Harris – Integrating Reality

Integrating Reality by Roy Harris

Cover image of Roy Harris' Integrating Reality

Date read: 05-13 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016poss 2016nfc

Paperback, 141 pages
Published 2012 by Bright Pen
Source: Own via Amazon

Contents:

  • Preface
  • 1 Integrating Reality
  • 2 The Truth Unvarnished
  • 3 Empiricism and Linguistics
  • 4 The Grammar in Your Head
  • 5 Systems and Systematicity
  • 6 Meaning and Reification
  • 7 Language and Languages
  • References
  • Index

Preface

“The theory of integrationism defended is that expounded in Introduction to Integrational Linguistics (Harris 1998), Rethinking Writing (Harris 2000) and After Epistemology (Harris 2009a). The basic points will not be recapitulated here.

    Instead, attention will be focussed on the more controversial corollaries of integrationist doctrine, and how they conflict with orthodox linguistics and orthodox philosophy of language” (1).

In chapter 1 Harris states “The following chapters discuss the ontological commitments of integrationism” (3). I would argue that the book just as much discusses many of the epistemological commitments, but rather in a more negative way by rejecting much of the epistemology of its chosen interlocutors.

This volume was a great improvement over Integrationist Notes and Papers 2013 as for having an intact scholarly apparatus. I only found four citations not in the References and one of those was twice to the same resource.

Not a great starting point into Integrationism but a good volume nonetheless if you know your way already or if you just want to read some critiques of standard linguistics and its varied (and often conflicting) ontological commitments.

This is the 2nd book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

The Profession’s Models of Information – some comments

Green, R. (1991). The Profession’s Models of Information: A Cognitive Linguistic Analysis. Journal of Documentation, 47(2), 130-148.

I read this at the coffee shop one morning a couple of weeks ago and, as usual, was quite impressed. She shows that a model of communication is mandatory for information science but that one of information seeking is optional. She also critiques the overuse of ‘information’ and makes the “radical suggestion” that we need a whole new language for library and information science (143). Yes, yes, and yes! [Was cited by Dick 1995; see below for citation. Or this blog post: 2 articles by Archie Dick]

Based on a linguistic analysis of phrases including the word ‘information,’ randomly sampled across a 20-year period from Library & Information Science Abstracts (LISA: 1969-Sep 1989), “establishes three predominant cognitive models of information and the information transfer process” (130, abstract).

Outline of article:

  • Introduction
  • Related Cognitive Models
  • Method
  • Results
  • Analysis
    • Focus of models
    • Compatibility of models
    • Direct communication model
    • Indirect communication model
    • Information-seeking model
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Appendix A
    • A. Direct communication (DC) model
    • B. Indirect communication (IC) model
    • C. Information-seeking (IS) model
  • Appendix B. Syntagms evoking general frames
  • References

Introduction

In trying to determine the cognitive models within the field the author made two basic assumptions: “(1) the literature of a field incorporates the cognitive models common to the discipline; and (2) linguistic analysis can be used to ferret out what those models are” (131).

Related Cognitive Models

Green discovered three models, two of which take the perspective of the information system and one which takes the perspective of the information user. The first two fall under the critique of

“the traditional paradigm of information transfer criticised by Dervin. In what she refers to as a positivistic or information-theoretic framework, information is perceived as a self-existent and absolute entity, independent of human minds. Information is stored within a variety of types of information systems, which users may approach in order to extract information relevant to their needs” (132).

Method

Pointing out that the phenomena of the information transfer process “is the key event around which library and information science is built,” Green states that

“If the positivistic model of information transfer observed by Dervin is truly representative of the thinking of the profession and if that mode of thinking is as dysfunctional as Dervin suggests (which, no doubt it is), library and information science educators and researchers would have some serious overhauling and restructuring of their cognitive models to accomplish” (132-33/133).

I adore her all over again for that “which, no doubt it is” aside.

There are a couple limitations of the method used that are listed (134). One of them, which is only a possible limitation or less of one than is suspected, would be partially answered if this study were repeated for the period 1990-2010. I would love to see that comparison.

