'You Manage What?' RIM and the Meaning of Information

By Pemberton, J. Michael | ARMA Records Management Quarterly, January 1993 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

'You Manage What?' RIM and the Meaning of Information

Pemberton, J. Michael, ARMA Records Management Quarterly

A profession is made up of a body of skilled, highly trained people who have, by custom or by law, an exclusive sovereignty over some intellectual domain. A professional must possess a body of theoretical and technical knowledge about that domain, a knowledge mastered by those granted admission to professional practice in the given field. To that end, one seeks admittance to a required program of study focusing on the profession's domain. This period of study prescribed by the field's practitioners requires a rigorous and usually lengthy educational program--normally at the post-baccalaureate level and at a university. The knowledge acquired about the domain is to be put to good use for the practitioner's clients and for the good of society more generally.(1)

The domains of most traditionally recognized professions are clear and specific. The domain of the physician as a professional, for example, is specific and measurable: the human body. The body normally has so many bones, so many organs, so much blood, so many nerve endings, so many square feet of skin, and so forth. The physician has a multitude of tests which can measure fever, weight, white/red cells, nerve conduction, heart rate, lung function, etc. For the attorney, the domain is another kind of "body," the legal corpus, which encompasses clearly defined activities based on a written, measurable body of precedent and procedures. The dentists' domain is more narrow--the human mouth--but they know every nook and cranny of it along with the thirty-two teeth usually found there. The architect's domain of interest lies in organizing space--so many square feet, so many lumens oflight, so many bricks, and so forth--for the use of human beings. The sphere, the domain, of the information/records manager is clear as glass: information. And of course we all know how to measure information and what the unit of measurement for information is, right? Hardly!


If we cannot define--and thus measure information--what right do we have to chatter on about "information management," "information resources management," "information technology," "information. transfer," "information systems," and, of course, the ever-popular "information professionals"? How can we call ourselves "professionals" if we cannot understand the fundamental substance of our domain and discuss it in a rational, systematic, or scientific manner? How can we establish credibility with increasingly analytical, critical, and quantifying associates and senior managers ("if you can't count it, it doesn't count")? How can we manage something that we cannot measure and perhaps cannot even see?

Other fields have similar problems coming to terms with a definition for information and a unit of measurement for it, especially since there are over 400 definitions of information available--that's right, 400. Defining and understanding the nature of"information" is a serious venture for those in such fields as: information science, information economics, information theory, informatics, information technology, telematics, and informatology. The term "information" is very important to many fields beyond records and information management (RIM); they include: communication theory, archival management, museology, cognitive sciences, linguistics, psychology, cybernetics, library science, documentation, semiotics, system theory, and others.(2) Guess what: they don't know what "information" is either.

So, what are those in records and information management (RIM) talking about when they lay claim to being professiolzals Loho manage information? If we are speaking strictly of physical "records," we are at least partly correct when we talk of records in terms of cubic feet. We can legitimately use the cubic foot measurement to estimate the physical growth of records in records centers and to arrive at figures for the cost avoidances associated with filing equipment not purchased--and so money saved.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

'You Manage What?' RIM and the Meaning of Information


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?