratic
  • Universal, Platonic entities/relations
  • “Deep semantics” common to all languages (or inherent in cognitive structures)
  • Specific to specific empirical languages (e.g., Swedish)
  • Domain- or discourse-specific
  • Other (e.g., determined by a company or workgroup, “user-oriented”)

Concerning Query/Situation-Specific or Idiosyncratic Semantics

In a way, it is the specific “information need” that determines which relations are fruitful and which are not in a given search session. A semantic relation that increases recall and precision in a given search [is a mighty powerful relationship!] is relevant in that situation (380-381, plus my commentary).

The pragmatic fallback is well represented in this quote:

This pragmatist point of departure is important to keep in mind in developing a theory of concepts and semantics. Semantic relations relate to a given task or situation and not all users of a given set of semantic relations will share the same view of which terms are equivalent. On the other hand, it is clear that if we base a semantic theory on an individual/idiosyncratic view of concepts and semantics, it is not possible to design systems for more than one user or situation—an absurd conclusion. We need more stable principles on which to determine semantic relations. We need a semantic theory about the meaning of words as forms of typified practices. Knowledge about semantics in typified practices may then be used by information searchers in order to include or exclude certain documents (381).

Concerning Universal, Platonic Entities/Relations

Not much to say here. Is a very short section. I will be looking at the following articles, both of which are in AKO 8:

Green, Rebecca. “Conceptual Universals in Knowledge Organization and Representation” (15-27) and Green, Rebecca, Carol A. Bean and Michèle Hudon, “Universality and Basic Level Concepts” (311-317).

I’ll also be looking at both Green, et. al. books on relationships for a refresh. You all didn’t think I had forgotten about Dr. Green, did you?

Concerning “Deep Semantics” Common to All Languages or Inherent in Cognitive Structures (A Priori Relations)

Semantic primitives in concept theory and in IS. Innate ideas (rationalistic) in semantics, facet-analytic tradition (Ranganathan) and formal concept analysis (Priss).

Although this rationalist theory dominates the literature (and is associated with the cognitive view), I do not find it fruitful for KO (384).

More talk about science, what is his view on KO in non-science areas?

Concerning Semantics Specific to Given Empirical Languages

Natural languages are structures in which the words classify the world differently (384).

Hjelmslev’s “tree” chart.

Concerning Domain- or Discourse-Specific Semantics

Although objects have objective properties, representation of those properties in languages and concepts is always more or less “subjective” or “biased” by individuals, social groups, or different cultures (385).

Objects may well have subjective properties also.

The implication is that semantic relations reflect human interests. … This does not imply that all semantic relations are domain-specific (385).

Certainly does not.

Goes on to show that we need to evaluate the literatures of specific domains or discourses to identify and analyze the different methodologies and assumptions made as an aid to determining meaning.

In this way, meanings are linked to different views, interests, and goals; accordingly, terms can be generally considered polysemous. [en 7] Attempts to standardize terminology may unwittingly suppress certain views (387).

Or wittingly suppress. See early Harris on standardization. Is also a comment on definitions and definitional change. Endnote 7 is a comment on the German tradition of Begriffsgeschichte, discussed in the section on semantic relations (en7, 396). [Need to look at this.]

Aspergum vs. Ecotrin vs. aspirin = i.v., circumstantial.

The implication of different paradigms for KO and semantics is that any bibliography of a certain size must confront conflicting ways of defining concepts and determining semantic relations (388).

There is a trade-off between being an optimal tool for the information seeker and a practical tool for the library manager. For the theory of IS, it is nonetheless important to describe the principles of designing optimal search tools (388-389). [the pragmatic fallback]

The point is that the kind of information presented here is necessary for any informed decision about classification practice. Exactly the same kind of information would be helpful for the information seeker … (389). [the macrosocial feeding the circumstantial]

Perhaps the most important task of the information professional is to make the different interests and paradigms visible so that the user can make an informed choice (390). [How does this fit within an i.v.?]

Other Kinds of Warrant

Discusses Beghtol’s (1986) article on warrant. But what about “user warrant” (390)? [Have another read of Beghtol]

Mentions oral and written sources.

Semantic Relations

Relations between concepts. senses, or meanings should not be confused with relations between the terms, words, expressions, or signs that are used to express the concepts. It is, however, common to mix both of these kinds of relations under the heading “semantic relations” (see references omitted). For this reason, synonyms, homonyms, and so forth, are considered under the label “semantic relations” in this chapter (391).

Amen! But much harder in practice to keep these straight or even to see the difference. [See preceding paragraphs to the above quote for some explication.]

On the call for richer sets of relationships in our tools and a a critique of the recall/precision view of IR:

What information searchers need are maps that inform them about the world (and the literature about that world) in which they live and act (393).

Begriffsgeschichte (is this idea of use to me?) = conceptual history.

Historians and other humanistic researchers have realized that in order to use sources from a given period, one must know what the terms meant at the time. Therefore, they have developed impressive historical dictionaries that provide detailed information about conceptual developments within different domains, … (393).

Implication of broadening the view within IS to use important work on semantic relations is that “different domains need different kinds of semantic tools displaying different kinds of semantic relations” (393). Well, this actually follows from much of the previous discussion, but this view implies that we need to look more broadly.

The “Intellectual” Versus the Social Organization of Knowledge

On citations are semantic relations:

I hold that the citing relation is in itself a kind of semantic relation. In support of this claim, I distinguish between “ontological” and social semantic relations and argue that citing relations belong to the latter (394).

Discusses further the difference between and uses of these.


The pragmatist view of semantics suggests that words and expressions are tools for interaction and their meanings are their functions within the interaction, constituting their capacities to serve it in their distinctive ways. [Integrationist] When information professionals classify documents or informational objects, the relevant meanings and properties are available only on the basis of some descriptions. This important consideration, … , stands in opposition to the prevailing implicit assumption that all relevant properties are obvious to the information specialists and that the latter follow certain given principles providing an optimal classification that is objective, neutral, and universal—hence, technically efficient (395, emphases mine).

