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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2018

1 - What is information science? Disciplines and professions


Information science is, or should be, involved with the whole concept of knowledge in whatever form its manifestations may take.

Jesse Shera (1973, 286)

Apparently, there is not a uniform conception of information science. The field seems to follow different approaches and traditions: for example, objective approaches versus cognitive approaches, and the library tradition versus the documentation tradition versus the computation tradition. The concept has different meanings, which imply different knowledge domains. Different knowledge domains imply different fields. Nevertheless, all of them are represented by the same name, information science. No wonder that scholars, practitioners and students are confused.

Chaim Zins (2007, 341)

The chunky concepts which make up our field's intellectual core (e.g. knowledge, information, communication, representation) are neither owned by information science nor likely to be assembled into an entirely credible canon without the judicious addition of perspectives and approaches taken from established disciplines such as computer science, linguistics, philosophy, psychology and sociology, as well as from newer fields such as cognitive science and human-computer interaction.

Blaise Cronin (2008, 466)

Let us not restrict ourselves to grubbing around in the garden patch of a limited, little information science, restricted to the relationship between information and machine. Instead, let us expand, reach out, embrace and explore the wider world of information, to develop a vision of information science as a central synthesising discipline in understanding not simply information, but the world we live in. Because the world we live in is surely a world of information.

Tom Wilson (2010)


The subject of this book is information science. We begin by asking what information science is, as an academic discipline and profession. Obviously, and simplistically, it is the science of information. But what does this mean?

There are three main answers to this question (Buckland, 2012). One considers information science as being concerned with computing, algorithms and information technologies, a second with information as related to entropy in information theory and information physics, a third with information science as being concerned with information recorded in documents, with meaning and knowledge, and hence as growing from the older disciplines of librarianship and documentation. We will focus on the third of these in this book, although we will mention aspects of the other two at appropriate points.

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