Analysis

As one can guess from the outline of the article above, the three models found are: Direct communication (DC) model, Indirect communication (IC) model, and the Information-seeking (IS) model (135). I will leave it to the interested reader to delve further into this paper on their own if they are interested in these models and the specific support found for them via Dr. Green’s analysis.

Discussion

“As noted previously, communication models and information-seeking models are not inherently incompatible. Given that information transfer is the basic phenomenon around which library and information science revolves, the discipline must have a model of communication from information source to information user. Since the information user is often the initiator of the information transfer, we may have (and in general we would like to have) information-seeking models, too. Thus, a model of communication is mandatory; a model of information-seeking, although desirable, is theoretically optional. The upshot of this recognition is that the discipline’s models of communication are more crucial than its model(s) of information-seeking. … Sadly, our models of communication provide little insight as to how information transfer is actually effected” (141, empahsis mine).

While I will leave the concept of “information transfer” stand for now, this idea of a “transfer” is also to be rejected. Nonetheless, whatever fills the role of this so-called “information transfer” will still be “the key event around which library and information science is built” (132-33). Thus, a proper theory of communication is the basis for all that we do in library and information science, whether theory or practice.

Did the information-seeking model that was discovered accomplish its aims? No, it did not. Although ostensibly focused on the user, the IS model still emphasized the information system far too much, along with paying more attention to quantity vs. quality of the information retrieved (recall vs. precision) (141-42).

The issue is that

“the cognitive models of the user are not considered. Moreover, the cognitive models embodied in the information retrieved are also ignored; the relevance of information to a user’s need is defined solely in terms of shared ‘aboutness’, without respect to compatibility of underlying cognitive frameworks. Consequently, matching information retrieved to information needed is perceived mechanistically” (142).

This provides a an exceptional argument for domain analysis and a focus on epistemological relevance and viewpoint. Just because some source is ‘about’ a topic does not mean it will meet the needs of a user; any user much less a specific user.

The next paragraph warmed my heart to no end:

“Unfortunately, such a view of information retrieval, which is in the same vein as the positivistic or information-theoretic framework as criticized by Dervin, is, one may argue, built into our understanding of the word ‘information’. … This leaves us with the question why we have adopted such heavy use of the word ‘information’ throughout our discipline when the cognitive models associated with it are in at least some respects incompatible with what we are trying to accomplish” (142).

Conclusions

“Shortcomings discovered in the analysis … highlight the areas where our focus of research should be: the cognitive structures of texts; and how readers perceive them, re-mould them, and integrate them with the cognitive models they possessed at the outset of the interaction” (142, emphasis mine).

The question of integration is actually the foundation of all of these questions, as it is of the question of communication.

“A second recommendation stems from the observation that the word ‘information’ predisposes us to think of the retrieval process in a mechanistic sense, which goes counter to our modern understanding of how the process should be viewed. (Ironically, the word ‘retrieval’ also carries this bias.) … The recommendation offered here is a radical one: we need to change the basic inventory of words we use to communicate about our field. We should be more concerned with learning and knowledge than with retrieval and information” (142-43).

Change our language? Yes, yes, yes!

This article provides me the following:

  • A theory of communication is mandatory for LIS
  • A theory of comm is prior to a theory of information-seeking
  • An argument for domain analysis and epistemological considerations
  • A critique of ‘information’ as the basis for my discipline
  • A call to radically change our language within the field

Dick, A. (1995). Restoring Knowledge as a Theoretical Focus of Library and Information Science. South African Journal of Library & Information Science, 63(3), 99.

Information Literacy: A Positivist Epistemology and a Politics of Outformation – article comments

Kapitzke, Cushla. 2003. Information Literacy: A Positivist Epistemology and a Politics of Outformation. Educational Theory 53, no. 1: 37-53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-5446.2003.00037.x.

I wrote on the paper after finishing it, “provides a valuable critique of entrenched views (positivist?) of knowledge, information, and learning; but assumes postmodernism and the digital age have changed everything, when in fact, these critiques have existed for a long time and ought be fully applied to a non- or pre-digital world also. Thus, ahistorical.”