I am not going to argue that no one thinks that way—some do—but I sure would like to put them to work on some real world projects so they can quickly learn the folly of their blindered thinking.

Traditional approaches to KO have a tighter affiliation with positivism than with the pragmatist view of semantics. … The implication is that traditional views have provided solutions that are, at best, statistical averages and thus sub-optimal (396).

No disagreement from me on this one. In fact, one could say that first sentence is what is driving me to this topic in the first place, urgently prodded along by the works of Roy Harris. And while I agree with the second sentence, what corners will need to be cut due to the pragmatic fallback? Hjørland has pointed to this himself several times in this paper; see above in a couple of places.

This is a very good paper, despite all my questioning of it. I will be spending more time with it I can assure you as it will most likely serve as a cornerstone of my CAS project. I agree with the vast majority of it, and several months back, before I had read so much Harris and related integrationist critiques, I accepted even more of it.

Citations from within this Hjørland paper:

Beghtol, C. (1986). Semantic validity: Concepts of warrant in bibliographic classification systems. Library Resources & Technical Services, 30 109-125.

Frohmann, B. P. (1983). An investigation of the semantic bases of some theoretical principles of classification proposed by Austin and the CRG. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 4: 11-27.

External citations:

Harris, Roy. Synonymy and Linguistic Analysis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973.

López-Huertas, Mariá, and International Society for Knowledge Organization. Challenges in knowledge representation and organization for the 21st century : integration of knowledge across boundaries : proceedings of the seventh international ISKO conference, 10-13 July 2002,. Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag, 2002 [Advances in Knowledge Organization v. 8].

Some things read this week, 30 September – 6 October 2007

Sunday, 30 Sep

van Rijsbergen, C. J. (1986). A new theoretical framework for information retrieval. Proceedings of the Annual International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval, 194-200. Retrieved via ACM Portal.

Cited by Hjørland (2007). Semantics and knowledge organization. ARIST 41: 370.

A useful paper in that the author declares:

I have reluctantly concluded that the fundamental basis of all previous work is wrong. Almost all of the previous work in Information Retrieval (including my own) has been based on the assumption that a formal notion of meaning is not required to solve the information retrieval problem (194).

In discussing the need for a formal semantics:

That is, a document is retrieved if it logically implies the request. However, as we all know, documents rarely imply requests; there is always a measure of uncertainty associated with such an implication. And so, a notion of probable, or approximate, implication is needed …. Modelling the information retrieval process in this way goes beyond the keyword approach, and specifies, once and for all, what relationship between a document and a request is to hold to compute probable relevance (195, emphasis mine).

This is (one big) reason why computer-based IR, as good as it may become, is doomed to incompleteness. There is simply no way, no freaking way, in which anyone could ever specify, once and for all, all of the relevance relationships between documents and a request, much less specify those formally. [But, then, human-based IR faces the same problem for but for somewhat different reasons.]

He does go on to show that he does knows a bit about relevance, such as documents themselves are not, in fact, relevant to requests. And one must love the wonderfully named Logical Uncertainty Principal, which is the main product of this paper.

Peregrin, J. (2004). Pragmatism & semantics. English version of Pragmatism und Semantik. In A. Fuhrmann & E. J. Olsson (Eds.), Pragmatisch denken (pp. 89-108). Frankfurt am Main: Ontos. English version retrieved 30 Sep 2007, from

Cited by Hjørland (2007). Semantics and knowledge organization. ARIST 41: 372.

Discusses what he calls the Carnapian and Deweyan paradigms in language. The intent is to show how “the technical apparatus engendered by the Carnapian approach, with is wealth of results, can be put into the service of the Deweyan paradigm – if we liberate it from the Carnapian representationalist ideology” (3).

On Wittgenstein’s analogy to chess:

Thus the meaning of an expression can be compared to the role of a chess piece, which acquires its role of, say, a ‘knight’ by being handled according to the rules of chess (4).

But meanings and rules can be played upon; are these just alternate rules, or mis-use of the rules to another end?

Makes us of Sellars’ rules of semantics as rules of inference, which relies heavily on the primacy of sentences and on locating sentences in a logical space as propositions. But it simply is not the case that any of the bits below the sentence level have no meaning, nor that communication can not occur with sentence fragments or single words.

And the whole logical space/proposition issue is heavily positivistic! Clearly not all communication is propositional.

Such objections point out that if we start to treat formal semantics as the basis for a philosophy of language, we are likely to run into a vicious circle: we reduce philosophically problematical concepts to the seemingly perspicuous formal semantic concepts, which, however, ultimately rest on the obscure concepts to be explicated (10-11).

Amen to that!

But to place the Carnapian approach in the service of the Deweyan he falls back on possible world semantics. Gah! Can we please do away with the so-called possible worlds? Possible worlds are an supra-metalinguistic way of talking about our already common-sense, lay, metalinguistic way of discussing alternative scenarios and logical possibility and necessity. To formalize this way of talking into possible world semantics leads one easily down the path from a linguistic way of knowing (epistemology) to postulating actually existent possible worlds (metaphysics).

On the pragmatic fallback, as I am tentatively calling it (them?):

And I think that the inferentialist should realize that modeling is a very useful thing. Thus I think that although language is not literally a nomenclature or a code (as the Carnapian paradigm has it [orthodox linguistics]) it remains useful, at times, to see it as a code, just as it is often useful to see atoms as cores orbited by electrons (12).

This is a very interesting paper, but I do not think it has won me over to its way of thinking. I am concerned that we will, especially in IR, have to resort to the pragmatic fallback. But Sellars’ view is still far too positivistic and thus rules out much of what we would call communication. Perhaps this view was acceptable when libraries were the gatekeepers and we dealt only in “serious” reading material. But this is, in some respects, a new age and the past age is long past. Perhaps libraries need not worry about some of this when one considers the sorts of material that they deal with (but I doubt that!). But KO and IR is much broader than libraries. And even if KO and IR uses a sub-set of our theories of language and communication (assuming we separate them; perhaps not), we should have theories that cover all of communication and language and then explicitly pull out the bits we need. We should not be starting from a limited theory to begin with.

