L L E T I N
Caidi and Michel J. Menou
Nadia Caidi is with the Faculty of Information Studies, University of
Toronto, 140 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3G6,
Michel J. Menou is
with CIDEGI, B.P. 15, 49350 Les Rosiers sur Loire, France; email: Michel.Menou@wanadoo.fr
more complete biographies of the organizers of the
Since 2002, the
The aims of the
Global Plaza are to provide an opportunity for all ASIS&T
members (and information professionals at-large) to express and
share their personal views and hear from others about what this
“new” and “global” society means to them in a real and
concrete sense (beyond the expert jargon). What follows is an
overview of the
Background and Format
The first edition of the
The format of the first
Before the meeting contributors were asked to post (and discuss) short
position statements – or “What if?” questions, in the case of
the third edition of the
During the meeting, participants attending the
After the meeting, the moderators would compile the outcomes of the
Plaza (both the online contributions and a summary of the
interactions at the Annual Meeting) and publish them on the SIG/III
website (see Global Plaza archives at www.asis.org/SIG/SIG-III; look
The First Global Plaza (2002)
What in your
opinion will be radically changed in your professional life as a
result of the globalization of the information society? Why? What
should you do in order to cope with the change? What should the
information science and technology community do to help you and
itself cope with the change?
What in your
opinion will be radically changed in your personal life as a result
of the globalization of the information society? Why? What should
you do in order to cope with the change? What should the information
science and technology community do to help you cope with the
As a result of the contributions and discussions at
the Annual Meeting, a series of themes emerged that formed the basis
for the second edition of the
At the professional level, learning was a
much-discussed theme, including topics such as lifelong learning for
information professionals and switching the focus from information
systems toward interactive learning along with user-friendliness and
reliability of ICT applications and the conflicting potential of
ICTs as instruments of cultural domination or liberation.
Already, the role of the information science and
technology community was viewed as essential in leading the change
and educating professionals about information culture and the
potential of ICTs. A call for better ethics, more openness and
leadership (“make it safer, simpler, cheaper”) was also made.
The Second Global Plaza (2003)
Building on the findings of the 2002 session, the next
edition aimed at both deepening the reflections on issues raised in
the first Plaza and exploring these issues through various media
forms. New features were added, such as multimedia presentations
showing real world spots and related information society features
around the globe, as well as a graphic arts contest. The following
themes were identified for discussion based on the discussions at
learning for information professionals
and its information spaces
coping with information overload and pollution
focus from information systems toward interactive learning systems
and reliability of ICT applications
of work and social life
information as instruments of domination and/or liberation on the
The state of
information post 9/11
2nd edition of the
What if we made
it a requirement for admission to information studies programs that
students spend at least one year in a remote/rural area, low-income
community or in a developing nation?
What if people
from various parts of the world did not want software and products
in their local languages?
What if we let
the private sector take over the globalization of information
products and services?
broadening access to ICTs is simply not enough?
What if the
information science community was the leading voice at the World
Summit on the Information Society?
The Third Global Plaza (2004)
The format of the 2004 (third) edition of the
the new format, the
The three editions of the
Infrastructures in times of
crisis (2 questions): “What if
power were to disappear?” “What if there were major accidents
such as earthquakes or inter-ethnic conflicts that destroyed a
Language issues (6 questions): “What if Orwell's ‘novlang’ were
to become the pidgin-English of the Internet?” “What if
bilingualism would be a minimum entry requirement for LIS degree
Power and control
(4 questions). “What if the ‘cult of
information’ were to materialize into a ‘Ministry of Truth’ (a
la Orwell, 1984)?” “What if we design blogging services that are
not censored in
Humans vs. machines (2 questions): “What if ‘THE' network were to
take over and we became the neurons of a cybernetic monster?”
Quality of relationships (2 questions): “What if humans were to favor
relationships with the Other rather than with everybody?” “What
if humans were to favor social well-being over technological
Cost, access and
sustainability (3 questions): “What if Internet traffic rights
between two countries were to be equally shared between them (sum of
the traffic to and from the 2 countries divided by 2)?”
Inclusion and digital divide (5 questions): “What if people in ‘developed
countries’ could cover the costs of their pen pals’ emails –
what kind of pen pals would they like to have?”
Information literacy (3 questions): “What if humans were to favor
knowledge over information?” “What if literacy really were still
based on the competency to read and understand ideas in writing
rather than displaying ‘information literacy’ (whatever that is)
via intermediary technologies?”
Education and training
(4 questions): “What if ethics were part of
compulsory courses in LIS programs?” “What if library and
information science institutions throughout the world followed the
same standards and curriculum?”
