Sunday, October 19, 2014

iSchools: Contemporary Information Technology Theory Studies

The perfect merger of academic rigor and contemporary thinking has come together in the concept of iSchools, which give practical consideration and interesting learning opportunities to the most relevant issue of our time: information. So far there are over 50 worldwide iSchools; a global pool, like bitcoin for academia. The March 2014 conference was held in Berlin and the March 2015 conference will be at UC Irvine. With higher education under reinvention pressure from all directions, the possibility of making institutional learning relevant again cannot be underscored enough.

iSchools are the perfect venue to take up not just the practical agenda within the information technology field but also the theoretical, philosophical, and societal dimensions of the impact of information technology. There have started to be some conferences regarding ‘big data theory’ (Theory of Big Data, University College London, Jan 2015), and a calling out of the need for ‘big data theory’ (Big Data Needs a Big Theory to Go with It, Scientific American, Rise of Big Data underscores need for theory, Science News). These efforts are good, but mostly concern having theory to explain the internal operations of the field, not its greater societal and philosophical effect. In addition to how ‘big data theory’ is currently being conceptualized, an explicit consideration of the general theoretical and social impact of information technology is needed. Floridi’s distinction re: philosophy of information is apt; the main focus is how the field changes society, not the internecine methods of the field.

Research Agenda:
Contemporary Information Technology Theory Studies 
Here is a thumbnail sketch of a research agenda for Contemporary Information Technology Theory Studies. Early examples of topics taken up at institutes and think tanks (like Data&Society) are a good start and should be expanded and included in the academic setting. A more appropriately robust agenda will consider the broad theoretical, social, and philosophical impact of the classes of information technology below that are dramatically reshaping the world, including specifically how our ideas of self and world, and future possibilities are changing.

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