Harris, Roy, and George Wolf, eds. Integrational Linguistics: A First Reader. 1st ed, Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1998.


  • Introduction
  • Ch. 1: Harris, R. “Language as Social Interaction: Integrationalism versus Segregationalism.”
  • Ch. 2: Harris, R. “The Integrationist Critique of Orthodox Linguistics.”


  • Ch. 8: Harris, R. Three Models of Signification.”

I skipped ahead to chap. 8 as I want to get a handle on the integrationist view (i.v.) of meaning.

Discussion of these is going to have to wait.

Monday, 1 Oct

American Society for Information Science and Technology. Theories of Information Behavior. Medford, N.J: Published for the American Society for Information Science and Technology by Information Today, 2005.


  • Ch. 1: Bates, Marcia J. “An Introduction to Metatheories, Theories, and Models.”
  • Ch. 2: Dervin, Brenda. “What Methodology Does to Theory: Sense-Making Methodology as Exemplar.”
  • Ch. 3: Wilson, T. D. “Evolution in Information Behavior Modeling: Wilson’s Model.”
  • Theory 60: Hjørland, Birger. “The Socio-Cognitive Theory of Users Situated in Specific Contexts and Domains.”
  • Theory 2: Belkin, Nicholas J. “Anomalous State of Knowledge.”
  • Theory 5: Bates, Marcia J. “Berrypicking.”

This book looks useful enough that I ordered my own copy, with my ASIST discount of course. If you have the slightest aversion with authors referring to themselves in the third-person or heavily self-citing then you may want to skip it or take it in small doses. But the self-citation in many cases makes perfect sense as many of the authors are writing about their own theories. But the third-person stuff, especially the “Article x is clearly a most influential paper in LIS having been cited 642 times” [made up example], is simply past precious.

The book as a physical item seems to be of fairly good quality, although I do have a few gripes. Page margins are far too limited, especially the outer margins. The type face is generally readable, although a tad too small for some, but it has two features I do not like. First, and only minimally pain-inducing is the hyphen, which slants upward from left to right at about a 40 degree angle. Far worse, and especially grating since it occurs extremely frequently due to citation style and time period of most citations, is that the numeral 1 is a capital I. WTF is that? I realize that some old typewriters and perhaps early computer printers used either an “l” or an “I” for a “1”. But this book was published in 2005! Why would anyone use a type face that uses a capital I for a 1 in 2005? Information Today should be ashamed. [it also has a ridiculously long “/”.]

I primarily checked this book out to get a copy of Hjørland’s “The Socio-Cognitive Theory of Users Situated in Specific Contexts and Domains.” It will also be of immense value in the section of my paper where I critique various aspects of our field. By providing a brief overview of 72 theories in a lit review format, along with highlighting applicable research projects, the book will prove exceptionally useful.

I read the above theories to try and get a handle on how they might or might not fit in with Integrationism.

Hjørland’s use of the socio-cognitive view and domain analytic theory can, I believe, easily be given an integrationist reading. Within integrationism, the “three parameters relevant to the identification of signs within the temporal continuum” are biomechanical, macrosocial and circumstantial [Harris, see previous link]. The biomechanical and macrosocial parameters are clearly shown in Hjørland and, I believe, the circumstantial can be pulled out of the “socially constructed” easily enough.

Belkin’s anomalous state of knowledge (ASK) is explicitly cognitivist and, thus, may not translate as well. It most certainly will not fall under Hjørland’s views easily. What is his view of ASK? [Note to self to ask him; noted.]

Bates’ Berrypicking; hard to say from this article. Seems as if it could fit in many other views and theories. Unfortunately, the assumptions and epistemologies underlying her model are almost completely opaque in this article. Will need to check the original articles themselves.

Schneider, K. G. “Range of Desire: In the military, I learned to love women and guns.”

Very enjoyable read. Parts of this resonated deeply with me, some parts not so much, and some seemed very different than my experience. But this is Karen’s story so that last clause in the previous sentence isn’t too relevant.

Hjørland, Birger. (2002). “Epistemology and the Socio-Cognitive Perspective in Information Science.” JASIST 53 (4): 257-270.

Through the lens of psychology literature demonstrates the differences between the cognitive and socio-cognitive views, discusses domain analysis, shows that knowledge of subject literature(s) is required for effective info retrieval, demonstrates that different paradigms and epistemologies imply different information needs and relevance criteria.

Some of these points ought to be blatantly self-evident but they generally ignored in our literature. These points can fit within an integrationist view most likely.

Hjørland, Birger. (2004). “Domain Analysis: A Socio-Cognitive Orientation for Information Science Research.” Bulletin of the ASIST, Feb/March 2004: 17-21.

This is good, but short, overview of domain analysis based on the author’s talk at the ASIS&T 2003 Annual Meeting. For anyone looking for a short intro to domain analysis and several other of the author’s views (socio-cognitive view, pragmatic realism) this is a great place to start.

For some reason the close juxtaposition of IS & IT in the 1st several paragraphs of this article made me make an odd sort of observation:

IS and/vs. IT

“is” and/vs. “it”

being and/vs. thing

So tell me about relevance again, will you? Relationships are defined by what?

Tuesday, 2 Oct

Davis, Hayley G. Words: An Integrational Approach. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 2001.

  • Ch. 2: Methodology: The Word of the Layperson
  • Ch. 3: What Do Lay Speakers Say About Words?

Wednesday, 3 oct

Hayley (above).

  • Ch. 4: Words and Linguistic Meaning

Hjørland, B. “Domain analysis in information science: Eleven approaches – traditional as well as innovative.” Journal of Documentation 58 (4), 2002: 422-462. doi: 10.1108/00220410210431136

This is a long but useful article about the uses of domain analysis in information science. It pointed me to several resources of which probably ought to play a role in my critique of language theorizing and use in LIS.

