Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A critical discourse analysis of the concept of "Information Source"

Once again, I ponder the issue of blogs as information sources.  How do they fit into our complex information source typologies? To answer this question, I reread the Leckie, Pettigrew and Sylvain (1996) as well as the more current Herztum, Andersen, Andersen and  Hansen (2002) regarding the typologies and categories of information sources. Unfortunately, instead of getting answers, I have found myself becoming more critical of the very concept of an information source.

Leckie et al. (1996) states that there are 3 information sources {people, document and personal} and  4 channels {formal/informal, internal/external, oral/written, and personal}. I was not clear as to how sources and channels differ, especially since Leckie et al. (1996) cite personal in both categories. Hence I consulted some dictionaries to get the distinction.Waston and Hill (2012) define that a source can be an individual, group or institution that originates a message.

Given that for Leckie et al, people sources refer to conversations, documents to text (electronic or print) and  personal sources to personal knowledge and experience gained from professional practice, I wonder what category would group or an institutional source fit into Leckie et al's classification. Would group or institutional sources be considered people information source category? Further, messages are not originated in documents. They all come from a people or personal source. Documents are just disembodied people or personal sources.

Next, let us consider Herztum et al (2002), a little more modern. For Herztum et al (2002), there are 3 information sources too, but one surprising change. Herztum et al (2002) agree that people and documents are established sources, but exclude personal sources. Instead, they incorporate a virtual category to accommodate the existence of virtual agents and intelligent software agents as information sources. So what I have now is four information sources. The four categories of information sources are {people, documents, personal, virtual}.

OK. But Herztum et al still does not address the issue that information does not originate in documents, which are just sources based on people and personal sources. In addition, the new category is even more problematic. Does information originate in virtual agents?

Perhaps then I have a narrow view of source. So let us examine another definition. Prytherch (2005) defines a source as 'any document' that provides users with the information they seek OR  'document providing information reproduced in another document'. From Prytherch's perspective, it is clear to me that Library and Information Science has disembodied human words, and has made the text the supreme and primary source. Or, are people actually documents?  For this, I invoke the views and wisdom of Ong (2002), who argues that literature and text is essentially based on people sources - conversations, or in his own words, 'orality'. In essence all text (or documents) are thus merely what Ong (2002) calls, 'secondary orality'.

Hence the question then is why is it that documents exist? Is it not for the establishment of bureaucratic or authoritarian control? To have some unchangeable or immutable word, void of multiple interpretations upon which to base discussion, action, decision, judgement and conversation.

The debate is now open!


Hertzum, M., Andersen, H. H. K., Andersen, V., & Hansen, C. B. (2002). Trust in information sources: Seeking information from people, documents, and virtual agents. Interacting with Computers, 14(5), 575-599. doi:10.1016/S0953-5438(02)00023-1

Leckie, G. J., Pettigrew, K. E., & Sylvain, C. (1996). Modeling the information seeking of professionals: A general model derived from research on engineers, health care professionals, and lawyers. The Library Quarterly, 66(2), pp. 161-193. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4309109

Ong, W. J., & MyiLibrary. (2002; 1982). Orality and literacy. London: Routledge. 

Prytherch, R. J. (2005). 'source.' Harrod's librarians' glossary and reference book :A directory of over 10,200 terms, organizations, projects and acronyms in the areas of information management, library science, publishing and archive management (10th ed.). Aldershot, Hants, England ;; Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Watson, J., & Hill, A. (2012). 'source.' Dictionary of media and communication studies (8th ed.). London ;; New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

No comments:

Post a Comment