Magazine article Information Today

Puppets, Verbings, and Serious Reflections at ASIS '93

Magazine article Information Today

Puppets, Verbings, and Serious Reflections at ASIS '93

Article excerpt

Serious sessions with thoughtful papers and debates ranging from relevance, recall, ad precision to electronic publishing, image databases, and assessment of virtual reality capped by hilarious Halloween costumes at the Awards banquet peppered ASIS '93. Held in Columbus, Ohio, November 24-28, the American Society for Information Science's conference included attendees from 42 states, 18 countries and six continents--no penguins came from Antarctica.

Four plenary sessions addressed management, education reform, multimedia, and predictions for the near future.

Paul Strassman, visiting professor of Information Management, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, called for "Systems Integration: The Way of Information Management in Year 2000." Today, there are 50 million information managers, and tension exists between old management--which Strassman called the high priests in a religious war--and the new. To function in a distributed/decentralized environment--client-server or peer-to-peer, organizations must develop an Information Constitution, Strassman advises, to avoid bickering about whom and to whom information and responsible rest.

A corporate Bill of Rights is needed--what's retained and what's delegated. Without this document, the Information Without this document, the Information Society of the future, will he says, be marred and slowed. The fundamental principle calls for stability at the Federal level, not a change every time an administration changes he added.

Strassman posed some immediate challenges, most likely influenced by his former experience as director of DOD Information:

* How to produce the vast amounts of software needed to replace existing incompatible systems while continuing to maintaini "legacy" software and hardware in place.

* How to avoid enormous budget increases during the transition while modernizing the installed base.

* How to improve access by non-IS personnel to integrated systems that offer an attractive alternative to costly local solutions.

* How to operate a network consisting of non-homogeneous software, incompatible hardware, and diverse communication links without excessive labor costs and extensive delays in transactions.

Reforming Education; Coping with Illiteracy

Two of the plenary sessions focused on education in this country which, according to Dr. Lee Olsen, Strategic Consultant, Multimedia, IBM, has 90 million people who can barely read and write. The worldwide figure is 800 million which, he predicts will grow to one billion in the year 2000. Thus, today, there is a need to expand the way people get information.

In discussing education reform, Dr. Kenneth Wilson, Ohio State University and co-principal investigator on Ohio's Project Discovery, said he hopes that by 2010 lecturing will be displaced throughout education by more productive, less costly alternatives. By then he hopes for a professional culture of teaching and learning which he likened to today's professional culture in classical music with master teachers. The principal change is the way teachers will learn and pass on information.

Unusual for a plenary session, Wilson spoke for about 10 minutes; the next 80 minutes he commented on questions from the audience with only indirect reference to information science.

In the session dealing with multimedia, Olsen's main thrust was: "We, the people, can't read." In addition to showing the high rate of illiteracy, he presented figures on school dropouts: 29 percent in the U.S.--one every eight seconds, one million a year. His point: in the 90s we need to expand the way people get information; multimedia is just another way. Using multimedia, he claims that the average student can learn in one-third of the time compared with the formal education system. More statistics: by the time a youngster is in the first grade he/she has watched 6000 hours of TV; by the time he/she graduates, it's 27,000 hours vs. …

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