I loved this quote, under the head of Indexing and retrieving specialties, as it serves to justify my extending stay at GSLIS:

Too often library and information specialists feel they lack adequate subject knowledge. In order to claim the existence of the field as a serious field of study one has, however, to develop sufficient subject knowledge in at least one field (e.g. LIS itself). The application of LIS principles to a specific task may make research in information science more relevant and realistic (429, emphasis mine).

The following is a claim made in many places by Hjørland which I am going to need more time to formulate an adequate response to, but I want to note it here:

The tendency to try to measure users’ information needs by questioning them or by studying their behavior seems to me to be mistaken. What information is needed to solve a given problem is not primarily a psychological question, but a theoretical/philosophical one (431).

While I tend to agree with this, at least in restricted domains, I do not think it is so applicable in, say, general culture. Certainly there are assumptions I am making if I want to do a Google search on Britney’s custody woes as reported in the popular press, but I do not think theory and philosophy are going to be of much use and certainly will not be dominant in my “need.”

Thus, I am led to think that this is going to be more of a continuum, and perhaps/more likely multi-dimensionally continuous. I think Hjørland’s view on this is a bit too influenced by scientific-type knowledge, “serious research” and the academic environment. But if IS and KO only focus on these limited areas of knowledge then the game is already up. We must have a wider influence or the Googles and Microsofts of the corporate world will quickly eat us up. [Noted to ask him about this.]

His spin on bibliometrics, here and elsewhere, makes it seem like they can possibly be given a integrationist spin (e.g., p. 433).

On taking the easy way out citationally (underrepresentation and overrepresentation):

In LIS there may be a corresponding tendency to overcite easy theories and methods at the expense of more difficult but also more important papers (435). [Oh, like Bush, perhaps.]

Under Document and genre studies:

These important concepts need, however, to be based on more general theories of documents, their communicative purposes and functions, their elements and composition and their potential values in information retrieval. Different disciplines or discourse communities develop special kinds of documents as adaptations to their specific needs (437).

Seems pretty integrative and reflective of the macrosocial, and perhaps of the circumstantial as well.

Terminological studies, language for special purpose (LSP), database semantics and discourse studies was the most productive citationally for me. LSPs and sublanguages will be critical to my critique of language in LIS. Can we legitimately speak of sublanguages within Integrationism, or must they be given a different spin? LSPs seem to reflect the macrosocial at first blush.

Ammon’s sociolinguistic theory of LSPs seems useful in cross- and interdisciplinary information seeking (444-445).

Spells out Hjørland’s approach (so far) to LSPs and database semantics (4 main assumptions) (445-446):

  1. “Signs and their meaning are formed by social groups primarily as part of the social division of labour in society.”
  2. “Different communities develop specific document types of more or less different compositions.”
  3. “The above mentioned discursive or epistemic communities are always influenced by various epistemological norms and trends, which also influence the social construction of symbolic systems, media, knowledge, meaning and semantic distances.”
  4. “When documents are merged in databases information about implicit meanings from the prior contexts are lost.”

Is the concept of semantic distance tenable in Integrationism?

Under Structures and institutions in scientific communication we get an explicit comment on the “narrow” view taken by Hjørland (at least in this arena) that I critiqued above:

They do not, however, cover mass media, organisational communications, and broader communications connected to the public sphere (447).

Another comment with which I basically agree but also find somewhat narrow [although he does say “a“]:

In LIS a central goal is to provide users with information which can help evaluate the validity of different knowledge claims. To help the user establish his own views on some issue based on studies of all available arguments is extremely important in LIS (450).

What can I say, except “Read it!”

Thursday, 4 Oct

Walrod, Michael E. “Language: object or event? The integration of language and life.” In Nigel Love, Ed. Language and History: Integrationist Perspectives. London: Routledge, 2006: 71-78.

Need to copy this and re-read it as it is the selection for Metadata Roundtable Wednesday. Am I the so-called discussion leader for this one?

Thursday – Friday, 4 – 5 Oct

Hayley, (above).

  • Ch. 5: Parts of Speech and Grammar
  • Ch. 6: Folk Characteristics of Words (split over T/F)
  • Ch. 7: Reorientation: The Integration of Speech and Writing

This was actually a quite entertaining book using an “ask-the-speaker methodology, using fieldwork and interview techniques” (ix-x) to focus “on the uses to which English speakers on the one hand, and linguistic theorists on the other, out the word word” (ix). It is also a fast read.

In fact, it was downright hilarious at points. My only complaints are that: (1) it, although very relaxed, if you will, for an academic book, is still very British in style and, (2) some of the author’s conclusions did not seem to follow from the way they were phrased in summary, although they did from the evidence. Thus, I was a tad confused at points. Well worth a read if you can get it from a library. Just don’t make it an even faster read by skipping what the informants say; that will be important to coming to the correct conclusions and are, of course, the actual funny parts.

Some of things they “blame” on Americans are downright hilarious. This is not the funniest one but one I can find at the moment:

G: . . . shit as far as I understand it is being used more and more by American young girls as an expression of disgust (152)

On epistemological and ontogenetically we get:

Other guesses were that epistemological was possibly a ‘religious’ word (B) because of the word epistle, and W thought they both sounded ‘like words the Americans have made up . . . funny words” (171).

The take home message is not, of course, the humor [perhaps I ought to write humour?] but the variability of users experience with and use of metalinguistic thinking and talk contra the linguistic theorists who think we all have the same ideas innately. Well, we clearly do not nor should it take a research project and book to demonstrate that.

Friday, 5 Oct

Hjørland, B. “Arguments for Philosophical Realism in Library and Information Science.” Library Trends 52 (3), Winter 2004: 488-506. Available in IDEALS at [pdf]

Title reflects the paper quite well.

Empiricism is a problematic philosophy, but this does not, of course, imply that empirical research is mistaken (493).

Much more interdisciplinary work needs to be done in the philosophy of science (494).

Being a subscriber to Philosophy of Science I’d say that it is beginning to be done, and I have no doubt much more is being reported in other venues. But the point is well taken and supported by me.

