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Edie Rasmussen’s talk @ SLAIS 09-13-07 September 16, 2007

Posted by JR Dixey in events@UBC.

On September 13, 2007, Dr. Edie Rasmussen, Professor and Director of SLAIS and current President of ASIS&T, spoke at SLAIS to students interested in the ASIS&T organization.

Dr. Rasmussen attended her first ASIS&T conference in 1989, so her leadership of the organization has been a long time in the making. She is serving as ASIS&T’s first President from outside of the U.S., which she said has been interesting from a logistical viewpoint. For instance, the ASIS&T web site lists both Canadian student chapters under the Pacific Northwest regional chapter. As an international organization with more than 3,000 members in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and now India, this doesn’t seem to reflect the international character and diversity of the group.

Dr. Rasmussen briefly related the history of ASIS&T, which began life in 1937 as the American Documentation Institute. Its members were institutions doing research into documentation issues. In the 1950s, individual memberships became possible for the first time, and in 1968, the group changed its name to the American Society for Information Science. The “& Technology” was added on in the year 2000, at the urging of former ASIS&T President Prof. Eugene Garfield, known as the originator of citation indexing.

Dr. Rasmussen explained that the structure of ASIS&T includes task forces, virtual chapters, regional chapters, and student chapters. Aside from Information Science students, the members tend to be academics, consultants, and other information professionals. The benefits of an ASIS&T membership include access to its electronic library of journal articles, conference proceedings, and monographs.

The journals include JASIST, which is one of the top-ranked journals in IS; ARIST, the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, which contains review articles on current topics; and the Bulletin, which is the newsletter of the organization. Student members receive access to all of these journals free with a membership, and many of their articles are also available via UBC’s library subscription databases. An example monograph described by Dr. Rasmussen was Theories of Information Behavior, edited by Karen E. Fisher, Sanda Erdelez, and Lynne E.F. McKechnie.

In addition to its scholarly and publishing activities, ASIS&T produces several well-attended conferences. Best known are the group’s annual meeting, which this year will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from October 19th to24th; and the IA Summit for information architects, which was held last year in Vancouver and will be held next year in Miami, Florida. For the first time this year, a European IA Summit and also a German IA Summit will also be on offer. The IA Summit events are held in conjunction with the Information Architecture Institute, another worthwhile international organization concerned with information science and open to student participation.

Dr. Rasmussen pointed out the SIGs (Special Interest Groups) active in ASIS&T, including the History and Foundations of Information Science and International Information Issues SIGs. Of particular interest to SLAIS students may be the Social Informatics SIG. Quoting from the SIG Web site:

“Social Informatics refers to the body of research that examines social or contextual aspects of computerization — including:

  • the roles of information technology in social and organizational change,
  • the uses of information technologies in social contexts,
  • social aspects of information behaviors, and
  • the ways that the design, development and use of information technologies is influenced by social forces and social practices.”

Regional chapters are also very active, particularly the chapter closest to UBC: Pacific Northwest. Coming up on October 13th and 14th in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest chapter is holding an event called InfoCamp. Based on the growing “BarCamp” model of informal “un”-conferencing, InfoCamp promises to bring together students and professionals in an active discussion of issues related to user-centred information design.

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