I think this article does provide a very valuable critique not only of the assumptions behind and motivations driving information literacy but also of entrenched views of knowledge, information, and learning in the educational system, libraries, and librarianship (and by extension, in information science).

The article is situated within the context of school education, professionally trained media center specialists and teacher-librarians and employs a poststructuralist theoretical perspective (37).

Article outline:

  • Libraries as Contexts for Literacies
  • Information Literacy as Panacea
  • Information Literacy: Defining the Indefinable
  • Information Literacy: A Poststructuralist Critique
  • Toward a Hyperliteracy
  • Conclusion

“My thesis is that, because of its positivist philosophical orientation, the information literacy framework is incompatible with emergent concepts of knowledge and epistemology for digital and online environments” (38).

As I stated above, these emergent concepts have been emerging for a while; in some cases, quite a while. But the point is still a valuable one and should be taken seriously.

“In sum, the notion of being “information literate” was the library profession’s response to technological change and to the proliferation of information. [19] Perhaps it is timely to consider whether a preoccupation with technologization has caused them to overlook less tangible but more profound developments around issues of knowledge and epistemology” (42).

[19] Sorry, this footnote is too long and has too many sources for me to type here.

I think the first statement there is an overstatement. It is certainly one way to spin the story but it is certainly only one of many, and it is overly simplistic. Perhaps just as, or more, relevant would be the search for professional relevance. No doubt, there are others.

“Furthermore, resource and information use in schools is framed within the discourse of positivism and based on three misconceptions: (1) the school library provides a neutral service, (2) the library user is an autonomous individual, and (3) language is a transparent conduit for the transmission of meaning in information” (45).

Clearly, all of these are highly flawed views. For general information on positivism see the Positivism article at WikipediaThe Enlightenment also receives a fair few lashes of the rhetorical whip in this article, some of which is justified.

Again, these critiques are valuable and generally spot on, but they also precede the poststructuralist/postmodernist. Postmodernism invented little, or nothing, that did not already exist. It only collected many of these, tossed them all together as if in doing so they could cohere in a sense that was hauntingly similar to the sense of coherence of knowledge that they were critiquing.

“Library practice and the discipline of information science are deeply rooted in Enlightenment notions of Western science. Library science literature shows how the spatial organization of knowledge in libraries contributed to the institutionalization of scientific knowledge through the classification and physical arrangement of collections into orders of hierarchical materials [32]. These materials—served historically to construct and privilege disciplinary and curricular boundaries. Librarian and library user alike viewed print collections as reifications of natural and social realities and of the research practices for defining and objectifying those realities” (45).

[32] John M. Budd, “An Epistemological Foundation for Library and Information Science,” Library Quarterly 65, no. 3 (1995): 295-319.

No argument from me on this one.

“Libraries are one of the “most visible and important temples” erected by society to the positivist belief in an ordered world that can be described and classified according to a set of universal principles” (46).

I would argue that this belief seriously predates positivism.

In describing the tension between order and disorder, Kapitzke takes a particularly cheap shot at librarians by mentioning that, “Classical and popular literature alike, …, provide memorable cameos of stereotyped, repressed librarians, victims of their own fetish for organization and order [37]” (46). I am really unsure what this is supposed to do in support of the case being made.

[37] Gary P. Radford and Marie L. Radford, “Power, Knowledge, and Fear: Feminism, Foucault, and the Stereotype of the Female Librarian,” Library Quarterly 67, no. 3 (1997): 250-267.

Here are some quotes showing what I think is a lack of correct application of the critique being made, and/or an overemphasis on the poststructuralist critique and the digital:

“Linear and hierarchical approaches to thinking and learning are inadequate for the webbed cyberspace of information” (47).

No, they are inadequate, period.

“Within the present context of an information glut, librarians and users spend their time not so much searching but interpreting, filtering, and value-adding by creating relationships among ideas across a range of media” (47).

