May 7, 2009

Information access

From a qualifying paper defense yesterday:
Information access is part of information ethics. It has been conceptualized in the literature in different ways. Info access can be viewed as knowledge, technology, communication, control, goods, participation. Another conceptualization looks at information access as a triad of physical, intellectual, and social access. It's important to address the three as in interacting combination.
I think bringing intellectual (cognitive?) and social into the concept of access diffuses the concept and makes it difficult to study it. It will be especially difficult to study it within the boundaries of information science.

What makes a document accessible? First of all, it's availability. If I cannot get the document, I can't use it at all. So it's a matter of collecting and storing information. Second, it's "findability". I need to be able to find it in order to get it. It's a matter of organizing information. Third, it's readability. Can I read and understand it? This is where it potentially starts going beyond information science in its traditional sense.

And this is where it begins to be interesting to me. What role does the language play in accessing and using information? Can we as information professionals make inaccessible (e.g., scientific) documents accessible by providing extended abstracts, reviews, and evaluations? Or is it all obsolete and useless because of the large amounts of information and promises of automation?