I will be attending the National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS) 2010 Conference beginning this weekend in Philadelphia and the lineup is looking like a good one.

From a professional and academic standpoint, I am very interested in the concept of establishing measures of information value. What does a valuable piece of digital information look like? What does it do? How can it be applied to scholarship? The lineup seems to be a heady mix of the corporate and the academic, which I actually enjoy as it gets people thinking outside the box a bit. Although they aren’t saying it directly in the program, I think this conversation about measuring the value of information will greatly inform related facets of information literacy. If the information community determines, based on whatever series of metrics, that certain sources are valuable and certain sources are not, then how will that trickle down into the information seeking paradigm of the average student/scholar? A very long tail, I would imagine.

Either way, it will be fun to hear Clay Shirky talk about it. Shirky is the author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, and Adjunct Professor at NYU. His website is well worth the read.

According to the program:

“The printing press redefined the value of information. Publishers experimented with new forms such as scientific journals, novels, periodicals, and more. And those who controlled the information world prior to the printing press were horrified by both the novelty and volume of the content that it spawned. Today, a second revolution sparked by the Web, search engines and social media is again redefining the value of information. Noted author Clay Shirky will discuss why we are “in for a significant transformation of intellectual life” and why we must “not try to preserve the old forms, but to experiment, wildly, with new ones.”

I am drawn to that phrase. “To experiment, wildly, with new ones.” This is why I am truly excited about this conference because I want to be exposed to other forms of scholarship and facets of information life. I want to know what intelligent people are doing to expand the intellectual framework of modern society. I want to understand a concept from as many different facets as possible and see what information services are doing in this aspect of content.

There are other sessions on uncovering value in existing data, which is something I am interested in as well. I do believe that within the mounds and mounds of data that many information organizations possess and are starting to make freely available, there are patterns, signals, pulses to be gleaned. At the very least, there are a bunch of new PhD theses waiting to be written.

I think an understanding of the value within this endless data will force a rethink of the presentation of information, perhaps making it a more intuitive, more visual, slightly less text-dependent organism than it is currently. I know there is a lot of experimentation in this environment, something I am hoping to be exposed to.

Speaking more to my not so distant roots (teacher, librarian), I am looking forward to a presentation on the role of the academic library in this landscape. “Will changes in academic library collections be incremental or will there be major discontinuities?” Good question.

Finally, I am greatly looking forward to a presentation from John Wilbanks of Creative Commons on Knowledge in a Disaggregated World. Judging by the description, it seems bent on exploring the text-reliant system that has traditionally directed academic research and ways to break out of that box into a multimodal avenue for knowledge transmission. That presentation in particular I am greatly looking forward to as Creative Commons seems as poised as anyone to address it.

See you in Philadelphia.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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