This should happen glut or no, digital or no. And, I would argue has applied for centuries, if not millennia. And, of course, if one wanted it can be, and has been, argued that an information glut has existed for almost as long as humans have recorded information. Regardless, even in some mythical state of being involving the perfect amount of information (whatever that might be), the primary purpose of librarians and users of libraries ought be “interpreting, filtering, and value-adding by creating relationships among ideas across a range of media” and whatever other description you want to add that adds up to the creation of meaning. Searching, even for librarians, is never an end in itself.

One more example of this myopic view of the digital and the new:

“The proliferation of chaotic digital information, and the increasing disparity of end-point textual products and knowledges, have created a situation where knowledge is located not so much in the text as such, but in the co-construction of situated meanings among learner, teacher, and media center specialist” (48).

It has always been thus; we have just pretended otherwise.

The author’s suggested solution is a “hyperliteracy.”

“The concept of “information literacy” privileges the role of information in learning and teaching” (50). I agree with this but would also argue that this is due to the prior privileging of information and, thus, the problem is much larger than information literacy.

“A hyperliteracy approach draws from and extends two theories of literacy pedagogy: multiliteracies and intermediality [50] Hyperliteracy represents approaches to text, authorship, and knowledge that are located within a postpositivist paradigm. They seek to problematize their own assumptions and practices” (50).

[50] The New London Group, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures,” in Multiliteracies, eds. Cope and Kalantzis; and Ladislaus M. Semali and Ann Watts Pailliotet, eds., Intermediality: The Teachers’ Handbook of Critical Media Literacy (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999).

If you want more information on this topic see the article or perhaps those sources, which I doubt I will be tracking down. [That is not meant as a statement or critique of those sources but just that this is not my arena for now. At the moment, I am far more interested in the critique of the concept and practice of information literacy than in any suggested cures.]

“Disciplinary logics and rationalities different from those imposed by Aristotle, Melvil Dewey, or the Library of Congress are now possible” (53).

Um, yes. And they have been for *a very long time.*

All in all, I think this article provides a very valuable critique of information literacy and continuing established views of learning, knowledge and atomized information. But its biggest fault lies in the importance that it overly attaches to the poststructuralist/postmodernist critique. This fault does not invalidate the critique in any way, but it does cast a pallor over the rhetoric employed to make its points.

2 articles by Archie Dick

In the last two days I have read two papers by Archie L. Dick.  Yesterday I read “Epistemological Positions and Library and Information Science” and this morning I read “Restoring knowledge as a theoretical focus of library and…”.  [OK, we all know that is not its title but more on that later.] [Really were read 30 & 31 Aug.]

As of now, Archie Dick is my newest intellectual crush!  I thoroughly enjoyed both of these papers and look forward to finding and reading more of his work.

Dick, A.L. 1995. Restoring knowledge as a theoretical focus of library and… South African Journal of Library & Information Science 63, no. 3 (September): 99. doi:Article. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=9603201479&site=ehost-live.  

Dick, Archie L. 1999. Epistemological Positions and Library and Information Science. The Library Quarterly 69, no. 3 (July): 305-323. http://www.jstor.org.proxy2.library.uiuc.edu/stable/4309336.  

“Epistemological Positions and Library and Information Science” addresses “the general neglect of epistemology as a topic of professional and methodological concern” (305) and advocates for a holistic perspectivism.

The sections of this paper are:

  • The Unknown Influence
  • Getting to Know How We Know in LIS
  • General Complexities of Examining Epistemology in LIS
  • Specific Difficulties of Examining Epistemology in LIS
  • Ways of Knowing in LIS
  • A Way to Go for the Ways to Know in LIS
  • Holistic Perspectivism
  • Conclusion

As one may guess from that outline, the metaepistemological framework that Dick argues for is one of holistic perspectivism.

“Holistic perspectivism therefore recognizes that several epistemological positions (perspectivism) provide the bases for justifying a range of knowledge claims related to social wholes (holism) in LIS. As a purportedly valid perception of some aspect of LIS, each perspective or epistemological position provides, in essence, a partial view on that aspect. Dialectical tension with other perspectives or epistemologies facilitates the continuous growth of valid knowledge in LIS” (318).

This is certainly not an “anything goes” relativism, though.

