Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Critical Information Studies

Gene Garfield (famous information scientist, founder of the Science Citation Index etc.) just highlighted an article describing/ proposing the field of "critical information studies", which:
"interrogates the structures, functions, habits, norms, and practices that guide global flows of information and cultural elements. Instead of being concerned merely with one’s right to speak (or sing or publish), Critical Information Studies asks questions about access, costs, and chilling effects on, within, and among audiences, citizens, emerging cultural creators, Indigenous cultural groups, teachers, and students. Central to these issues is the idea of ‘semiotic democracy’, or the ability of citizens to employ the signs and symbols ubiquitous in their environments in manners that they determine." (Vaidhyanathan, 2006: 303)

Thus I think this ties in with information literacy in that it is addressing issues of ethical and legal information use, and citizenship. It is not exactly the sort of article you would introduce for Information Literacy 101, but could be interesting as a discussion paper for information students, and/or for classes where both cultural studies and information literacy were being addressed (more common in the US than in the UK?) Of course one point of interest for me is the author’s lack of connection with the literature/discourse of "Information Studies" (which is what my Department happens to be called ;-) That’s something that could be a topic for debate: whether the author has a distinctly different approach to the issues of freedom with information, because of his disciplinary background.
Vaidhyanathan, S. (2006) "Afterword: Critical Information Studies: A bibliographic manifesto." Cultural Studies, 20 ( 2 //3), 292 -315. As you might guess from the tenor of his article, there is also a version to read free at

This issue of Cultural studies has other articles about intellectual property, so is definitely worth a look if you are interested in the "should information be free?" debate.

Photo by Sheila Webber: Marsh marigolds, Strathclyde University, April 2006.

1 comment:

Siva said...

Thanks for discussing my paper!