Information Science
January 4, 2004 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Just what exactly is the field of Information Science?

I'm looking at Grad programs, and it looks to me like what people do in Information Science is sort of where I want to go. However, I can't really get a handle on what the hell the field is about, because every description I've read amounts to this (Google's definition): "pure and applied science involving the collection, organization, and management of information." Well, all right, but could somebody more knowledgable in this perhaps rephrase it in practical terms for me, and point me to some clear (as opposed to opaque) web sources?

posted by Hildago to Education (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Information Science is a newfangled way of saying "library school". Is that what you want to do?
posted by jjg at 4:24 PM on January 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

My short phrase is "It's like what librarians do, only for digital information as well as [or instead of] print information" So, you take the organizing and collecting and cataloging aspects of librarianship, remove the building [more or less] the emphasis on print and the customer service/social work aspect, replace it with interface design and usability and presto, you're an information scientist! The library school I went to is now placing a much stronger emphasis on information science. You can look at their course list and sort of see which classes are the newer ones. ASIS is the American Society for Information Science, you can sort of balance their website with the American Library Association's site and compare and contrast... new school versus old school, basically like jjg said.
posted by jessamyn at 4:30 PM on January 4, 2004

Funny, in my circles, ASIS is the old school. I wonder what that makes ALA.

I would like to rebut the suggestion that there's no "customer service/social work aspect" to information science (or information architecture, for that matter). You don't have to be physically present to be making a difference in people's lives.
posted by jjg at 4:44 PM on January 4, 2004

Uh, yeah, what they said. I got my MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) in December 2001 from Pitt, which in addition to the MLIS offers a degree in Information Science and Telecommunications. The MLIS and Telco programs are COMPLETELY different; the MLIS (relatively) easy, the Telco program much more difficult. Email me if you have any questions I may be able to help with.
posted by arco at 4:49 PM on January 4, 2004

Ask me tomorrow, when I start the SLAIS program at UBC.

It has always impressed how may Library-related people populate MeFi
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 5:45 PM on January 4, 2004

It can be algorithms for content relationships too.
posted by holloway at 5:53 PM on January 4, 2004

If you're interested in the "library" part of MLIS, you may want to explore the page.
posted by arco at 6:28 PM on January 4, 2004

Information Science is like Christian heavy metal--it's supposed to take a field that's dowdy and make it hip. As effective as a Methodist youth minister in Zubaz.

It's an academic turf war: some library science people--who are supposed to know how to find information--don't want to lose ground to computerish types with their greps and googles and algorithms and Big-O notations. What better way to battle the threat than to co-opt it?

On a more serious note, I mistrust "information science" because it seems so ill-defined. You want library school, go to library school--and pick up some archiving and conservation skills along the way, civilization will thank you. You want computer science, take programming, networking, theory classes. A program that's a half-hearted mishmash of both is bound to be a disappointment.
posted by gimonca at 7:30 PM on January 4, 2004

Response by poster: jjg, it's good to know that, because what I've been wondering for a while is why don't they just call it library school? What I'm hearing from you and gimonca is that that's sort of what it is, it's just been renamed so as not to seem obsolete? That's good, because it's what I'm interestedit.

Jessamyn, that's the same school I'm applying for. I kind of thought you were a librarian and had gone there, so I am glad you responded. Thanks for the links, I'm going through LISCareer right now, and it's very illuminating.

arco, thanks for (ever so foolishly) making yourself available to my nagging e-mail queries.

Thanks all around.
posted by Hildago at 8:00 PM on January 4, 2004

A great academic-type information science (as in "information theory") blog: Infomusings., by a doctoral candidate and UNC's SLIS. In addition to the traditional library things she talks about personal information management, user-behavior stuff, etc.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:11 AM on January 5, 2004

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