… the socio-cognitive and domain analytic view assumes that “in the beginning there is a community” as well as a body of more or less substantiated knowledge claims; its distinguishing charge is to locate interactional processes in their social structural context as well as in their theoretical-substantial context (496, emphasis mine).

Sounds pretty integrational to me.

Related to an above critique of relevance:

The validity—and thus the relevance—of a document claiming that a certain substance is relevant as a cure for cancer is also ultimately decided in medical research, not by asking users of information services. [en 17, 18] Thu we have a central realist claim: A given document may be relevant to a given purpose, whether or not the user believes this to be so. [en 19] (497).

Sorry but I am not reproducing the endnotes here. While I want to concur with these statements I cannot without qualification. The ultimate question whether a specific substance is a possible cure for cancer is certainly an empirical one, but assuming that our “users of information services” are cancer researchers there is a definite sense in which the relevance of that particular document to their research program is theirs to make. They may lose a Nobel over their relevance decision if it is the wrong one, but the fact that epistemologies and assumptions imply relevance also implies that the decision of relevance is somewhat in the hand of users. But the point which I fully support is that one cannot reduce relevance entirely to what the user says is relevant. In some cases there will be an objective matter of fact of some thing’s relevance to a specific question.


It is rather a claim that relevance is not a subjective phenomenon but rather an objective one. To be engaged in how to identify what is relevant is to be engaged in scientific arguments, ultimately in epistemology (for a more detailed discussion on the realist position in relevance research, see Hjørland, 2000a and Hjørland & Sejer Christensen, 2002) (497).

Yes, perhaps it is an idealist position that some part of relevance is subjective. Nonetheless, this is the case. The first sentence in the above quote is a non-starter in that it is an either/or when it needs to be an and both. The and both will differ along a continuum depending upon the domain under investigation, but it is not one or the other. What about pop culture? Again, why with such a narrow view of KO and IR?

The field of information-seeking behavior has in a similar way been dominated by antirealist tendencies. When people seek information, they have given systems of information resources with given potentialities at their disposal (497).

OK. This is objectively the case on one description. But these given potentialities are rapidly changing, and many are not so “given” anymore. There is also the matter of knowing, and even being able to know, the given of some of these systems today. This ties directly into my stated intention to hire several librarians to help me manage all of my “systems of information resources” when I win the lottery.

Anyway, I do agree with much of what Hjørland says in this article and elsewhere. I just see some things that to me seem to be based on a narrower view than I feel we can afford to take or which need a bit of nuance as I see it.

Perhaps my views are different and perhaps seem muddled to some because I am a realist about much of the external world, but I am not a realist about much of modern science. Atoms and beyond? Not so much. Useful theoretical entities they be, but just as “wrong” as Newton’s mechanics. Who’s to say our current sub-atomic particles are truly existing entities? See, there‘s the rub. I am an ontological realist (generally), but I am most certainly not an epistemological realist. In fact, my dislike of epistemological realism runs much deeper than disavowing “the view that science provides a true or realistic picture of the world” (490), especially since some would say the only true or realistic picture of the world. Nope, call me an epistemological agnostic, if you like. I think epistemology is an important subject and I fully agree with Hjørland in his claim that it is central to LIS. I just don’t think we really have much that amounts to Truth or Knowledge or, more accurately, that we can ever know if we do.

It seems my views are pretty much in accord with Hjørland’s based on endnote 24 to this article (no idea what his views on particle physics is, though). And while I do agree that our subjective knowledge can be objective, in the sense that it is “in accordance with its object” (504), I do not believe that we can ever know that is is. All we have to go on is the use that that knowledge makes for pragmatically.

I have a definite post in me about science as a belief system right now but I doubt I’ll have time to get to it. I promised a friend of mine the other day who shocked me by claiming that it was not (and says she did before) that I would write it. But, alas, probably not. Trying to claim otherwise via dictionary definitions, statements by scientists, lay views of “systems of belief,” etc. simply cannot get you out of your dilemma of belief. I read a good article somewhere in the last day or so that I wanted to ask her to read. Damn it! What was it? Was it this article or something online?

Theories of Information Behavior [see above].

  • Theory 10: Rieh, Soo Young. “Cognitive Authority.”

Cognitive authority theory was developed by Patrick Wilson in his book, Second-hand Knowledge: An Inquiry into Cognitive Authority. It appears that people of many epistemological persuasions have made use of Wilson’s theory. I think cognitive authority can easily be given an integrationist reading as I can see it being definitely influenced by biomechanical, macrosocial and circumstantial parameters.

Browne, Glenda. “The Definite Article: Acknowledging ‘The’ in Index Entries,” The Indexer, vol. 22, no. 3 April 2001, pp. 119-22.

This article won the 2007 Ig Nobel Award for Literature. I saw this 1st a few days ago at 3 Quarks Daily and then a few other places. When I saw the Thingology post on it this morning I finally read it.

The Ig Nobel is given “For achievements that first make people LAUGH, then make them THINK.”

Ig Nobels at 3 Quarks Daily and at Thingology. 2007 Award Winners at the Annals of Improbable Research site.

As Tim says, “Hey, it’s a problem” and the author makes some good points.

Initial articles are the focus of my Python programming so far in LIS452. My 1st program took an internal list of mixed case titles and put them in lower case, stripped leading articles (English only) and then alphabetized them. My 2nd program which is currently beta and due Thursday does pretty much the same thing except it is written using functional vs. procedural style and it reads the titles in from a file and writes them out to a 2nd file. I hope to “fix” it to capitalize the 1st letter of each title, and if I have time to use regular expressions to do the stripping. Regex will be overkill for this program but I see them as probably the most important thing I can learn from this class (at the moment anyway).

Not sure how far I’ll get with this, though, as. must. prepare. for Dr. Hjørland’s visit this coming week!

Not going to claim that I won’t be reading or re-reading anything else today but I am going to cut this off and get back to my commentary o Hjørland’s “Semantics and Knowledge Organization” which is a much bigger job than I was thinking. It is about to become a multi-post job.