Alternative publishing models & open source (8 questions): “What if the work of publishers
(including commercial and society) and professional associations
toward a uniform model for subscription rates from country to
country provided equal access rights?” “What if information
resources created with public funds were part of the public
“What if there were a five-year moratorium on ‘scientific’
conferences and the time was used for a critical assessment of the
respective fields and their contribution to humankind happiness and
enlightenment?” “What if every publication published online in
various subjects could be freely accessible for developing
During the session at the Annual Meeting, posters with
the complete list of contributed questions were scattered around the
room. Participants were invited to view the posters and add their
comments on stickers. They were also asked to vote for the most
provocative questions. After some time, the moderators tallied the
votes to select the top five and invited the audience to gather
around two special guests selected from among the conference
participants – ASIS&T International Paper Contest winner Shivanthi Weerasinghe and information consultant Marjorie
Hlava (ASIS&T president in 1994) – who contributed actively to
The following were
among the most voted for questions:
information resources created with public funds were part of the
public sphere? (13 votes)
What if humans
were to favor social well-being over technological progress? (13
What if humans
were to favor knowledge over information? (11 votes)
What if 10% of
the IT industries advertising budget would be invested in developing
effective automatic translation software? (8 votes)
information professionals could control the world? (7 votes)
professionals do to counter the chilling effects of propaganda
organized by the
What if all
the institutions in the world were to develop interoperable
institutional repositories ensuring that their research becomes
mainstream and contributes on an equal footing to the global
knowledge pool? (7 votes)
About two dozen people attended the third Global
Much debate also took place around the technological aspects. Some attendees disputed the idea that
information and communication technologies needed to be at the
center of all discussions. As one participant stated: “Does it
matter that many people have never made a phone call? Or whether
they are even interested in making one?” There seemed to be a
consensus during the discussions about the importance of a community-based
approach and community-based needs. Technology, as it was asserted, remains a matter of
choice, but everyone needs to be informed about its potential and
limitations so that an informed decision can be made by individuals
to use it or not.
The role of ASIS&T in educating
and raising awareness about the potential and challenges of ICTs was
again emphasized strongly by many attendees. (“ASIS&T should
help me get the information to make that choice.”) The idea of the
neutrality (or not) of technology inspired passionate diatribes from
both camps and resulted in the recommendation of a panel on the
topic to be organized for the next annual meeting of ASIS&T.
Another role for ASIS&T was to highlight best practices – what works in terms of projects and initiatives
and how to share knowledge about such topics as information for
health, community development, and technological decisions,
implementation and evaluation.
The issues of education, awareness and social responsibility were also a recurring theme – getting people
connected, training information professionals and researchers in
developing nations and encouraging connections and partnerships with
colleagues (practitioners and academics) from various parts of the
world were mentioned as examples of directions ASIS&T needed to
Discussions also revolved around the idea of literacy and trust (“to help people find out what they want to know and
keep out information that they don’t want to know”). Cost and affordability (of databases and e-resources) were,
of course, major issues that were raised when discussions about access took place.
In particular, ASIS&T was viewed as having a
significant role to play in raising awareness and educating various
stakeholders about the importance of preserving public domain knowledge and passing it on, as well as in educating the broader
public about economics of information (much discussion took place on
alternative publishing models and licensing mechanisms, such as
Creative Commons, that ASIS&T could actively encourage and
The idea of having a voice and getting the message out kept coming up over and over. (“We need to use
technology to our advantage,” “We need to become public
intellectuals, not only publishing in JASIST, but also in op-eds,
etc.” “We need to be
more active, to explore current issues like e-voting.”)
By the end of the
The participants seemed to agree with one attendee who
highlighted the role of sessions such as the
The three editions of the Global Village Plaza raised
a number of very important issues for the information science
community as well as for the roles and responsibilities of
received by participants during and after seems to suggest that the
author/moderators encourage anyone from any part of the world who is
interested in this plurality of discourse and perspectives to get
involved and to volunteer ideas, time, energy and, above all, their
Made So Far
the global information society what will be radically changed in our
professional lives and why?
So many things, amazing isn't it?
Becoming information rich at a
Coping with information overload and pollution
Saving the public sphere
Technology pushing changes
Not everybody has the chance
to be the son of an Inuit mother
New patterns of work
interaction with peers
learning or die
In the global information society what should you do in
order to cope with the change(s)
in professional lives?
Learn. Learn. Learn.
Become a smart ICT user
Become sensitive to cultural and
Network for action
Belong to professional societies
Change yourself and your practice
In the global information society what should the information
science and technology community do to help you cope with the change in professional lives?
Proactive support of
Become more international
In the global information society what should the information
science and technology community do to help itself cope with change in professional lives?
Become more open
Make it safer, idiot!
Make it simpler, idiot!
Make it cheaper, idiot!
multi-lingual and -cultural
table for a demand driven ICT development
In the global information society what in your opinion will be
radically changed in personal lives and why?
to keep abreast with ICT
More opportunities for social
More and different communication
Rise of multi-culturalism
forms of entertainment
In the global information society what should you do in order to cope with the change in
Seek personal development
In the global information society what should the information science and technology
community do to help you with the changes in personal lives?
Promote information culture
Appropriate and friendly systems
This past ASIS&T was my first Global Plaza I actually had a chance to attend. Although I've lurked on the list for some time, something came together for me in Providence. As a faculty member, I realized how little I come in contact with the professional community. Although I'm with students much of the time, I had for gotten how much our graduates out in the workforce really have to teach us. Plus, in an era of increasing global discourse, it was refreshing to hear international professionals voice their ideas and opinions. I would argue that that kind of international sharing among students, faculty, and professionals will be increasingtly important as more of us are joined through ICTs.
