Category Archives: Week 4

Heck Yes, this Research is All About Information Studies

Week 4:

As with so many other people’s questions, my research question has continued to develop in the last week. This is its current incarnation: how is open data released by Canadian municipal governments being used and/or organized by groups of citizens to create applications or objects that they view as being useful for their everyday life?

Additional questions involved are these people’s reasons for creating the objects they do, the strategies they use, the ways that they organize the data, what sort of information is of interest to them, and how they make their created objects available to others. Hopefully these questions will also allow for a deeper understanding of who the people in these groups are and how they use, understand and disseminate information.

As you can see open data is a core component of my research. In addition to this, there will also be examination of visualizations with a good deal of map overlaying since that is one of the major ways that these citizens make use of the open data.

Since I am examining this question through an information prospective, all the major issues are deeply connected to information studies and the iSchool prospective. For example, examining how people make sense of information by organizing and making use of it to create functional and helpful applications for their own use and the use of others deals with many central issues of information studies. Ideas of accessibility, knowledge organization, and open data are all involved. I’m sure that even more connection will become apparent as I continue to examine my research question.


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Week 4

I have been going back and forth between topics for my research question. I do like the idea of investigating how private sponsorship into a public service, such as the library, would affect customer satisfaction, increase library circulation, improve collection selections and act as outreach to introduce new groups to the library through incentives. Unfortunately I don’t think that I would be able to structure a real world experiment to explore this idea due to a number of factors; public outrage, union concerns, securing a pilot location, partnering with a specific corporation, etc.


For the record, I do feel that <b>public</b> libraries should remain as such, without the interference of the private sector. I am, however interested in how for-profit strategies might influence the library domain.


My second idea is far more feasible. I want to look into re-evaluating the library space and blurring the lines between the library and a community center. I find it odd that we have defined buildings, “community centers,” as if community building/pride do not exist outside of these places. I would like to explore <i>how increased programing would affect public perceptions and satisfaction within the test library’s community.</i> This would mean a shift from upholding the library as an institution to acquire knowledge through text, to one where learning and knowledge are passed on actively and socially.


The Toronto Public Library already holds a diverse range of programing, including; baby time, computer training, author talks, etc. What if a space was created where more programs could be held at a more frequent rate? The public could be polled, or surveyed about programs they are aware of, have used and what they would like to see, or would be willing to attend if available. For example, puppet shows are something that is severely lacking in this city (within the library system and otherwise). A crafts workshop, writing workshop, drama session are three different  programs the library that could arise from holding a puppet show (4th program) and could involve many library users of varying demographics. A decreased focus on physical materials would allow library staff to plan and implement these workshops, activities and classes. Perhaps a space could be set aside for programing within a library location (eg. The concourse of the North York Central Library) and staff could be assisted by volunteers or MLIS students requiring some placement experience (also prospective/recently graduated teachers). Another idea would be to take a smaller library location and temporarily mark their collection as “browsery” and remove their listing as a location that receives requested materials. This would decrease the handling of materials, and reduce incoming and outgoing materials. A location such as Mt. Pleasant would be an ideal location for such an experiment as they are a smaller location located walking distance from a district library, so these changes would not be that much of an inconvenience to the public. That particular location also has a second floor which has available space for programing without affecting regular library operations. There is also the advantage that it is located in midtown, which combines the population density of downtown with the increased number of families present in the suburbs.


As you can see my mind is still very cluttered with thoughts, which I hope to soon hone down into something more…concise.

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Information perspective and my research area

Looking into the ways that in information perspective shapes my perspective on my chosen area of research got me to actually think about the different fields that are engaged with my particular interest and topic. So as I have been going on about for four weeks now, my interest is in the effect of archiving social media (to boil it down). The bedraggled daisy post from last week gave me a good start with 14 topics that I should cover to be able to properly frame and conduct my research (Copyright, Ownership, Privacy, Corporate Policy, Social Media Corporations (meaning Facebook, Twitter etc governing body), Social Documents, Ephemeral Documents, Preservation of Digital Databases, Provenance of Digital Records, ”Private” Records Management, Active/Passive “Collection”, Migration, Intention and Technology). Taking these 14 items I can see that there are two main fields (Computer Science and Law) that are being invoked for an information (Archives) centered discussion.

So how is this helpful?

There is already a lot of conversation around the issues of privacy and copyright in digital and social environments, so whats the point of bringing in another perspective. As an information professional I have the unique perspective of both the user and the creator. I am able to sympathise with the creators of blogs and other social media who do not want their privacy “invaded” by technologies and or groups that are not the normal audience of the media. On the other hand, I am also able to get excited when the Computer Science’s tell me that it is possible to preserve a website and that they have the technology to be able to do it.

My information perspective helps me to be able to not only better understand the arguments that are currently out there, but it also allows for me to ask questions that neither Law nor Computer Science would be able to adequately answer by themselves. The Law is able to tell you in black and white (and sometimes grey) terms how privacy law is enforced. Computer Science is able to bring all sorts of fun technologies to the table. But it is the information specialist who will be able to ask detailed question that will explain to both why it is important to work on the issue in this way. (Huge generalizations I know)

For my specific context one of the issues that I will have to grapple with is a question of the legality of using a computer generated spider to not only map out websites, but to completely duplicate the content of the pages as well (at this point I am assuming that there is a positive moral imperative that would justify the retention of websites in archives). Intertwined with this question are questions about which archive would store them, how will they be used, and who retains ownership of the information on the site? GAH generating more questions than what I am able to answer…

I suppose to put it more succinctly the my position as an information professional allows me to understand the importance of finding a solution in my given research area, and empowers me to look at Archival, Legal and Technological theories/issues to be able to discover what that solution is.

Ben S.


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