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Information Science and Technology

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Better Information for Building a Wealthier, More Sustainable Future

Information is power. It drives commerce, protects nations, and forms the backbone of systems that range from health care to high finance. Yet despite the avalanche of data available in today’s information age, neither institutions nor individuals get the information they truly need to make well-informed decisions. Faulty information and sub-optimal decision-making create an imbalance of power that is exaggerated as governments and corporations amass enormous databases on each of us.

An Essay on the Materialities of Information

Virtual entities that populate our digital experience, like e-books, virtual worlds, and online stores, are backed by the large-scale physical infrastructures of server farms, fiber optic cables, power plants, and microwave links. But another domain of material constraints also shapes digital living: the digital representations sketched on whiteboards, encoded into software, stored in databases, loaded into computer memory, and transmitted on networks. These digital representations encode aspects of our everyday world and make them available for digital processing.

Principles of eHealth and mHealth to Improve Quality of Care

The widespread usage of mobile phones that bring computational power and data to our fingertips has enabled new models for tracking and battling disease. The developing world in particular has become a proving ground for innovation in eHealth (using communication and technology tools in healthcare) and mHealth (using the affordances of mobile technology in eHealth systems).

The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism

Sharing isn’t new. Giving someone a ride, having a guest in your spare room, running errands for someone, participating in a supper club—these are not revolutionary concepts. What is new, in the “sharing economy,” is that you are not helping a friend for free; you are providing these services to a stranger for money. In this book, Arun Sundararajan, an expert on the sharing economy, explains the transition to what he describes as “crowd-based capitalism”—a new way of organizing economic activity that may supplant the traditional corporate-centered model.

We live in an information society, or so we are often told. But what does that mean? This volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series offers a concise, informal account of the ways in which information and society are related and of our ever-increasing dependence on a complex multiplicity of messages, records, documents, and data. Using information in its everyday, nonspecialized sense, Michael Buckland explores the influence of information on what we know, the role of communication and recorded information in our daily lives, and the difficulty (or ease) of finding information.

Scholarship in the Networked World

“Big Data” is on the covers of Science, Nature, the Economist, and Wired magazines, on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. But despite the media hyperbole, as Christine Borgman points out in this examination of data and scholarly research, having the right data is usually better than having more data; little data can be just as valuable as big data. In many cases, there are no data—because relevant data don’t exist, cannot be found, or are not available.

Each of us has an ever-growing collection of personal digital data: documents, photographs, PowerPoint presentations, videos, music, emails and texts sent and received. To access any of this, we have to find it. The ease (or difficulty) of finding something depends on how we organize our digital stuff. In this book, personal information management (PIM) experts Ofer Bergman and Steve Whittaker explain why we organize our personal digital data the way we do and how the design of new PIM systems can help us manage our collections more efficiently.

Big data is ubiquitous but heterogeneous. Big data can be used to tally clicks and traffic on web pages, find patterns in stock trades, track consumer preferences, identify linguistic correlations in large corpuses of texts. This book examines big data not as an undifferentiated whole but contextually, investigating the varied challenges posed by big data for health, science, law, commerce, and politics. Taken together, the chapters reveal a complex set of problems, practices, and policies.

Uses and Abuses

The research evaluation market is booming. “Ranking,” “metrics,” “h-index,” and “impact factors” are reigning buzzwords. Government and research administrators want to evaluate everything—teachers, professors, training programs, universities—using quantitative indicators. Among the tools used to measure “research excellence,” bibliometrics—aggregate data on publications and citations—has become dominant.

The New AI

Today, machine learning underlies a range of applications we use every day, from product recommendations to voice recognition—as well as some we don’t yet use everyday, including driverless cars. It is the basis of the new approach in computing where we do not write programs but collect data; the idea is to learn the algorithms for the tasks automatically from data.

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