Magazine article Information Today

American Society for Information Science and Technology Annual Meeting

Magazine article Information Today

American Society for Information Science and Technology Annual Meeting

Article excerpt

I don't normally associate attending an American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) conference with snow, but Providence, R.I., where the 2004 conference was held, was prematurely white due to an unseasonably early snow. But once inside the hotel, things were warm and cozy as the 700-plus conference participants busily moved from session to session.

"When we created the theme Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts, we wanted to raise awareness of the role of information science in fostering integration and cooperation in the global information society," stated Linda Schamber of the University of North Texas, who served as the chair of this ASIST conference. "We believed it important to emphasize and explain the work of professionals, academics, and students who are trying to resolve some of today's information-relation conflicts, including interests of social, professional, education[al], and technological cultures."

Beginning Nov. 12, the 6-day conference presented sessions organized into seven major tracks: Disciplinary Issues, Digital Libraries, User Behavior, System Design, Information Organization, Knowledge Management and Use, and Resources and Services. More than 400 authors and speakers presented contributions to the conference. And what was particularly significant about this year's pool is that more than 25 countries outside the U.S. were represented.

There were 66 sessions held this year. One noteworthy change was a significantly expanded series of poster exhibits (almost 90 overall), with nearly four times the usual number of posters distributed over three sessions. With so much to choose from, I could only sample some of the many available venues.

On Joysticks and Semantics

ASIST president Samantha Hastings said, "This year's ASIST meeting was framed by two powerful and intriguing plenary sessions--[one by] J. C. Herz, with her views of how group dynamics should influence information system design, and [the other by] Sir Tim Berners-Lee, KBE, with his continued explorations of how to make technology work for us."

The first speaker was Herz, principal of Joystick Nation, Inc. and author of Joystick Nation: How Videogames Are Our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired Our Minds and Surfing on the Internet. She was also The New York Times' first computer game critic. Herz spoke of knowledge management being the "cult of documents." One of the problems that knowledge management has is getting members of an organization to contribute to the knowledgebase. Herz declared that posting a white paper without offering rewards for doing so is one of the fundamental failures of knowledge management. She argued that contributions must be rewarded on such factors as how many times the contribution is downloaded. And the reward must be tangible and meaningful, which could be anything from a few thousand dollars to a certificate to dinner.

Clearly the plenary by Berners-Lee was the must-see performance of the entire conference. Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, told the audience that we have the possibility to improve on history with the semantic Web and that we can "make society a different shape." He envisions a "Web of machine-processable data" and thinks that the future contains a "stack of expressive power." Core to this vision are the Resource Description Framework and the Uniform Resource Identifiers. Further, he noted, "society must have a free and open corpus" that translates into a creative and scientific commons. Berners-Lee was also granted a special award from the society for his contributions to the development of the Web.

Disciplinary Issues

Jenny Fry (Networked Research and Digital Information in the Netherlands) and Sanna Talja (Department of Information Studies at the University of Tampere, Finland) argued that it is erroneous to use the physical science communication model as the "gold standard," thereby treating the applied sciences, social sciences, and the humanities as "second cousins" who will catch up to the standard given enough time. …

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