Jun 6, 2010

The self-imposed limits of LIS by Ron Day

The paper The self-imposed limits of library and information science: Remarks on the discipline, on the profession, on the university, and on the state of "information" in the U.S. at large today by Ron Day is published in InterActions, a UCLA publication. It begins by raising three related issues: the marginalization of critical thought, the lack of interest in studying public information (mass media and education), and the construction of individuals as 'information seeking' and 'information using'. However, by the end it does not directly address these questions (except maybe the first one). Rather it argues for a change in attitudes and approaches towards information, knowledge, research, and scholarship. Here are a few notes from this paper.

Critique is not a negative term that refers to opposition to the norm. In Kantian terms it's understanding of the formal conditions for understanding, practical action, and judgments of taste. It is the questioning of assumptions from which a research starts, whether they be theological or scientific-empirical assumptions. Empirical research approaches knowledge as facts discoverable through application of theory and method and ignores the possibilities of these facts being constructed by theories and methods. The studies of information that are construed as studies of empirical entities erase the conditions of knowledge production, of understanding that information is not the essence of some substance (as wax is the essence of candle).

It is important to question dogmatically derived assertions and critique the powers of expression. These powers are manifested in the formal arrangement of materials as well as in statements (form and content of expressions). Preventing dogmatism is the orientation of critical analysis.

The modern epistemology of systems emerged as the development of classifications. In various classifications individuals are seen as representatives of classes arranged by a system. Systems often ignore the historical development of individuals. Such synchronic identities may be called 'individuals', while historically determined measures may be called 'singularities'. The political struggle is often confined to the struggle for the rights of certain individuals as seen in terms of classes sanctioned by the reigning state (race or gender). To overcome dogmatism and ideologies, we should view identities as singularities and allow such singularities challenge the world and question conditions and re-define the terms of their existence.

"The ideal of critique, however, is not toward simply being granted identity within the norm's grammar and logic of recognition and representation, but rather, toward justice, that is toward all beings being considered as equal, each according to the terms of its specific singularity, as well as its in-common being."