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Deflating Information

Deflating Information: From Science Studies to Documentation

Bernd Frohmann
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Deflating Information
    Book Description:

    Is disseminating information the main purpose of scholarly scientific literature? Recent work in science studies signals a shift of emphasis from conceptual to material sources, from thinking to doing, and from representing the world to intervening in it. Scientific knowledge production is no longer seen as a process of seeking, collecting, organizing, and processing abstract elements, but instead one of assembling the many different material 'bits and pieces' of scientific culture in order to make things work.

    InDeflating Information, Bernd Frohmann draws on recent work in the social studies of science, finding the most significant material in the coordination of research work, the stabilization of matters of fact, and the manufacture of objectivity. Arguing for a 'deflationary' account of information, Frohmann challenges the central concept of information studies, thereby laying a foundation for a documentalist approach to emerging issues in the field.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7377-9
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: From Information to Documentation
    (pp. 3-22)

    The natural sciences are undoubtedly the most studied disciplines in research on scholarly communication and information use.1 Yet since J.D. Rentalʹs 1948 report for the Royal Societyʹs Scientific Information Conference on the information needs of scientists, plausibly the founding text of this research area, scientific documents have occupied a precarious position in studies of science information systems. On the one hand, they have been called ʹthe most important source and medium of scientific informationʹ (Mikhailov, Chernyi, and Giliarevski 1984, 198). They have even been identified with science itself: ʹScientific documents are a form of science. Without them, science cannot existʹ...

  5. 1 Epistemic Narratives of the Social Life of Science
    (pp. 23-52)

    How we think about science and how we think about scientific documentation have been inextricably linked at least since the development of the ʹliterary technologyʹ of modern science in the middle of the seventeenth century (see Shapin and Schaffer 1985). It was not always so. A.C. Crombieʹs (1994; 1996) magisterial histories of the origins of our Western scientific traditions show that robust styles of scientific thinking long predate systems of scientific documentation. But certainly today, when we think about science we think at the same time of systems of scientific documentation, or - to use the contemporary preferred term -...

  6. 2 Scientists and Other Information Users
    (pp. 53-91)

    This chapter reviews some of the epistemic narratives recounted in library and information science (LIS), the scholarly discipline with perhaps the highest stake in studies of science information systems. To manage a large literature in a small space, I rely first upon the annual reviews of the yearʹs best research on science information systems and related areas from theAnnual Review of Information Science and Technology(ARIST). Little of the work reviewed inARISTpertaining directly to science information systems is recent because, although studies of information use began with research on scientists, interest in other kinds of information users...

  7. 3 Epistemology versus Practice
    (pp. 92-113)

    The previous chapters have shown that from the time of Francis Bacon to the present day schemes to increase scientific productivity have centred upon proposals to reform and even overhaul science information systems. If only we could discover, in the complex information environment of scientists, the really crucial bits of information which are absolutely necessary to solve their research problems, we would then be able to identify their sources and optimize the use of the channels conveying them. BaconʹsNew Atlantisand Otletʹs Universal Book make their ideal systems dependent upon rigorous techniques of document production and organization. Scientistsʹ behaviour...

  8. 4 Studies of Scientific Practices
    (pp. 114-158)

    Recent studies of scientific practices emphasize the ʹpatchinessʹ or ʹmotleyʹ of the various sciences rather than the conceptual unity of a single system. The picture of ʹone world, one reality, one truthʹ which reflects the science-as-knowledge model - a picture Hacking calls a ʹmetaphysical sentimentʹ rather than a coherent doctrine (1996, 44) - has faded after almost three decades of studies revealing wide variety among the aims, techniques, methods, instruments, concepts, theories, and many other elements involved in scientific practices. It now comes as no surprise to findThe Disunity of Science(Galison and Stump 1996) among leading publications on...

  9. 5 Literary Technologies of Science
    (pp. 159-198)

    In the previous chapter I argued that the shift in science studies from representing to intervening and from conceptual to material networks suggests materialist and non-cognitivist approaches to the study of scientific documentation. The question, ʹWhat is the role of documents in the material practices of science?ʹ now directs attention to the role of a wide variety of document forms in the ʹmotleyʹ of scientific practices. When the ʹinformationʹ in science information systems is understood materially, as a documented statement in the Foucauldian sense and not as epistemic content of propositions, it becomes one of the ʹbits and piecesʹ scientists...

  10. 6 Documenting University
    (pp. 199-238)

    This bookʹs focus on the formal literature of science is intended to challenge epistemological presuppositions of information studies generally, not simply assumptions guiding studies of scholarly communication among scientists. Because the truths and facts thought to be conveyed by scientific documents are interpreted as paradigm cases of robust and stable ʹinformation,ʹ then, should the model of ʹinformation seekersʹ pursuing and communicating epistemic content fail in the case of scientists, corresponding models become even less plausible for non-scientific professionals, much less for ordinary people pursuing their quotidian activities in which documents of various forms play such meaningful roles.ₑ

    Previous chapters have...

  11. 7 Documenting Stability
    (pp. 239-260)

    The studies of scientific practices surveyed in this book have set a problem for the study of scientific documentation: how do the documentary practices of science intersect with the other practices of scientific culture in the production of scientific phenomena? Posed in another way the question is, how are the practices that stabilize inscriptions related to those that stabilize scientific phenomena and their related social routines? A more general form of the problem is how to trace the many and varied effects of documentary practices at various cultural sites. The previous chapter identified some analytical resources drawn from studies of...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 261-286)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 287-302)
  14. Index
    (pp. 303-311)