Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Invisibility of information studies

Not only is "information labor" often invisible in society these days, but the very scholars in academia who study it are also quite often invisible. This morning, for example, I was alerted to a National Research Council project meant to assess US doctoral programs:

The National Research Council has launched its latest project to assess U.S. research doctorate programs. Like previous efforts in 1983 and 1995, the new study is designed to help universities improve the quality of these programs through benchmarking; provide potential students and the public with accessible, readily available information on doctoral programs nationwide; and enhance the nation's overall research capacity. Data will be available in late 2007.

The problem lies with the research taxonomy that the NRC is apparently going to use -- an organized set of valid fields of doctoral study which quite completely ignores both new and old areas of social science study of information and society such as "social informatics," "library science," and "information studies." The NRC taxonomy leaves only the so-called "emerging field" of "information science" under the category of "physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering." Information science is certainly not an "emerging" field -- it's been around for more than half a century -- but more than that, information science doesn't capture the related but quite distinct work that I and my colleagues do to understand the dialectical relationship between information products, processes, and philosophies throughout society as a whole.

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