Computing remains a heavily male-dominated field even after twenty-five years of extensive efforts to promote female participation. The contributors to Women and Information Technology look at reasons for the persistent gender imbalance in computing and explore some strategies intended to reverse the downward trend. The studies included are rigorous social science investigations; they rely on empirical evidence—not rhetoric, hunches, folk wisdom, or off-the-cuff speculation about supposed innate differences between men and women.
The way we record knowledge, and the web of technical, formal, and social practices that surrounds it, inevitably affects the knowledge that we record. The ways we hold knowledge about the past—in handwritten manuscripts, in printed books, in file folders, in databases—shape the kind of stories we tell about that past. In this lively and erudite look at the relation of our information infrastructures to our information, Geoffrey Bowker examines how, over the past two hundred years, information technology has converged with the nature and production of scientific knowledge.
Questions about access to scholarship go back farther than recent debates over subscription prices, rights, and electronic archives suggest. The great libraries of the past—from the fabled collection at Alexandria to the early public libraries of nineteenth-century America—stood as arguments for increasing access. In The Access Principle, John Willinsky describes the latest chapter in this ongoing story—online open access publishing by scholarly journals—and makes a case for open access as a public good.
Much of the business transacted on the Web today takes place through information exchanges made possible by using documents as interfaces. For example, what seems to be a simple purchase from an online bookstore actually involves at least three different business collaborations—between the customer and the online catalog to select a book; between the bookstore and a credit card authorization service to verify and charge the customer's account; and between the bookstore and the delivery service with instructions for picking up and delivering the book to the customer.
Instant electronic access to digital information is the single most distinguishing attribute of the information age. The elaborate retrieval mechanisms that support such access are a product of technology. But technology is not enough. The effectiveness of a system for accessing information is a direct function of the intelligence put into organizing it. Just as the practical field of engineering has theoretical physics as its underlying base, the design of systems for organizing information rests on an intellectual foundation.