Saturday, September 11, 2010

week 2

Well, I guess I will get things started as best I can.

I at first had trouble with this weeks readings which I think could have been avoided if I had read them in a different order because after reading all three I began to see some overarching themes that I think are important for thinking about information policy.

I think the three authors got at the idea that information policy is driven by and a part of many disciplines and creation of information policies need to take into account ideas, policies, considerations, etc from these different areas. For example, copyrights or other legal protection of an author’s rights can be viewed from cultural, economic, legal, political, or social perspectives. I personally encountered this last spring when I had to do background research in business models, computer sciences, politics, and culture in order to right a paper about China’s copyright laws.

I also noticed the authors focused on how we do not have a clear definition of information or an agreed upon approach to discussing or thinking about information and information policies. I think the problems with defining and approaching information creates problems with creating policies because different groups are approaching the problem from different directions and we need to find a common ground to create effective information policies. I thought it was interesting that Braman talked about information as resources, information as commodity, information as perception of pattern, and information as a constitutive force in society, and then discussed how the policy maker’s perspective, how information will be treated in a particular situation, and the power of information in a situation will affect which definition of information is used. However, I am not sure that the hierarchical approach to defining information really helps clarify things for me.

Finally, I found the Vaidhyanathan article the most difficult to think about and apply to the other readings and real life. I think on a basic level he is also talking about a need for scholars and people form a plethora of disciplines to come together in the establishment of information policies. I did not completely agree with his discussion of positive liberty versus negative liberty; I am not sure if it is suspicion or cynicism but I do not think it is a good idea for the state to “foster spaces, technologies, norms, and processes that maximize certain kinds of speech (304).” In his discussion of positive liberty he talked about open source, open systems, and open standards. I think providing free and open access to information is important but something about government supporting and encouraging certain forms of speech does not sit right with me.

9 comments:

  1. You did a really terrific job summarizing the readings ... thanks! I think you may be correct that the order of completing the readings might be important in improving their understanding. I hadn't thought of that. There were definitely recurring themes, including trying to find a common definition for "information." I found it helpful, too, to look ahead at the future weeks of class content in order to try and frame this week's information. Although I understand on an intellectual level the importance of these readings in this information ethics class, I still need real-life applications =)

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  2. I am the complete opposite of you, Joanna. I was able to understand Vaidhyanathan's article much easier than Braman's. I also found it odd that we were to read an article that is over 20 years old since the policies have changed so much in that short of time. And Kathy, I, too, need real-life application to understand!

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  3. You bring up an important part about the Vaidhyanathan article and the idea of governments being involved in "maximizing certain kinds of speech." We as Americans have the right to free speech. Yes, I think the government should protect this right. But should the government supporting one type of speech over the other? Wouldn't that be limiting someone's right to free speech?

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  4. Aingalls, I understand your need for real application. Howevever, I believe that older article was a good choice for class literature because it provides a context of how policy has changed since that time...it may give light to where policy will head in the future.

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  5. Put me down on the side of those who found Vaidhyanathan much more approachable than Braman. In fact, V's comment that "Academic writing in the humanities is needlessly burdened by bad writing about what might otherwise be fascinating subjects" brought the Braman article to mind! (As well as his note that "Jargon in every field inhibits cross-disciplinary exploration.") (Both references from p. 301.)

    Joanna, you stated you "did not completely agree with his discussion of positive liberty versus negative liberty," but I don't think he was necessarily advocating anything in that particular paragraph from which you quote, but rather summarizing the scholarship on this issue. You are correct overall, however, since it is implicit in the following paragraphs that he does support this view. And since the role of government has been introduced, allow me to come down on the side of those who would advocate for a certain amount of intervention on the part of government to foster the free exchange of information. I understand that as Americans we have a reflexive aversion to government action, but since government is the only institution with the size and ability to limit corporate power, it is through government that the citizenry is able to fight the democracy-restricting efforts of corporations to limit free speech and the interchange of information. Rather than look at this issue as an overbearing government granting freer speech to some entities (and thereby restricting it to others), look at it as citizens utilizing the power of the vote to restrict undemocratic powers (corporations) and create these free spaces.

    While Vaidhyanathan's piece dealt mainly with academic scholarship, I thought the salient point to be taken from both Rowland and Braman was how inadequate our definition of information is, and how troublesome this becomes once we attempt to craft public policy. This is precisely what makes this course so exciting! We are exploring an area where the issues are still very much in debate, and the questions are still being formulated.

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  8. [EDITED]

    This is a great discussion, everyone; I really appreciate the time and deep thinking you are applying to your analyses. Joanna, you state, "I also noticed the authors focused on how we do not have a clear definition of information or an agreed upon approach to discussing or thinking about information and information policies" - you are right that this continues t be a source of discussion and debate in LIS and beyond. The nebulous nature of "information" itself leads to challenges in policy around it, to be sure.

    Also, I believe Alcibiades has provided a very likely interpretation of Vaidhyanathan's perspective, and what he is calling for. When we think back to Mill's call for the free and unfettered circulation of ideas in order that they co-mingle and agitate against each other, for example, does that presuppose some sort of public space or commons in which that circulation can take place? As we'll see later in the course, there are many challenges to such spaces, and information policy comes directly to bear on the course that they will take in the future. After all, the construction of ethics, values, policy and its ultimate implementation is a human endeavor, and is constantly in flux and movement.

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  9. "While Vaidhyanathan's piece dealt mainly with academic scholarship, I thought the salient point to be taken from both Rowland and Braman was how inadequate our definition of information is, and how troublesome this becomes once we attempt to craft public policy." Thanks, Alcibiades! (Did anyone else have a lightbulb turn on over her/his head like I did?) I know many of you said this in various ways, but I really needed one sentence to pull it together.

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