Information Science

Information Science

A multitude of information sciences?
 
Michael Buckland (2011) wrote an article What Kind of Science Can Information Science Be? from the perspective of Library and information science: "other important fields have also used the name “information science.” One is computer science, concerned with the theory and application of algorithms. Another, concerned with entropy, probability, Shannon-Weaver information theory, physical patterns (in-form-ing), and related topics, is sometimes referred to as the “physics of information.” Also, the word information is, of course, used in information technology (IT, also ICT, for information and communication technologies), but largely restricted in practice to the use of electronics for communication and computation. These other areas are not considered here. Instead, we are concerned with those areas generally understood as being within the scope of library and information science (LIS) and the interests of the American Society for Information Science and Technology."
 
Definitions of information science
 
An early definition of Information science (going back to 1968, the year when American Documentation Institute shifted name to American Society for Information Science and Technology) is:
 
“Information science is that discipline that investigates the properties and behavior of information, the forces governing the flow of information, and the means of processing information for optimum accessibility and usability.
 
It is concerned with that body of knowledge relating to the origination, collection, organization, storage, retrieval, interpretation, transmission, transformation, and utilization of information. This includes the investigation of information representations in both natural and artificial systems, the use of codes for efficient message transmission, and the study of information processing devices and techniques such as computers and their programming systems. It is an interdisciplinary science derived from and related to such fields as mathematics, logic, linguistics, psychology, computer technology, operations research, the graphic arts, communications, library science, management, and other similar fields. It has both a pure science component, which inquires into the subject without regard to its application, and an applied science component, which develops services and products” (Borko, 1968, p.3).
 
Some authors treat informatics as a synonym for information science, especially related to the concept developed by A. I. Mikhailov and other Soviet authors in the mid sixties, which suggested that informatics is a discipline related to the study of Scientific Information. Because of the rapidly evolving, interdisciplinary nature of informatics, a precise meaning of the term "informatics" is presently difficult to pin down.
 
Regional differences and international terminology complicate the problem. Some people note that much of what is called "Informatics" today was once called "Information Science" at least in fields such as Medical Informatics. For example, when library scientists began also to use the phrase "Information Science" to refer to their work, the term informatics emerged:
 
in the United States as a response by computer scientists to distinguish their work from that of library science, and
in Britain as a term for a science of information that studies natural, as well as artificial or engineered, information-processing systems.
 
History
 
Early beginnings
 
Information science, in studying the collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information has origins in the common stock of human knowledge. Information analysis has been carried out by scholars at least as early as the time of the Abyssinian Empire with the emergence of cultural depositories, what is today known as libraries and archives. Institutionally, information science emerged in the 19th century along with many other social science disciplines. As a science, however, it finds its institutional roots in the history of science, beginning with publication of the first issues of Philosophical Transactions, generally considered the first scientific journal, in 1665 by the Royal Society (London).
 
The institutionalization of science occurred throughout the 18th Century. In 1731, Benjamin Franklin established the Library Company of Philadelphia, the first library owned by a group of public citizens, which quickly expanded beyond the realm of books and became a center of scientific experiment, and which hosted public exhibitions of scientific experiments. Benjamin Franklin did invest a town in Massachusetts with a collection of books that the town voted to make available to all free of charge, which formed the first Public Library. Academie de Chirurgia (Paris) published Memoires pour les Chirurgiens, generally considered to be the first medical journal, in 1736. The American Philosophical Society, patterned on the Royal Society (London), was founded in Philadelphia in 1743. As numerous other scientific journals and societies are founded, Alois Senefelder develops the concept of lithography for use in mass printing work in Germany in 1796.
 
19th century
 
By the 19th Century the first signs of information science emerged as separate and distinct from other sciences and social sciences but in conjunction with communication and computation. In 1801, Joseph Marie Jacquard invented a punched card system to control operations of the cloth weaving loom in France. It was the first use of "memory storage of patterns" system. As chemistry journals emerged throughout the 1820s and 1830s, Charles Babbage developed his "difference engine," the first step towards the modern computer, in 1822 and his "analytical engine” by 1834. By 1843 Richard Hoe developed the rotary press, and in 1844 Samuel Morse sent the first public telegraph message. By 1848 William F. Poole begins the Index to Periodical Literature, the first general periodical literature index in the US.
 