Gulp. I have 3 Downey chapters and 2 Zelle chapters to read for 452, which is LEEP on-campus this week. Luckily I have an extra day to get to those since class is Friday this week. Thank the LEEP gods for that one!

Some things read this week, 23 – 29 September 2007

Saturday evening at the diner after the bar, 22 Sep

Downey, et. al. How to Think Like a Computer Scientist (2nd ed). at Open Book Project. (Text for LIS452)

  • Ch. 12: Classes and objects
  • Ch. 13: Classes and functions

Sunday, 23 Sep

Harris, Roy, and George Wolf, eds. Integrational Linguistics: A First Reader. 1st ed, Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1998.

  • Ch. 3: Harris, R. Making Sense of Communicative Competence

Sunday – Friday, 23 – 28 Sep

Harris, Roy. Synonymy and Linguistic Analysis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973.

  • Introduction
  • Ch. 1: Synonymy, Form and Meaning
  • Ch. 2: Synonymy and Phonological Analysis
  • Ch. 3: Synonymy and Grammatical Analysis
  • Ch. 4: Synonymy and Semantic Analysis
  • Ch. 5: Synonymy and Linguistic Knowledge

Seeing as I ordered myself a copy of the Harris and Wolf Reader, I decided to put it aside for now and began another one.

This book is based on Harris’ Ph.D. I’m not sure how much I’ll read as I’m having a hard time following some of it for various reasons. Ch. 2 especially is just sort of washing over me. The book is not very large, though, so I’ll keep at it for now.

The book treats synonymy as applicable to sentences, and perhaps broader, instead of just to words. Even before I realized it was taking a broader view of synonymy (before I checked it out), it seemed to me that it might be highly applicable to LIS.

Are we not, in some sense, saying that two items are synonymous when we apply the same controlled vocabulary terms to them? When I apply the same tag to multiple items is there not some way in which I am declaring them to be synonymous?


Well, as you can see I went ahead and read the whole thing, and simplified the entry by not spreading it over multiple entries, the main reason being that in most cases the chapters ended up getting split across days.

Some of it was more or less beyond my knowledge base, especially in the first 3 chapters. I did a lot better with the last two as they involved more critiques of people and views from philosophy (vs. linguistics) with which I am at least acquainted. Despite my lack of preparation for much of it, it was a typical Harris book; well written and well argued.

A comment he makes regarding the difficulty of determining “systematically all of the types of situation in which a context-bound synonymity holds” addresses one of my complaints about many of the theories/approaches that are adopted or avoided in LIS:

Nonetheless—the theorist of context-bound synonymy might argue—the practical difficulty of the enterprise of discovering in exactly what situation two words are synonymous does not impugn the validity of the concept (127).

Although I have no examples to hand, I have often thought this when reading our literature. “You’re throwing this idea out because it is hard to employ?”

Thursday, 27 Sep

Hjørland, Birger. Information Seeking and Subject Representation: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Information Science. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

  • Ch. 1: Introduction: Information Seeking and Subject Representation

Oh, my, my. So many points of contact between Hjørland and Integrationism.

Friday, 28 Sep

Davis, Hayley G. Words: An Integrational Approach. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 2001.

Ch. 1: Orientation: The Word of Linguistic Theory

Blair, David C. “Wittgenstein, Language and Information: “Back to the Rough Ground!”” In Crestani and Ruthven (Eds.). Context: Nature, Impact, and Role. Proceeding of the 5th International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Sciences, CoLIS 2005, Glasgow, UK, June 4-8, 2005. Heidelberg: Springer, 2005. 1-4.

Friday – Saturday, 28 – 29 Sep

Hjørland, Birger. “Semantics and Knowledge Organization.” ARIST 41 (2007): 367-405.

Originally read 18 June 2007. Re-read for two reasons: (1) Seems vastly relevant to my CAS project and (2) it is one of two articles referenced for Dr. Hjørland’s Research Fellow lecture [9 Oct 4-5 PM, Rm 126 GSLIS].

I now have a lot to say about this article, but it will be getting its own post.

Saturday, 29 Sep

Readings for LIS452 for next week’s topic of Abstract automata and formal languages

Some things read this week, 9 – 15 September 2007

Thursday – Sunday, 6 – 9 Sep

Capurro, Rafael and Birger Hjørland. “The Concept of Information.” ARIST 37, 2003: 343-411.

This is an excellent and lengthy review article on the concept of information. It is much broader in coverage than just IS, though, looking also at the concept interdisciplinarily and, in specific, in the natural sciences, the social sciences and humanities, and in LIS.

It is, as one might imagine for a lit review, full of useful sources. My only complaint—and it is mostly inwardly focused on my monolingualism—is that the authors cite a lot of German sources, including some of the more interesting sounding ones. [I know David, it is not too late to learn.]

For instance, although I did not fully accept some of the ideas attributed to Weizsäcker, I can fully accept these ideas:

Finally, Weizsäcker points to the “unavoidable circle” between language and information; that is, between word plurivocity and conceptual univocity, as a characteristic of exact thinking. The reason is that we are finite observers and actors within language as well as within evolution. We cannot, in Kantian terms, understand things as they are in themselves and therefore we never have fully univocal concepts (Weizsäcker sources omitted, emphasis mine, 363).

Contrast this with this view from Priss, commented on here.

The advantage of formalizations, however, is that notions are defined with absolute precision within the formal realm and that they therefore may be implementable in software (draft 12).

The implications of Weizsäcker’s comment run deep for machine inferencing.

There are even a fair few decent looking sources for the more politically active/socially conscious amongst us. For example:

Braman supposedly shows the different approaches to defining information for policy makers and how this is, in fact, a political decision (373-74).

Braman, S. (1989). Defining information: An approach for policymakers. Telecommunications Policy, 13 (1), 233-242. This article is also cited on p. 345 and on p. 346.

“Romm (1997) shows that serious ethical implications are involved in defining something as factual as opposed to meaningful” (387).

