A fragmented landscape
of theory and practice

INN533 – Information Organisation

Final reflections on INN533 journal activities and the unit as a whole.

A common thread running through the INN533 journal activities is the concept of ‘users’, whose needs, we are told, should supersede all other considerations (see, for example, Batley, 2005, p. 24). However, my week two and four journal activities, featuring the New York Museum of Modern Art and various city councils around Australia, seemed to suggest these institutions completely ignored the user mantra. They structured access to their online data in ways that pre-supposed expertise in art, or knowledge of council administrative and revenue-raising priorities.

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of theory and practice”

Everything is political economy, stupid!

Shirky, C. (2005). Ontology is overrated: Categories, links, and tags. Retrieved from http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html

If only I had read Shirky before I finished my INN533 blog for week six (Master of IT course).  I would have found the language to avoid talking about political economy while talking about it!

Shirky’s summary of ontological and phenomenological problems in information categorization is so close to that bizarre moment when I was confronted by a lecturer in information management. discussing the nature of information and how it is interpreted, who dismissed my point that there is an entire academic discipline devoted to examining how meaning is constructed and derived – semiotics – with the simple statement: ‘Yes, but I’m a professional’.  Clearly professionals have no use for knowledge or wisdom that doesn’t fit their own narrow disciplines.

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Categories of surrender

INN533 – Information Organisation

WEEK SIX: Reflections on cataloguing and vanishing ethics.

Looking at AACR2 and ISBD rules for cataloguing information made me wonder earnestly about the purpose behind such maddeningly bureaucratic prescriptions.  Zaana Howard’s (2013) reminder that prescriptive standards can help us avoid crashing spacecraft into Mars is well taken; there should be some standards underpinning the cataloguing of information items, particularly in public collections.  However, the object here is not as complex as spaceflight, and it is the object that deserves greater attention.  What is the purpose of AARC2 and ISBD?  Coming to that question as a lay observer, it becomes quickly apparent that these rule-sets are about stratifying a professional skill-set by obfuscating rather than simplifying language and descriptions.  This, in turn, leads to the conclusion that neither standard has lay users of information resources in mind, instead actively working to alienate non-expert users from what is described according to those standards.  Hider & Harvey, in quoting Michael Gorman, make it quite plain that a significant number of librarians see themselves as a necessary intermediary between library users and information resources (2008, p.6), with AACR2 interposed as the deliberately fabricated mechanism for making such intermediation necessary.  In Australia an adherence to standards avoiding natural language and hiding information in a fetish of abbreviations and punctuation almost certainly makes information access more difficult for even educated users, let alone the 40 per cent of people the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates have difficulty with functional literacy (2008).

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Hider & Harvey on organising knowledge

Hider, P. & Harvey, R. (2008). Organising Knowledge in a Global Society. Wagga Wagga, NSW: Charles Sturt University Press.

GORMAN: [Interesting perspectives on organisational luddism about discipline with sources, becoming more distinct as a new generation of lazy technophiles eschew not only knowledge preceding their era, but any kind of structured cataloguing and indexing, making reliable retrieval/referencing moot] (pp. 7-8.)

CATALOGUES & USERS: [H&H take the view that catalogue users should take the time to familiarise themselves with how catalogues work. Why? If alternative searches succeed more quickly, without any knowledge that results are worse, is it not incumbent on cataloguers to explain their projects more engagingly?] (p. 10.)

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Garrett on information architecture

Garrett, J.J. (2011). The Elements of User Experience: User Centred Design for the Web and Beyond [EBL version]. Retrieved from http://proquest.safaribooksonline.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/9780321688651

WEB IA: Closely related to information retrieval [does he mean database retrieval?]

TOP-DOWN: Mirrors strategy for product objectives, user needs/rôles (p. 89) [compare with Downey & Banerjee Big IA].

BOTTOM-UP: Working with given information to categorise logically (p. 90) [nice diagram on page 90. Compare Downey & Banerjee Little IA].

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Downey’s & Banerjee’s IA checklist

Downey, L. & Banerjee, S. (2011). Building an information architecture checklist. Journal of Information Architecture, 2(2), 25-42. Retrieved from http://journalofia.org/

IA DEFINITION: Bailey (2002) organising so findable, manageable, useful (p. 25).

LITTLE IA: from ground up, using metadata and controlled vocabulary, not user-centric.

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McManus on information architecture

McManus, M. (2013, July 31). What is information architecture? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.maya.com/the-feed/what-is-information-architecture.

RE-INVENTION: McManus is absolutely right in par 2 to mention the incidence of needless re-invention in IT generally. Looking at QUT’s CiteWrite printed booklet, the design is a dog’s breakfast mixture of 1990s web design (unreadably tiny sans-serif font and green/blue colour scheme a la Nielsen’s book), and inexplicably arbitrary paper sizes mixed together without an apparent logic to make the final product unfriendly to use and harder to navigate than it needs to be. These are all mistakes likely to have been made by kids ignorant of the past 20 years (let alone 100) in design and layourt of print publications.

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Arling & Chun on knowledge creation

Arling, P.A., & Chun, M.W.S., (2011). Facilitating new knowledge creation and obtaining KM maturity. Journal of Knowledge Management, 15(2), 231-250.


GENERATIVE KNOWLEDGE: Double loop learning is learning the currently unknown (p. 231); generative learning is incremental problem solving within existing knowledge frameworks (p. 232).

KNOWLEDGE: relational (shared values & beliefs) and context-specific (p. 232). Mentions explicit and tacit knowledge.

NONAKA: socialization; combination; externalisation; internalisation of information as methods.

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The ‘Met’ experiment

INN533 – Information Organisation

WEEK TWO: Reflections on a user journey.

Observing a search effort by M. Stevens attempting to locate information about a work in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (“the Met”) confirmed for me the main themes of the foundational readings for INN533. The Met online search function is limited to text and curatorial categories, no “advanced” search functionality, and no “help” section explaining how to search. Stevens, not an expert in art or search technology, faced what I regarded as a serious challenge in locating the print and information on it, working only from an untitled digital copy (figure 1).

Figure 1: the image for which more information was being sought.  Honoré Daumiere's 'The Connoisseur', c. 1860-1865.
Figure 1: the image for which more information was being sought. Honoré Daumiere’s ‘The Connoisseur’, c. 1860-1865.

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Panning for gold & an exercise in heuristics

Panning for gold

Edwards, Sylvia L., & Bruce, Christine S. (2006). Panning for gold: Understanding student’s information searching experiences. In Bruce, C.S., Mohay, G., Smith, G., Stoodley, I., & Tweedale, R. (Eds.), Transforming IT education: Promoting a culture of excellence (pp. 351-369). Santa Rosa, California: Informing Science Press.
Need to know: this idea of needing to know how students actually use search tools so teachers can intercede presupposes that students should not be taught to search a certain way (p. 352).
Relevance of information: that this should vary across students appears obvious to me. They all have separate purposes, and assuming an objective standard about information value is a bit authoritarian (p 353).
Cognitive abilities: [Is this like the assumption in economics that all information users will behave rationally?] (p. 354.)

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