The discussions that I found most interesting during the program revolved
around the definition of Information Science as a discipline. Is Information
Science a discipline distinct from Librarianship? What makes it a science?
What exactly is an information professional (and indeed, what separates
her from an information worker, if half of all workers in America fit
that category-an argument we use when advocating Information Literacy
Part of this questioning, admittedly, stems from an attitude I held before
enrolling: why should I return to school if I was functioning as a professional
librarian? If I had identical responsibilities and identical duties, what
was I to gain? (This question is, of course, separate from the pragmatics
of never getting that next promotion). I knew that these discussions were
happening-changing curricula, dropping 'library' from the names of schools,
and the ALA's CPE were familiar lunchroom topics. I was pleased to find
them discussed in classes as well.
Science and Technology Studies
What I did not know before returning to school is that there is an entire
discipline devoted to pondering how science gets done-both research and
practice. Among these questions:
- What makes a science?
- How does scientific knowledge get produced, become accepted as fact,
- What is the distinction between research and practice?
- How do research laboratories transform their results into products
and disseminate them into society at large?
In the winter quarter of 2001, I had the opportunity to contemplate these
questions in depth while completing an anthropology elective: Seminar
in Cultural Processes: Science and Technology Studies. At the same time,
I was taking LIS530 (Organization of Information and Resources) and pondering
the intellectual foundations of how we organize information-a topic that
I continue to consider at the core of our discipline.
As I saw the parallels between STS and the basic questions of IS, I took
on the task of applying a model from Bruno Latour's Pandora's Hope
to Information Science. This eventually became the paper which I presented
at the conference "From Papyrus to Paperless" in the spring
of 2001. A later version of this paper was named "Best Student Paper"
I continue to have a strong interest in Science Studies, not only for
its application to Information Science, but as a field unto itself. As
advanced technologies, from network devices that change the definition
of privacy to engineered organisms that change alter the chemistry of
the animals we eat, become more a part of everyday life, I find it increasingly
important to question why these technologies are what they are. The emerging
field of Internet Studies makes these issues a central theme-studying
what can be called the sociology or anthropology of a networked culture.
To this end I am currently reviewing a book for the Cyber
Culture Resource Center, a website housed in the School of Communication
here at UW, and hope to continue to forge a relationship with that organization.