Dick states that there are “[t]wo central questions that epistemology in LIS seeks to answer” (without exhausting the scope thereof) (306). These are: “(a) How much of what LIS claims to know on the basis of its modes of professional practice and research traditions can indeed be justified on the basis of evidence for its claims? and (b) What type of knowledge is bibliothecal knowledge …?” (307).

As is the case in any endeavor, but especially in one that professes to be a profession, and perhaps even a science, “the intentional or unconscious espousal of an epistemological position holds definite implications for how they practice their profession and conduct scientific research [20]” (307).

In the section “A Way to Go for the Ways to Know in LIS” he discusses processes of epistemology substitution and epistemology elimination, which, for me, has some definite similarities to W. McNeill’s critique of myth destruction in Mythistory.

This then leads us into his views on holistic perspectivism, which I find a convincing discussion of the sort of pluralism we need to actively embrace in our field.

I was led to this article by Smiraglia (2002) which I had meant to blog but may well not get to now. Recommended reading though.

Smiraglia, Richard P. 2002. The Progress of Theory in Knowledge Organization. Library Trends 50, no. 3 (Winter): 330-349. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/8414.

[20] Harding, Sandra. 1988. Practical Consequences of Epistemological Choices. Communication & Cognition 21: 153-155.

“Restoring Knowledge as a Theoretical Focus of Library and Information Science” is concerned with the shift from knowledge to information as the theoretical basis of library and information science.  Using this context he also explains the shift from the myth of library as place to the myth of the electronic library.  Considering that this article was published in 1995 I see this piece as highly prescient.  And, again, I see a direct connection with McNeill as Dick is using “myth” in a sense similar to McNeill and not in the late 20th century derogatory sense of “myth.”

I found this article excellent, prescient, and highly valuable to my developing critique of “information” as a basis for librarianship (and information science).

The sections of this article seem to be:

  • Introduction (unlabeled)
  • Different responses
  • Value of conceptions of knowledge in the context of LIS
  • Approaches to knowledge
  • Divergent conceptions of knowledge in LIS literature
    • Knowledge as an interrelated, dynamic unit
    • Knowledge as differentiated into distinct types
    • Knowledge as exosomatic and publicly accessible
    • Conceptions of unrecorded knowledge
    • Knowledge–information relationship
      • Equivalent
      • Hierarchical
      • Dichotomous
      • Continuum
      • Knowledge as a Dialectical process
  • Conception of knowledge supporting the meaning of information in LIS
  • Knowledge as a theoretical focus in LIS’s future
  • Conclusion

Regarding myth, he also provides the most blatant explanation of the ‘origin myth’ of information science that I have yet seen.

I will leave that discussion and the following brilliant critique of the conception of knowledge and information that that leads to to the effort of the interested reader. This discussion leads to another critical reason why it is that professional librarians and information scientists must be epistemologically aware of their commitments, theoretical and practical.

This article made my day! If you have any itch to be scratched regarding the importance of epistemology in LIS you would be hard pressed to do better than beginning with these 2 articles. If you desire further suggestions for reading on this topic do not hesitate to contact me as I would be more than glad to provide some suggestions.

Regarding the elided title and the seeming sectioning: Library databases have been giving me fits lately. Part of the problem is that now that I am 10 hours away from the wonderful LIS collections of UIUC I have to get a lot of older stuff electronically that I could have easily photocopied.  Or even, heaven forbid, ILL the article and suffer someone else’s horrible job at photocopying.  These assorted gripes may have to wait for a separate post.  But back to this article.

I had to get this electronically, and thankfully it is available in some form, from EBSCO Professional Development Collection.  The only option is a full-text HTML file.  This file has absolutely no pagination indications, except for the starting page number listed in the article metadata section at the top of the page, and the title as I typed it at the top of the page. Also, the HTML markup of sections is not at all clear as to the actual hierarchy of the sectioning as, no doubt, the print version’s typography would have made abundantly clear.

EBSCO finds this scholarship so important that they provide me no real means of citing a paper that I find exceptionally important, and they even elide the article title in the provided metadata. Apoplexy, I have it.