Michael Buckland

Michael Buckland is Emeritus Professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and Codirector of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative there.

  • Information and Society

    Information and Society

    Michael Buckland

    A short, informal account of our ever-increasing dependence on a complex multiplicity of messages, records, documents, and data.

    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. He shows that all this involves human perception, social behavior, changing technologies, and issues of trust.

    Buckland argues that every society is an “information society”; a “non-information society” would be a contradiction in terms. But the shift from oral and gestural communication to documents, and the wider use of documents facilitated by new technologies, have made our society particularly information intensive. Buckland describes the rising flood of data, documents, and records, outlines the dramatic long-term growth of documents, and traces the rise of techniques to cope with them. He examines the physical manifestation of information as documents, the emergence of data sets, and how documents and data are discovered and used. He explores what individuals and societies do with information; offers a basic summary of how collected documents are arranged and described; considers the nature of naming; explains the uses of metadata; and evaluates selection methods, considering relevance, recall, and precision.

    • Paperback $15.95 £11.95

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  • The Information Manifold

    The Information Manifold

    Why Computers Can't Solve Algorithmic Bias and Fake News

    Antonio Badia

    An argument that information exists at different levels of analysis—syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic—and an exploration of the implications.

    Although this is the Information Age, there is no universal agreement about what information really is. Different disciplines view information differently; engineers, computer scientists, economists, linguists, and philosophers all take varying and apparently disconnected approaches. In this book, Antonio Badia distinguishes four levels of analysis brought to bear on information: syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and network-based. Badia explains each of these theoretical approaches in turn, discussing, among other topics, theories of Claude Shannon and Andrey Kolomogorov, Fred Dretske's description of information flow, and ideas on receiver impact and informational interactions. Badia argues that all these theories describe the same phenomena from different perspectives, each one narrower than the previous one. The syntactic approach is the more general one, but it fails to specify when information is meaningful to an agent, which is the focus of the semantic and pragmatic approaches. The network-based approach, meanwhile, provides a framework to understand information use among agents.

    Badia then explores the consequences of understanding information as existing at several levels. Humans live at the semantic and pragmatic level (and at the network level as a society), computers at the syntactic level. This sheds light on some recent issues, including “fake news” (computers cannot tell whether a statement is true or not, because truth is a semantic notion) and “algorithmic bias” (a pragmatic, not syntactic concern). Humans, not computers, the book argues, have the ability to solve these issues.

    • Hardcover $50.00 £40.00
  • Documentarity

    Documentarity

    Evidence, Ontology, and Inscription

    Ronald E. Day

    A historical-conceptual account of the different genres, technologies, modes of inscription, and innate powers of expression by which something becomes evident.

    In this book, Ronald Day offers a historical-conceptual account of how something becomes evident. Crossing philosophical ontology with documentary ontology, Day investigates the different genres, technologies, modes of inscription, and innate powers of expression by which something comes into presence and makes itself evident. He calls this philosophy of evidence documentarity, and it is through this theoretical lens that he examines documentary evidence (and documentation) within the tradition of Western philosophy, largely understood as representational in its epistemology, ontology, aesthetics, and politics.

    Day discusses the expression of beings or entities as evidence of what exists through a range of categories and modes, from Plato's notion that ideas are universal types expressed in evidential particulars to the representation of powerful particulars in social media and machine learning algorithms. He considers, among other topics, the contrast between positivist and anthropological documentation traditions; the ontological and epistemological importance of the documentary index; the nineteenth-century French novel's documentary realism and the avant-garde's critique of representation; performative literary genres; expression as a form of self evidence; and the “post-documentation” technologies of social media and machine learning, described as a posteriori, real-time technologies of documentation. Ultimately, the representational means are not only information and knowledge technologies but technologies of judgment, judging entities both descriptively and prescriptively.

    • Paperback $35.00 £28.00
  • Search Foundations

    Search Foundations

    Toward a Science of Technology-Mediated Experience

    Sachi Arafat and Elham Ashoori

    A call to redirect the intellectual focus of information retrieval and science (IR&S) toward the phenomenon of technology-mediated experience.

