Thursday, 7 November 2013

CILIP’s Information Management Summit and the KO connection

Since the Stone Age or even before, the ability to share knowledge and information has been fundamental to the development of the human race. Just think of how expertise in making flints, then metal tools, pottery, paper and glass revolutionized our life-style as it spread round the globe! And think how the opportunities for exploiting information are now even greater. CILIP has an enviable UK-wide remit to serve our profession across the whole range of information management specialisms. So why, in the information age, is its membership contracting?

For months, activists Martin White and Sandra Ward have been pointing to the needs of business and society, and urging CILIP to grasp the opportunities. Last week their efforts culminated in an Information Management Summit: Towards transforming organisations and our profession. Anne Mauger, CILIP’s Chief Executive, showed clear support for their initiative.

The proceedings

A parade of first-class speakers presented nine different perspectives, starting with a sparkling keynote address from Clive Holtham, Professor of Information Management at City University. (See slides from most speakers, on the Summit site.)  Unsurprisingly, the invited audience of about 40 senior information professionals responded enthusiastically. Kate Arnold, President-elect of the Special Libraries Association, invited all to download a report on The evolving value of information management and the five essential attributes of the modern information professional, commissioned by the Financial Times in conjunction with the SLA. Among other heady stuff the report stresses the importance of “decision-ready information” and invites “an urgent response from information professionals that clearly demonstrates their value to organizations”.
Speaking for CILIP, Annie Mauger promised commitment to supporting its practitioner members in this field. CILIP could not claim to cover every aspect of IM, she felt, nor to be IM’s only voice in the professional society space. But there would certainly be support for the IM Project Board which the organizers are bent on establishing. As follow-up, an open meeting will be held at Ridgmount St on 2nd December. The Board wants to support CILIP members and their organizations in improving IM practice; one component will be to develop and share tools and position papers that IM practitioners can use to influence progress in the workplace. We're all invited to contribute to the Project and make use of the outcomes.

And how does all this bear on Knowledge Organization (KO)?

KO and IM practitioners face many of the same challenges. KO lies at the heart of information management, providing the theoretical underpinning for many IM techniques. As Liane Kordan pointed out in her talk about self-development from librarian to information management consultant, “Some things remain the same…. there’s just more information in different formats and various places. But we still need to classify, with a good understanding of customer needs”.

KO, a field that was founded on the study of classification, is a key thread in the weave of information management. In the picture below, which illustrates how the Institute of Information Scientists and the Library Association merged to form CILIP and carry forward the still evolving IM agenda, KO is the most basic thread originally shared by the IIS and the LA.

Members of CILIP and of ISKO (International Society for Knowledge Organization) both find their skills and contribution are little known and undervalued – even though KO techniques have applications all around us. If society and the economy are to benefit, we all need to maintain our own self-development and get our voices more confidently heard at top management level. ISKO UK will continue its programme of events to help members share their experiences and learn from others. Its collaboration will continue with UKeiG, IRSG, CILIP, SLA and other bodies interested in information management. News from the IM Project Board will be welcome grist for the mill.
Stella Dextre Clarke

Chair, ISKO UK

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Feedback from UDC Seminar "Classification & Visualization:Interfaces to Knowledge"

Posted on behalf of Judi Vernau

I had no idea that Paul Otlet, co-inventor of UDC, was also instrumental in bringing the 5x3 index card to the world. Or that he was an early thinker about levels of granularity within the content of a book, and how you should be able to arrange and re-arrange those contents as required (what would he have made of the term 'information architecture'?). Boyd Rayward's keynote address to the International UDC Seminar on Classification and Visualisation was full of fascinating facts about Otlet and his vision for a World City which would contain a total centralization of all international power and knowledge in one place, in the interests of progress and peace. It's extraordinary to think of Otlet and his colleague Henri La Fontaine putting together their universal bibliography which grew to over 15 million entries, and using it to answer queries from around the world, like a human Google.

There were plenty of other interesting discussions about ways to represent knowledge, but possibly too few actual examples. There were two obvious and very different exceptions to this: Scott Weingart spoke about very early visualisations which most often used the metaphor of a branching tree of knowledge, a tree which over time became very complicated and hard to interpret as knowledge expanded. Scott's accompanying illustrations were lovely. At the other end of the time spectrum, we had Lev Manovich's presentation, abounding with images and video, which showed how computational analysis and visualisation of large data sets can provide some fascinating insights into how an artist's style develops or how the design of magazine cover moves with the times. His video on analysis of Rothko paintings (available at ) was fascinating and beautiful to look at.

Over the two days we were treated to many more wonderful images and thoughtful presentations: see particularly for beautiful colours and<> for an interesting method of relating concepts in a visual and informative way.  The Conference was very well attended - I counted over 100 people, from upwards of 10 countries. This all comes at a time when several of our clients have been asking for more visual representations of taxonomy and other information architecture artefacts, so it was good food for thought. Just never show me another tag cloud.

Judi Vernau, Metataxis Ltd