Romm, N. (1997). Implications of regarding information as meaningful rather than factual. In R. L. Winder, S. K. Probert & I. A. Beeson (Eds.), Philosophical aspects of information systems (pp. 23-34). London: Taylor & Francis.

Lengthy, but recommended.

Sunday – Saturday, 9 – 15 Sep

Harris, Roy. Introduction to Integrational Linguistics. 1st ed, Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1998.

Read chaps. 1-5.

Wednesday, 12 Sep

Harel, David. Computers Ltd.: What They Really Can’t Do. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. (Text for LIS452)

Read ch. 1. [book arrived late.]

Saturday, 15 Sep

Downey, et. al. How to Think Like a Computer Scientist (2nd ed). at Open Book Project. (Text for LIS452)

  • Ch. 3: Functions
  • Ch. 4: Conditionals and recursion
  • Ch. 5: Fruitful functions
  • Ch. 6: Iteration

I actually read a lot more this week but it was mostly a different kind of reading as I began work on my bibliography. More on that topic later.

Some things read this week, 26 August – 1 September 2007

Sunday, 26 Aug

Harris, Roy, and Christopher Hutton. Definition in theory and practice: Language, lexicography and the law. London: Continuum, 2007.

Read ch. 4 “Ostensive Definition and Linguistic Theory.”

Litwin, R. Library Juice Concentrate. Duluth, Minn: Library Juice Press, 2006.

Finished Section Four: Librarians: Culture and Identity and began Section Five: Cuba:

Litwin, R. “A Critique of Anarchist Librarianship.”

Litwin, R. and Jessamyn West. “Interview with Jessamyn West.”

Neugebauer, Rhonda L. “Rhonda L. Neugebauer Reports on her March, 2000 Trip to Cuba.”

Sparanese, Ann. “Ann Sparanese’s Paper on Cuba for the IRC Latin American and Caribbean Subcommittee.”

Monday, 27 Aug

Wersig, Gernot and Ulrich Neveling. “The phenomena of interest to Information Science.” The Information Scientist 9 (4), December 1975: 127-140.

Cited by Raber, ch. 10 en9.

“Information” must reduce uncertainty. Arrrgh!

This is actually an article worth reading, despite its flaws. It begins by taking a look at various disciplines involved in “information science,” the different routes taken in the rise of information science(s), and some reasons for the difficulties in discussing this concept. It then outlines four broad views (phenomenon-, means-, technological-, and purpose-oriented) under which the concept of information has been expressed in various literatures.

Six major approaches to “‘Information’ as the possible object of information science” as based on “the general structure of relations between humans and the world” are elucidated and critiqued (130-132).

  • Structure approach (matter-oriented)
  • Knowledge approach
  • Message approach
  • Meaning approach (characteristic of message-oriented)
  • Effect approach (recipient-oriented)
  • Process approach

It is under the Effect approach that “‘Information’ is reduction of uncertainty” arises (133).

This diversity of views on ‘information’ is frightening, and in fact is probably incomplete. It would be a relief if we could follow Fairthorne’s proposal: ‘Clearly, “information” and its derivatives are words to avoid’, but obviously this is not possible. … If the term ‘information’, or one of derivatives like ‘informatics’ is unavoidable, we should make it clear in every instance what is meant (132, emphasis mine).

Next is a justification for a societal responsibility for information scientists followed by broad, medium and narrow solutions for defining the boundaries of information science “vis-á-vis other object-oriented disciplines” (135).

The authors opt for the narrow solution as it allows solutions to the concrete, pragmatic problems that need solving. This is not “a narrow understanding of ‘information’ but of the area in which ‘information’ is considered” (137).

A short proposal follows which shows the intersection of the traditional disciplines with the now grouped information sciences, each “catering for different clientèles according to different information needs” (138).

I like this idea at first glance. I need to think it through more critically, and it may need some rearranging or additions or deletions, and 30 years on perhaps some new terms for the various disciplines, but I am beginning to lean towards a definite narrowing of the scope of ‘information science’ as to consider it only one of the many ‘informations sciences.’

Thus, I like this article a lot. I think that in a short space it offers a lot to seriously consider in trying to explicate the concepts of ‘information’ and ‘information science’ and the place of the former in the latter.

My biggest issue with these authors is that they fall back on one of the variants of the Effect approach mentioned above:

The basic term ‘information’ can be understood only if it is defined in relation to these information needs

Either as reduction of uncertainty caused by communicated data.
Or as data used for reducing uncertainty (138).

Even in a highly empirical domain I simply cannot accept this definition of ‘information.’ Perhaps if someone provides a term for the information which actually increases uncertainty, and can justify having two theoretical entities, I might accept this. But I have yet to see one by anyone who leans towards the uncertainty reduction and/or question answering views of ‘information.’

I Kuhn’s view (highly simplified), it is anomalous data which causes uncertainty, doubt, inconsistency, etc. with a current standard theory in science. This resultant anomalous state of knowledge leads towards attempts to resolve the uncertainty. When enough observations do not fit within the current theory that theory is eventually discarded by a few scientists in favor of one which better explains previous observations and the anomalous observations under the current theory. Eventually, perhaps, a paradigm change happens as the new theoretical explanations become the standard.

Is not the meaning and interpretation given the anomalous data (or perhaps just the recognition of its having significance) also information? [I know this question needs restructuring for greater rhetorical force. Nonetheless, it is my belief (for now) that information is often a cause of uncertainty and question generation. Defining it so narrowly, without offering a counterpart concept, as that which must reduce uncertainty or that which only answers questions is highly limiting and perhaps even question begging.]

See also my comments on this and related ideas on my “Some things read this week” post of 5-11 August 2007. I also seem to have conflicting ideas on whether narrowing the scope of information science is appropriate if one looks at the same previous post. I accept this. A large part of this conflict is based on the definitions of ‘information’ and ‘use’—among others—which we accept first. Definitions of our major theoretical entities, though, should delimit the scope of the discipline and not the other way round. See the following article for related thoughts on delimiting the scope of information science and also for a critique of this article.

