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Indexing It All

Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data

Ronald E. Day
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Indexing It All
    Book Description:

    In this book, Ronald Day offers a critical history of the modern tradition of documentation. Focusing on the documentary index (understood as a mode of social positioning), and drawing on the work of the French documentalist Suzanne Briet, Day explores the understanding and uses of indexicality. He examines the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data. Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, "the father of European documentation" (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media's use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robots--to embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social "big data" as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32277-5
    Subjects: Library Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    As I did in my earlier book,The Modern Invention of Information: Discourse, History, and Power(Day 2001), in this book I examine information as a cultural and social phenomenon, and I do so at a particular historical moment. In that earlier book I gave a critical, conceptual history of the dominant understanding of “information” in modernity—that is, as seemingly auto affective (i.e., as “facts” or what in deconstruction was called “presence”) and an immediately useful unitary body of meaningful signs—starting from European documentation in the beginning of the twentieth century and reaching up until the 1990s discourse on...

  6. 2 Paul Otlet: Friends and Books for Information Needs
    (pp. 15-34)

    To start our investigation in this chapter, I provide an exegesis on the relation of persons to documents through rather traditional documentary and institutional forms in modernity: books as documents and libraries as containers for documents. Starting from two fragments from the beginning of the twentieth century—a quote from the European documentalist Paul Otlet and a later quote from the philosopher Martin Heidegger—this chapter explicates two overlapping and competing traditions about the relationship between persons and texts. With Otlet’s quote we begin to see the development of what would, toward the end of the twentieth century, be called...

  7. 3 Representing Documents and Persons in Information Systems: Library and Information Science and Citation Indexing and Analysis
    (pp. 35-58)

    In this chapter, I examine the construction of subjective and objective identities and value within scholarly citation indexing and analysis, as an important historical and theoretical transition point between early twentieth-century documentation and later social computing. In such epistemic and historical transitions documentation and its practices are not left behind, but rather, they are gathered up in new techniques and technologies. These “moments” of the documentary episteme thus constitute their own “sub-epistemes,” overlapping with each other in time and space, even as the dominance of certain techniques and technologies shift via progress in the precision and efficiency of need definition...

  8. 4 Social Computing and the Indexing of the Whole
    (pp. 59-88)

    Pre-and post-coordinate indexes, and the social techniques and the documentary and computational algorithms that help create them, are central for not only bringing into appearance texts as documents and information, but they also bring into appearance selves as personal identities that are known by their digital expressions. As with Suzanne Briet’s antelope (Briet 2006), an identity as an identifiablesomethingin modernity often appears through a documentary process. This documentary, ontological function may take place with or without the participation of the being or thing involved, using a priori or a posteriori techniques or algorithms of identity assignment, and these...

  9. 5 The Document as the Subject: Androids
    (pp. 89-122)

    The statement above from Suzanne Briet’s book raises the issue of taking command of machines by assimilating them. In this process “man” performs this assimilation in order not to become a mechanism of the machine. As we have seen so far, though, this is tricky because information and communication techniques and technologies increasingly mediate our own understanding of the world, including what such technologies are, within the modern documentary episteme. Machinism is not something that one can simply put at a distance, sincetechneinhabits the type of being that human being is, and modern technologies constitute much of the...

  10. 6 Governing Expression: Social Big Data and Neoliberalism
    (pp. 123-144)

    In the last chapter, I presented a picture of individual human beings (and also other beings to various extents) as made up of unique and singular personal “toolboxes” of potential “powers” or skills of expressions. These powers are derived through the unique experiences that each individual has and their ways of understanding. To begin this chapter, I would like to contrast this view with the concept of persons as labor commodities in markets regulated by exchange value (Marx 1977), where these very issues of quality are translated into quantitative measures in order to assure the ability of labor and products...

  11. 7 Conclusion: The Modern Documentary Tradition and the Site and Time of Critique
    (pp. 145-154)

    I return here to our final discussion in the previous chapter on the topic of contemporary documentary mediated reading, which, as we saw in the very beginning of this book, was valorized in the tradition of European documentation by Paul Otlet at the start of the twentieth century. The imperative for the modern tradition of critical theory and later readings of “symptoms” did not originate in English departments or in any academic specialization, but from Enlightenment thought. In library science, the tradition that emanates from this imperative is called “intellectual freedom,” that is, freedom of access to expressions and a...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-160)
  13. References
    (pp. 161-168)
  14. Index
    (pp. 169-170)