    In this book, Sachi Arafat and Elham Ashoori issue a call to reorient the intellectual focus of information retrieval and science (IR&S) away from search and related processes toward the more general phenomenon of technology-mediated experience. Technology-mediated experience accounts for an increasing proportion of human lived experience; the phenomenon of mediation gets at the heart of the human-machine relationship. Framing IR&S more broadly in this way generalizes its problems and perspectives, dovetailing them with those shared across disciplines dealing with socio-technical phenomena. This reorientation of IR&S requires imagining it as a new kind of science: a science of technology-mediated experience (STME). Arafat and Ashoori not only offer detailed analysis of the foundational concepts underlying IR&S and other technical disciplines but also boldly call for a radical, systematic appropriation of the sciences and humanities to create a better understanding of the human-technology relationship.

    Arafat and Ashoori discuss the notion of progress in IR&S and consider ideas of progress from the history and philosophy of science. They argue that progress in IR&S requires explicit linking between technical and nontechnical aspects of discourse. They develop a network of basic questions and present a discursive framework for addressing these questions. With this book, Arafat and Ashoori provide both a manifesto for the reimagining of their field and the foundations on which a reframed IR&S would rest.

    • Hardcover $65.00 £50.00
  • Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation

    Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation

    Uses and Abuses

    Yves Gingras

    Why bibliometrics is useful for understanding the global dynamics of science but generate perverse effects when applied inappropriately in research evaluation and university rankings.

    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. Bibliometrics is hailed as an “objective” measure of research quality, a quantitative measure more useful than “subjective” and intuitive evaluation methods such as peer review that have been used since scientific papers were first published in the seventeenth century. In this book, Yves Gingras offers a spirited argument against an unquestioning reliance on bibliometrics as an indicator of research quality. Gingras shows that bibliometric rankings have no real scientific validity, rarely measuring what they pretend to.

    Although the study of publication and citation patterns, at the proper scales, can yield insights on the global dynamics of science over time, ill-defined quantitative indicators often generate perverse and unintended effects on the direction of research. Moreover, abuse of bibliometrics occurs when data is manipulated to boost rankings. Gingras looks at the politics of evaluation and argues that using numbers can be a way to control scientists and diminish their autonomy in the evaluation process. Proposing precise criteria for establishing the validity of indicators at a given scale of analysis, Gingras questions why universities are so eager to let invalid indicators influence their research strategy.

    • Hardcover $30.00 £24.00
  • Indexing It All

    Indexing It All

    The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data

    Ronald E. Day

    A critical history of the modern tradition of documentation, tracing the representation of individuals and groups in the form of documents, information, and data.

    In this book, Ronald Day offers a critical history of the modern tradition of documentation. Focusing on the documentary index (understood as a mode of social positioning), and drawing on the work of the French documentalist Suzanne Briet, Day explores the understanding and uses of indexicality. He examines the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data.

    Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, “the father of European documentation” (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media's use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robots—to embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social “big data” as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.

    • Hardcover $32.00 £26.95
    • Paperback $5.75 £4.99
  • Information and Intrigue

    Information and Intrigue

    From Index Cards to Dewey Decimals to Alger Hiss

    Colin B. Burke

    An account of Herbert Field's quest for a new way of organizing information and how information systems are produced by ideology as well as technology.

    In Information and Intrigue Colin Burke tells the story of one man's plan to revolutionize the world's science information systems and how science itself became enmeshed with ideology and the institutions of modern liberalism. In the 1890s, the idealistic American Herbert Haviland Field established the Concilium Bibliographicum, a Switzerland-based science information service that sent millions of index cards to American and European scientists. Field's radical new idea was to index major ideas rather than books or documents. In his struggle to create and maintain his system, Field became entangled with nationalistic struggles over the control of science information, the new system of American philanthropy (powered by millionaires), the politics of an emerging American professional science, and in the efforts of another information visionary, Paul Otlet, to create a pre-digital worldwide database for all subjects.