I have attended the Global Plazas since their inception and have found them amongst the most interesting sessions, particularly the format for discussion this year . I value particularly the socialization and spoken, rather than written, dialogue and the opportunity to obtain different perspectives
Congratulations for this original idea [What if?" questions]! I hope that GIVP=3 can bring some provocative thoughts about our profession and our roles in this information society.
I just looked at the online discussion and did a little contribution to this, but I found it interesting in that it raised some of the broader issues, sometimes quite fundamental ones, that get buried in more practical ASIS&T concerns.
I have prepared some practical questions, which are formulated by me, proceeding from some situations occurring in Republic of Armenia. So in 1988 of the 7th of December there was an awful earthquake in territory of Armenia, before that there was a question on connection of Nagorni Karabakh with Armenia and following conflict to Azerbaijan. [...] I hope you will analyze these questions and will make the conclusions. With impatience I wait for your answer. Any conclusions are interesting to me.
I guess it is "information education" that we need to focus equally on and it is this factor that has lead to the success of the Gyandoot [Digital Library] project among the 1.6 million illiterate, semi-literate and literate user community. I think that this also conveys a message and shows a way, tot he library community in India, still grappling with ways and means for information technology implementation.
As a writer on global issues I collect wit and wisdom on this topic and since there is so much information the first challenge is to clear my mind of all the theory, hype and stuff on this topic and ask myself as I sit in my office this morning what difference does it really make to me.
This is hugely innovative. Congratulations! I look forward to a great session.
SIG/III has a lot to offer; attending this meeting allowed me to learn a lot and to network extensively; we should pay attention to sustaining this movement.
Excerpts from Contributions to the Discussion
barriers must be broken if you want global participation. Therefore,
tools that translate metadata or indexing data at the word level
must be developed in a revolutionary way.
Learn a language. Really learn about other cultures.
talk about multiculturalism, but most of us do not learn languages
of other cultures. How can we truly communicate?
Lead the charge, shape your own future. Otherwise the future
will be shaped by others.
from an African village, the global village does not exist yet. So
we need to work hard to convince policy-makers, especially by
providing them with relevant information, so that they support the
talking to ourselves. Get out and listen
to people from other communities, fields, etc.
U.S. visa regulations have prevented a number of SIG/III award
winners from coming to the 2002 Annual Meeting. That is a most
has participated in events abroad in the past and should seek such
opportunities more actively.
vast majority of people in Indonesia cannot read English; together
we should join forces to try and find solutions to such problems.
though infrastructures are still weak in my country, Ethiopia, we
now have better conditions of access. What is really critical is the
provision of relevant and usable content that can contribute to
improving users’ welfare.
is a need to demonstrate the theoretical value of all research being
carried out outside the United States so that knowledge creation
will become more global.
information ethics and work to practice it!
the Moderators/Organizers of the Global
Nadia Caidi is
an assistant professor at the Faculty of Information Studies,
She received grants from the A.W. Mellon Foundation to examine the development of national information infrastructures (NIIs) in various central and eastern European countries. In subsequent studies, she has examined the choices and values that are embedded in the design of information, its institutions and its technologies, and how these might translate to other cultural contexts.
Her current research
projects reflect this quest for understanding the cultural paradigms
of transmission and use of information. She is the principal
investigator on various projects, including the IPERC project
(Information Practices of Ethno-Racial Communities), which aims to
provide insights to frontline information providers about the
information needs and uses of
She is also the principal investigator on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-funded grant on “Information and Access Post 9/11.” Moreover, Nadia is a co-applicant on the RICTA project (Research on Information and Communication Technologies with Aboriginal communities). She is also a collaborator on CRACIN, the Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking, which is an SSHRC-funded project that examines the role and impact of community networking initiatives. Within CRACIN, she is the lead for a study on community networking and libraries, whose aim is to assess the innovative technologies available to libraries for service provision.
Her interest in bringing marginalized voices to be
cognizant of, and contribute to, the policy debates around various
information issues has led her to become an active officer of
SIG/III of ASIS&T (and is its current chair-elect).
Michel J. Menou is an
independent international consultant in knowledge & information
management. He graduated from the Institut d'
Michel has been a member of ASIS&T since 1968. He was the co-founder and first chair in 1983 of the Special Interest Group/International Information Issues (SIG/III). He was also a member of the International Relations Committee (1989-1993) and chair of the European Chapter (1992-1993). Michel received the ASIS&T Watson Davis Award in 1985 – the first and still only non-U.S. recipient.
has worked since 1966 in about 80 countries, mostly as a freelance
consultant, but also in various other positions, on the development
of national and international information systems, national
information policies, curriculum development, and teaching of
information sciences, users sensitization and training.
The fieldwork Michel conducted and implemented as part of
assignments with international projects included many components of
analysis, diagnostic and participation-research.
His research and teaching interests include information policies; impact and value of information; knowledge management; design and management of information resources, systems and services; globalization of the information sector, with a slant to the developing countries; distance education and curriculum design.
[Photos by Yin Zhang.]
Copyright © 2005, American Society for Information Science and Technology