The second keynote in the Africa/Europe portion of ASIS&T 24 hour Global Conference (on Tuesday) was from Isto Huvila (Department of ALM, Uppsala University), talking about A relational Information Science? For networking, sharing and learning. These are notes I made at the time, and I certainly did not capture all his ideas. His slides are at https://www.istohuvila.se/content/keynote-relational-information-science-networking-sharing-and-learning. You will see he cites his own work at various points and his extensive publications list is here: https://www.istohuvila.se/publications
Huvila explained why he was querying the idea of Information Science (IS) being relational curently: after all, information practice was about relations with other people, and for example bibliometrics is about the relationship between authors and publications. However IS is also "very much about things" so that a product-oriented view may dominate. Also when thinking about relations, we may think of a limited range of relationships, or not think through what the relationships are and what they mean.
He said that he was making a possible contrast between relationism and substantivism, although not probing that deeply here. He reminded us about Buckland's classic paper "Information as thing": and how we did still need to talk about information things and material things, but it was neccessary to also go beyond that to think about what these things do, and look at the relationship between things. Huvila went on to look at three specific relationalities that he is interested in and has explored.
These were: (1) Relation(alitie)s to information - he mentioned aspects such as relevance and information literacy being related to information. He posited context as a bounded space, people being somewhere in this contextual landscape. Huvila reflected on the idea of the insider and outsider, and the connections between people through information. He gave the example from his research of archaeologists who are in bounded and often overlapping communities/contexts. He then talked more widely about people's life, the changes in contexts (e.g. with more remote connections, some people with less identification with extended familities, more attachement to work contexts) - with people becoming more of insiders or outsiders in different contexts, the context not just defined physically.
(2) Relationalities through information, for example people making & taking information. He talked about people appropriating information to apply to their own situation - information from others or information that they already have. Huvila talked about how although information use and information impact is being studied more, it still does not get as much attention as information seeking.
3) Relationalities with (information) infrastructures and technologies. The technologies may not immediately look information-related e.g. a toothbrush - he illustrated it with toothbrushes being used to clean archeological artefacts, helping to reveal information about the artefact. Another example was people using medical records.
Finally he talked a little about how networking, sharing and learning fitted in with his reflections on relationality. He concluded that he was not advocating throwing away Information Science as it has been, but that thinking and researching with more focus on relationalities would be a fruitful way forward.
Photo by Sheila Webber: cherry petals, April 2022