ASIS&T 2013 Annual Meeting 
Montréal, Québec, Canada | November 1-5, 2013

The Concept Formerly Known as Information

Dr. Jenna Hartel, University of Toronto
Karen Pollock, University of Toronto
Rebecca Noone, University of Toronto
Dr. Jens-Erik Mai, University of Copenhagen
Dr. Kiersten Latham, Kent State University
Dr. Marcia Bates, University of California, Los Angeles

Sunday, 3:30pm


For a century information has been theorized and defined by information scientists and yet the nature of information remains obscure and highly contested. Our session introduces a new approach to the concept of information that emerged from an interdisciplinary, empirical, visual research project. 137 graduate students from a North American iSchool were asked “What is information?” and responded by drawing upon a 4" by 4" piece of paper, coined an "iSquare." The drawings of information (Figure 1) were analyzed using compositional and thematic analysis techniques adapted from precedent visual studies. The results include the identification of the most common graphical representations used to express information, as well as three themes pertaining to the social, technological, and "informational" dimensions of information. This panel utilizes the iSquare study and its outcomes as a springboard to engage -- afresh -- the concept of information today. After the original research is reported, invited experts from information science, museum studies, and social epistemology will offer commentary. The session is also interactive and includes a hands-on opportunity for audience members to draw an iSquare, deepening their personal understanding of information. All speakers will be timed and the agenda kept on schedule to leave 20 minutes for discussion among those in the room. Our title, "The Concept Formerly Known as Information" is a rift on the antics of American singer-songwriter Prince, who in 1993 changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph and was called (for a short time) "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince." This panel seeks a similar jolt to the status-quo when the concept of information is transformed from word to image.