In 1854 George Boole published An Investigation into Laws of Thought..., which lays the foundations for Boolean algebra, which is later used in information retrieval. In 1860 a congress was held at Karlsruhe Technische Hochschule to discuss the feasibility of establishing a systematic and rational nomenclature for chemistry. The congress did not reach any conclusive results, but several key participants returned home with Stanislao Cannizzaro's outline (1858), which ultimately convinces them of the validity of his scheme for calculating atomic weights.
 
By 1865, the Smithsonian Institution began a catalog of current scientific papers, which became the International Catalogue of Scientific Papers in 1902. The following year the Royal Society began publication of its Catalogue of Papers in London. In 1868, Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and S. W. Soule produced the first practical typewriter. By 1872 Lord Kelvin devised an analogue computer to predict the tides, and by 1875 Frank Stephen Baldwin was granted the first US patent for a practical calculating machine that performs four arithmetic functions. Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison invented the telephone and phonograph in 1876 and 1877 respectively, and the American Library Association was founded in Philadelphia. In 1879 Index Medicus was first issued by the Library of the Surgeon General, U.S. Army, with John Shaw Billings as librarian, and later the library issues Index Catalogue, which achieved an international reputation as the most complete catalog of medical literature.
 
European documentation
 
The discipline of documentation science, which marks the earliest theoretical foundations of modern information science, emerged in the late part of the 19th Century in Europe together with several more scientific indexes whose purpose was to organize scholarly literature. Many information science historians cite Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine as the fathers of information science with the founding of the International Institute of Bibliography (IIB) in 1895. A second generation of European Documentalists emerged after the Second World War, most notably Suzanne Briet. However, "information science" as a term is not popularly used in academia until sometime in the latter part of the 20th Century.
 
Documentalists emphasized the utilitarian integration of technology and technique toward specific social goals. According to Ronald Day, "As an organized system of techniques and technologies, documentation was understood as a player in the historical development of global organization in modernity – indeed, a major player inasmuch as that organization was dependent on the organization and transmission of information." Otlet and Lafontaine (who won the Nobel Prize in 1913) not only envisioned later technical innovations but also projected a global vision for information and information technologies that speaks directly to postwar visions of a global "information society." Otlet and Lafontaine established numerous organizations dedicated to standardization, bibliography, international associations, and consequently, international cooperation. These organizations were fundamental for ensuring international production in commerce, information, communication and modern economic development, and they later found their global form in such institutions as the League of Nations and the United Nations. Otlet designed the Universal Decimal Classification, based on Melville Dewey’s decimal classification system.
 
Although he lived decades before computers and networks emerged, what he discussed prefigured what ultimately became the World Wide Web. His vision of a great network of knowledge focused on documents and included the notions of hyperlinks, search engines, remote access, and social networks.
 
Otlet not only imagined that all the world's knowledge should be interlinked and made available remotely to anyone, but he also proceeded to build a structured document collection. This collection involved standardized paper sheets and cards filed in custom-designed cabinets according to a hierarchical index (which culled information worldwide from diverse sources) and a commercial information retrieval service (which answered written requests by copying relevant information from index cards). Users of this service were even warned if their query was likely to produce more than 50 results per search. By 1937 documentation had formally been institutionalized, as evidenced by the founding of the American Documentation Institute (ADI), later called the American Society for Information Science and Technology.
 
Transition to modern information science
 
With the 1950s came increasing awareness of the potential of automatic devices for literature searching and information storage and retrieval. As these concepts grew in magnitude and potential, so did the variety of information science interests. By the 1960s and 70s, there was a move from batch processing to online modes, from mainframe to mini and microcomputers. Additionally, traditional boundaries among disciplines began to fade and many information science scholars joined with library programs. They further made themselves multidisciplinary by incorporating disciplines in the sciences, humanities and social sciences, as well as other professional programs, such as law and medicine in their curriculum. By the 1980s, large databases, such as Grateful Med at the National Library of Medicine, and user-oriented services such as Dialog and Compuserve, were for the first time accessible by individuals from their personal computers. The 1980s also saw the emergence of numerous special interest groups to respond to the changes. By the end of the decade, special interest groups were available involving non-print media, social sciences, energy and the environment, and community information systems. Today, information science largely examines technical bases, social consequences, and theoretical understanding of online databases, widespread use of databases in government, industry, and education, and the development of the Internet and World Wide Web.
 