    World War I shuttered the Concilium, and postwar efforts to revive it failed. Field himself died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. Burke carries the story into the next generation, however, describing the astonishingly varied career of Field's son, Noel, who became a diplomat, an information source for Soviet intelligence (as was his friend Alger Hiss), a secret World War II informant for Allen Dulles, and a prisoner of Stalin. Along the way, Burke touches on a range of topics, including the new entrepreneurial university, Soviet espionage in America, and further efforts to classify knowledge.

    • Hardcover $19.75 £14.99
  • Paper Machines

    Paper Machines

    About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929

    Markus Krajewski

    Why the card catalog—a “paper machine” with rearrangeable elements—can be regarded as a precursor of the computer.

    Today on almost every desk in every office sits a computer. Eighty years ago, desktops were equipped with a nonelectronic data processing machine: a card file. In Paper Machines, Markus Krajewski traces the evolution of this proto-computer of rearrangeable parts (file cards) that became ubiquitous in offices between the world wars.

    The story begins with Konrad Gessner, a sixteenth-century Swiss polymath who described a new method of processing data: to cut up a sheet of handwritten notes into slips of paper, with one fact or topic per slip, and arrange as desired. In the late eighteenth century, the card catalog became the librarian's answer to the threat of information overload. Then, at the turn of the twentieth century, business adopted the technology of the card catalog as a bookkeeping tool. Krajewski explores this conceptual development and casts the card file as a “universal paper machine” that accomplishes the basic operations of Turing's universal discrete machine: storing, processing, and transferring data. In telling his story, Krajewski takes the reader on a number of illuminating detours, telling us, for example, that the card catalog and the numbered street address emerged at the same time in the same city (Vienna), and that Harvard University's home-grown cataloging system grew out of a librarian's laziness; and that Melvil Dewey (originator of the Dewey Decimal System) helped bring about the technology transfer of card files to business.

    • Hardcover $40.00 £30.00
  • Good Faith Collaboration

    Good Faith Collaboration

    The Culture of Wikipedia

    Joseph M. Reagle, Jr.

    How Wikipedia collaboration addresses the challenges of openness, consensus, and leadership in a historical pursuit for a universal encyclopedia.

    Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community—a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique collaborative culture.

    Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet's Universal Repository and H. G. Wells's proposal for a World Brain. Both these projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology—which at the time included index cards and microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential.

    Wikipedia's style of collaborative production has been imitated, analyzed, and satirized. Despite the social unease over its implications for individual autonomy, institutional authority, and the character (and quality) of cultural products, Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture has brought us closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £19.95
    • Paperback $19.95 £14.99
  • Human Information Retrieval

    Human Information Retrieval

    Julian Warner

    An overview of information retrieval rooted in the humanities and social sciences but informed by an understanding of information technology and information theory.

    Information retrieval in the age of Internet search engines has become part of ordinary discourse and everyday practice: “Google” is a verb in common usage. Thus far, more attention has been given to practical understanding of information retrieval than to a full theoretical account. In Human Information Retrieval, Julian Warner offers a comprehensive overview of information retrieval, synthesizing theories from different disciplines (information and computer science, librarianship and indexing, and information society discourse) and incorporating such disparate systems as WorldCat and Google into a single, robust theoretical framework. There is a need for such a theoretical treatment, he argues, one that reveals the structure and underlying patterns of this complex field while remaining congruent with everyday practice.

    Warner presents a labor theoretic approach to information retrieval, building on his previously formulated distinction between semantic and syntactic mental labor, arguing that the description and search labor of information retrieval can be understood as both semantic and syntactic in character. Warner's information science approach is rooted in the humanities and the social sciences but informed by an understanding of information technology and information theory. The chapters offer a progressive exposition of the topic, with illustrative examples to explain the concepts presented. Neither narrowly practical nor largely speculative, Human Information Retrieval meets the contemporary need for a broader treatment of information and information systems.

    • Hardcover $7.75 £6.99