Roberts, Norman. “Social Considerations Towards a Definition of Information Science.” Journal of Documentation 32 (4), December 1976: 249-257.

Cited by Raber, ch. 10, en8 & en10.

Yay!! [This is the note I wrote on the article after I finished it.]

This is a short, but important, article on the prospect of refocusing information science as a social science. It outlines some reasons why, despite most theorists agreeing that information concepts and phenomena have a social significance, information science is oriented “towards the scientific and scientism rather than the social scientific” (249).

Specific theorists considered include Mikhailov, Wersig and Neveling (see previous article above), Yovits, and Whittemore and Yovits, and Brookes. Wersig and Neveling get the most space.

After demonstrating that the highly constricted domain alloted by Wersig and Neveling for information science is untenable, Roberts turns to the idea of information as uncertainty reducer. His critique takes several tacks including problems of definition, the substitution of one substitute measure for another substitute measure, and “the adoption of a naive human information model” (252).

Curiously, for committed social scientists, no recognition is accorded the frequent situations in which additional increments of information increase, rather than dispel, uncertainty.

With this, and other, warnings available to us it would seem unhelpful, to say the least, for information science to manufacture its very own version of economic man in the shape of uncertainty man and to adopt him as the basis for the exploration of information problems[5] (252).

[en5] It would be possible to deny this argument by maintaining that information which causes uncertainty cannot be so regarded but this would rob the model of all social credibility (257). [It would also rob any model of any psychological credibility!]

There is much more of value in this article, including a reminder of how a social science such as information science is still a science.

I’ll leave you with this closing thought:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the recognition that the methodologies and expectations of information science are those of the social sciences. In particular the requirements of social explanations imply that the individual, the ultimate justification of all information work, services and theorising, cannot be excluded from the considerations of information scientists (257).

Highly recommended for pretty much everyone in our field.

Monday – Tuesday, 27 – 28 Aug

Harris and Hutton. See above.

Began Part II. Definition and the Dictionary. Read ch.5 “The Lexicographer’s Task.”

Tuesday, 28 Aug

Frohmann, Bernd. “Communication technologies and the politics of postmodern information science.” Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 19 (2), July 1994: 1-22.

Cited by Raber ch. 10 en 19a and 20.

Quite oddly, for an article that uses the term postmodern so frequently, I really enjoyed this article. I also found myself agreeing with most of it, and it is an important argument.

The kind of politics embedded in these technologies [interactive consumer information technologies] and their supporting infrastructures is evident from their role in the construction of human subjectivity, or what will be termed here a technological practice of identity politics. The argument that follows is that the debate about the postmodern character of the subjects who participate in the social relations configured by the new communication and information technologies presents the most urgent issues for the possibilities of a democratic politics of information (7).

I really found the following quote from Mowshowitz quite accurate for many reasons, experiential and theoretical, but I immediately thought of Facebook groups and wrote just that in the margins of the paper:

Consumers in the network marketplace will be members of many different affinity groups, which will persist for varying periods of time. Moreover, the consumer may very well switch from one group to another. To the extent that personal identity is bound up with ever changing affinity groups, individuality becomes transformed into virtual individuality. At any given moment, a person’s identity can be inferred from the intersection of affinity groups to which he belongs at the same time. (Mowshowitz 1993) (10).

There is much more about social fragmentation, pluralism, identity politics, the role of information and consumer technologies in the construction and manipulation of identity. These issues and their implications are then analyzed “for theory construction in IS that is not politically blind” (13).

Highly recommended, especially to those interested in the political implications of IS theory and practice, identity politics, progressive librarianship, and related issues.

Wednesday – Thursday, 29 – 30 Aug

Harris and Hutton. See above.

Read ch. 6 “Definitions and History.”

Monday – Thursday, 27 – 30 Aug

Litwin, R. See above.

Finished Section Five: Cuba

  • Oberg, Larry. “The Status of Gays in Cuba: Myth and Reality.”

Read Section Six: Various and Sundry Readings (all by Litwin except where noted)

  • Reid, Carol. “Libary Limericks”
  • “Some Meditations on Those Amusing Searches.”
  • Collected by Litwin. “Selected Quotes of the Week.”
  • “Suggested Paper Topics.”
  • “Some Books for Progressive Librarians.”

One of my favorite limericks by Carol Reid:

There once was a bored cataloger
Who doggedly worked as a blogger;
He wanted to write
And stay up half the night,
Not grind in machines like a cog (grrr…)

I gave a Selected Quotes for the Week last week in my commentary and I’d like to provide another. All I’m saying, folks, is perhaps consider the idea when you are “reaching” for your next piece of information to consume:

“It would be a serious intellectual mistake to confuse information that functions as entertainment with actual, or knowledge-based, information. It would be a mistake as well to simply ignore the cognitive implications of information processing as entertainment. Real information, such as who controls wealth and property in the United States, why prison building outdistances school construction, or comparative rates of upward and downward mobility, is as difficult to locate as it ever was and must be culled from the kinds of books and journals not featured and sometimes not even carried by the megabookstore at the strip mall or reported on by television features.” – Joseph Urgo, In the Age of Distraction, University of Mississippi Press, 2000, as cited in Litwin, Library Juice Concentrate, p. 204.

Library Juice Concentrate is highly recommended. Unless of course, you prefer not to think.

As Liz said of Litwin in a comment on last week’s post, “he contributes a necessary voice to the librarianship conversation.” Amen to that!

Friday, 31 Aug

Harris and Hutton. See above.

Read ch. 7 “Types and Problems of Definition.”

Saturday, 1 Sep

Zelle, John M. Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science. Wilsonville, Or: Franklin, Beedle, 2004.

Read ch. 3 and began ch. 4.

Karen Sparck Jones. “What’s new about the Semantic Web? Some questions.” [pdf here] Although I read the copy published in the ACM’s SIGIR Forum 38 (2), December 2004: 18-23.

Recommended by David Bade last night.