Important historical figures
  • Tim Berners-Lee
  • John Shaw Billings
  • George Boole
  • Suzanne Briet
  • Michael Buckland
  • Vannevar Bush
  • Melville Dewey
  • Luciano Floridi
  • Henri La Fontaine
  • Eugene Garfield
  • Frederick Kilgour
  • Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster
  • Gottfried Leibniz
  • Alexander Ivanovich Mikhailov
  • S. R. Ranganathan
  • Seymour Lubetzky
  • Wilhelm Ostwald
  • Paul Otlet
  • Gerald Salton
  • Jesse Shera
  • Warren Weaver
Related disciplines
 
There are many fields which claim to be "sciences" or "disciplines" which are difficult to distinguish from each other and from information science. Some of them are:
  • Archival science
  • Communication studies
  • Computer science
  • Documentation science
  • Informatics
  • Information management
  • Information systems research
  • Information literacy
  • Informing science
  • Internet studies
  • Knowledge management
  • Library science
  • Media studies
  • Records management
  • Scientometrics
Topics in information science
  • Academic publishing (including peer review and open access)
  • Bibliometrics
  • Data modeling
  • Document management and Document Engineering
  • Groupware
  • Human-computer interaction (HCI)
  • Information architecture
  • Information ethics
  • Information literacy
  • Information retrieval (IR)
  • Information seeking behavior (with Browsing)
  • Information society
  • Information systems
  • Intellectual property (IP)
  • Knowledge management and Knowledge transfer
  • Knowledge engineering
  • Knowledge organization
  • Memory institutions
  • Ontology (information science)
  • Personal information management (PIM)
  • Scholarly communication and Scientific communication
  • Semantic Web
  • Usability engineering and human factors
  • User-centered design and design philosophy
There is considerably differences between what is considered a a subfield of information science and what is not (or what belongs to one information science and what belongs to another. If we take information systems as an example, Vickery (1973) is a book written by a leading information scientist and that book places information systems within IS. Ellis, Allen, & Wilson (1999) is, on the other hand a bibliometric investigation describing the relation between two different fields: "Information science" and "information systems".
 
Research
 
Many universities have entire colleges, departments or schools devoted to the study of information science, while numerous information science scholars can be found in disciplines such as communication, computer science, law, library science, and sociology. Several institutions have formed an I-School Caucus (see List of I-Schools), but there are numerous others with comprehensive information foci.
 
Research methods
 
Information science has similar research methods to computer science and social sciences:
 
Archival research
 
Facts or factual evidences from a variety of records are compiled.
 
Computational complexity and structure
 
Algorithmic and graphic methods are used to explore the complexity of information systems, retrieval and storage.
 
Content analysis
 
The contents of books and mass media are analyzed to study how people communicate and the messages people talk or write about.
 
Case study
 
A specific set of circumstances or a group (the 'case') is analyzed according to a specific goal of study. Generally, case studies are used to characterize a trend or development; they have weak generalizability.
 
Discourse analysis
 
Analyzing written, spoken or signed language use
 
Historical method
 
This involves a continuous and systematic search for the information and knowledge about past events related to the life of a person, a group, society, or the world.
 
Interviews
 
The researcher obtains data by interviewing people. If the interview is non-structured, the researcher leaves it to the interviewee (also referred to as the respondent or the informant) to guide the conversation.
 
Life history
 
This is the study of the personal life of a person. Through a series of interviews, the researcher can probe into the decisive moments in their life or the various influences on their life.
 
Longitudinal study
 
This is an extensive examination of a specific group over a long period of time.
 
Observation
 
Using data from the senses, one records information about a social phenomenon or behavior. Qualitative research relies heavily on observation, although it is in a highly disciplined form.
 
Participant observation
 
As the name implies, the researcher goes to the field (usually a community), lives with the people for some time, and participates in their activities in order to know and feel their culture.
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