Zur Renaissance des Dokumentbegriffs konnte ich unlängst anlässlich einer internationalen Tagung Stellung nehmen (vgl. vorherigen Post).
Hier ein Auszug aus diesem Text (Can Digital Libraries Generate Knowledge? In: Historical Social Research 37 (2012) 3, S. 218–229.):
Information and Documents
“Information” technology is such an omnipresent and powerful domain that the fact that it bears this term in its name would indicate a clear understanding of what information is. Digital libraries show how wonderful the information age can be, leaving us to play with vast amounts of ”information” – or at least information objects processed by information technology. It might seem astonishing, but from the perspective of an information scientist it is legitimate to question this immediate assumption that IT is all about information.
A group of French information scientists publishing under the pseudonym “Roger T. Pédauque” (2006, 2007) recently discussed the development of widespread digitisation under the topic of “re-documentarisation of the world”. By this they were pointing to the fact that we are experiencing global movements similar to when documentation was first invented some 150 years ago. Paul Otlet, Melvil Dewey and others developed the idea that a universal knowledge classification system might help us to master the information flood and at the same time might even advance mankind. The concept of the World Wide Web and especially the semantic web is not far removed from this idea. On the other hand, Pédauque brings to mind the old epistemological discussion of what a document is. Early information scientists did not talk about information but about documents and the process of documentation. It is only fairly recently that institutions such as specialised graduate schools, journals or organisations dropped the word “documentation” and sometimes even “library” in order to concentrate on the word “information”, like the so-called iSchools which mostly started off as “library schools”. A striking example of this quest
pp. 220 // 221
for a more legitimising naming of an institution is the “American Society of Information Science and Technology”. It began in 1937 as the “American Documentation Institute” (ADI), adopted Information Science (ASIS) in 1968 and only in 2000 added the word “Technology” to its name to become ASIS&T.
New technological possibilities which give rise to the semantic web remind us that what is distributed via networks is not information but objects, even if they are treated “semantically”. When these objects play a role in an information process, they become documents which indeed not only transport information but also represent evidence, like the antelope in the zoo which often serves as an example of a non-textual document made famous by Susan Briet (1951). In this respect digital library resources are documents.
Figure 1: The Three Dimensions of the Document: As Sign and Form (S) As Text and Content (T) and As Medium or Relationship (M) (Pédauque 2006)
Pédauque sees digital documents in three dimensions which correspond to the semiotic triangle: they are a sign and they have a form and a digital structure (S) which must be perceived (seen, heard: “vu”), thus emerging from chaos (silence, noise). They serve as a “text” or content (T) which can be read and understood (“lu”), which helps to surmount “cacophony” (confusion, sensation). And finally they are a communication medium (M) which is known (“su”) at a certain level of relationship, serving as a function against oblivion (ephemeral, intimate).
This reconceptualisation of the document “reformulated for electronic documents” (Pédauque 2006) sheds light on the resources of Digital Libraries. We recognise the objects that are processed, described and stored in our systems. Taking all three dimensions as being equally important, we also understand a certain bias or perhaps certain underdeveloped aspects. My impression is that the existing Digital Library frameworks (Candela et al. 2007, Gonçalves et al. 2008) still continue to stick too closely to the “forms and signs” dimension of the document, neglecting understanding (“lu”) and social knowledge (“su”). Having said above that a resource in the Digital Library becomes “published information” when it is integrated into the system
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(and thus perceivable by a user), it now becomes clear that this statement was not far reaching enough. If we accept that the objects we integrate into the Digital Library are documents, we should also acknowledge their role both as a text and as a medium.
References for this extract:
Briet, Suzanne. 1951. Qu’est-ce que la documentation? Paris: Éditions documentaires, industrielles et techniques.
Candela, Leonardo et al. 2007. Setting the Foundations of Digital Libraries. The DELOS Manifesto. D-Lib Magazine 13. Available online at <http://www.dlib.org/dlib/march07/castelli/03castelli.html>, (Accessed April 15, 2012)
Gonçalves, Marcos André, Edward A. Fox, and Layne T. Watson. 2008. Towards a digital library theory: a formal digital library ontology. International Journal of Digital Libraries 8 (2): 91-114.
Pédauque, Roger T. 2006. Le document à la lumière du numérique. Caen: C & F éditions. (English version: Document : form, sign and medium, as reformulated for electronic documents <http://archivesic.ccsd.cnrs.fr/docs/00/06/22/28/PDF/
sic_00000594.pdf>. (Accessed March 10, 2011)
Pédauque, Roger T. 2007. La redocumentarisation du monde. Toulouse: Cépaduès-éditions.