Friday Class Reflections

(Decided to go for a double Saturday post to keep each post relatively topical. So if you’re more interested in either #citylis or Cuddle Cthulhu, feel free to pick and choose, even though I think it’s all interesting.)

On Friday I had my second “first day” of classes, and thus officially finished my first week in graduate school. Information Management & Policy (IMP) was really good. Structure-wise, I enjoyed that we were invited to break into groups and talk to each other about different concepts during the lecture. There was a time when I really disliked such things, but it makes a huge difference when you’re with a group where everyone seems interested and has something to say. We got into an intense, fun discussion about the definition of “information management.” The conclusion? Well, that it’s really hard to define and there are several different ways of approaching it (organization, use/sharing, access, privacy – all kinds of factors). That appears to happen all over the place in LIS. It rather reminds me of similar discussions in a methodology class for the Religion department in undergrad.

Another thing that came up in class was the distinction between data, information, and knowledge. Is it a spectrum? Clearly defined hierarchy? I think the way I’ve conceptualized it, it’s like reading a book. The data is two parts – the ink (or bytes), letters, and punctuation marks on one hand, and the facts or ideas that the author/editor is bringing on the other hand. Then the information is what happens when those facts, ideas, and raw book parts come together into sentences and paragraphs – now you have a book (or journal article, or other form of media) and bringing it all together leaves you with information. So that information could sit there gathering dust on the shelf, but it’s still information. And then knowledge (hopefully) happens when a reader picks up that book and proceeds to read, understand, interpret, or otherwise think about what they’ve gleaned from the source of information. So I suppose in this scenario, although data, information, and knowledge are more or less separate categories, they do have to build on each other in order to happen. A reader can’t read if there’s no books to be had; a book can’t be written if there’s nothing to write about (or no way to write it). I’m sure there are probably instances where this metaphor doesn’t entirely hold up, but I think it works pretty well as a starting point.

My other Friday class is Research, Evaluation and Communication Skills (RECS). Since it’s mostly centered around research methodology and preparation for the dissertation, it seems like I’m much less likely to face information overload in this module. I actually think it’s still going to be interesting though, because it’s useful to learn about different methodologies and ways of collecting and interpreting data. Especially since I’m starting with relatively little knowledge of the information science field. That being said, I’m already nervous about the dissertation project. This module, too, had some first-day definition exploring, this time on the nature of research and what “counts” as research. The bonus here? Now I know that I definitely want to learn more about inventors.

I have a feeling this is going to be a great term.

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