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Document, Record, Work: The Basic Units of Analysis in Information Studies (SIG HFIS)

Jonathan Furner Richard P. Smiraglia Gregory S. Hunter Birger Hjørland

Presented at ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), Providence, Rhode Island, November 13 - 18, 2004


Many researchers in information studies (IS) would identify their focus of attention as being some kind of human activity -- information seeking, for example, or knowledge organization, or information policy.

At the same time, IS researchers typically consider the artifacts that are the products or objects of such activities to be as central to the inquiry as are the human creators and users of those artifacts.

Moreover, different groups of researchers may be distinguished, at least in part, by their tendency to treat such artifacts as instances of one or other basic units of analysis. Some IS researchers deal with documents, for instance; others with records. Still others claim to study works, resources, texts, discourses, speech acts, or signs.

We may well ask: In what essential respects do these separate conceptions differ? Which aspects lend themselves uniquely to analysis by IS researchers? Most importantly, is it (i) desirable, and/or (ii) possible, to construct a coherent, unified taxonomy of units of analysis that might serve as a common conceptual framework for researchers in different but related areas of information studies?

In this proposal panel session (sponsored by SIG/HFIS), four speakers will discuss these fundamental questions for the theoretical foundations of our field.

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