Hi… I just partook in a debate at Dalhousie’s School of Information Management Information Without Borders Conference.
I thought I would put up my speaking notes – just to see what people think about the content?
Be it resolved that because information is becoming universally accessible, information management is no longer needed (Side – Affirmative)
Neither today’s complex online information environments, nor community based information environments, were created through the methods and practices of what we call “information management”. They have either previously existed or evolved – despite those methods and practices.
* Today’s information environment is too big, and growing too fast to be managed by the methods and practices of “information management”. We do not have the people, the money, or the skills to bring our “order” to the information environment, nor should we try. (for those that are currently trying to do this – the post 9-11 information management industrial complex is a very costly undertaking has raised a number of profound concerns, including privacy, the intended use of the information collected, and ultimately who has access)
* The aim of what we call “information management” is to centralize, constrain, and mediate information. This is fundamentally at odds with the information environment which is now decentralized, free and unconstrained, and with no barriers or distinction between information creators and users (goodbye truth tellers).
* In fact, “Information management” has become a process for creating barriers to information. Inevitably it is about gate keeping, editing, and selecting … what we refer to as censoring. In our efforts to “manage information” we have created culturally biased subject headings and systems which require an MLS degree to use. (Today I am going to hang out with some ‘Indians of North America’ – this includes an elder – she is a ‘gifted woman’)
* We have made information managers, not the people we are supposed to serve the central focus of our work. We have “selected” what we believe are the “most relevant materials”, often not the most relevant materials to the whole community. Some would call this censorship.
* Additionally, Information management has served only a small “elite” segment of the population. The efforts of information management have been focused only on certain media favoured by select classes and cultures, while ignoring the rest.
- To some extent, those forgotten segments of the population have benefited from not having their knowledge indexed and locked down by information managers. Information exists in many communities, and continues to exist and be free, because we have not intermediated and commodified this information
* Information management has been and continues to be part of a system which imposes costs, restricts free access to information and extracts excessive profits from information.
* Today’s information environment does not suffer from any of the limitations of “information management”. It can provide expansive, unbiased, universally accessible, barrier free information to all who seek it, represent all communities and cultures, allow all views and voices to be presented and heard. It does not require any of the “restrictions” our concept of information management has sought to impose on it. The information environment has already moved well beyond “information management”.
- The final barrier to the universal access to information is us. The question remains are people in the information management field ready to accept this, and get out of the way – allowing everyone the opportunity to truly universally access information
Final note – debates are meant to be fun, so those information management folks reading this should take it with a grain of salt, but if anything – does it not raise a few issues which we, as information managers, may need to resolve?
~Ken (special thanks to my co-panelists for helping to create this content)