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Knowledge Map of Information Science: Conceptions
Information Science: Conceptions & Models. The British Museum Reading Room, London. This building used to be the main reading room of the British Library; now it is itself a museum exhibit. Source: Wikipedia.
What is Information Science? What are its boundaries, and its basic building blocks?

The field of information science is constantly changing. Therefore, information scientists are required to regularly review - and if necessary - redefine its fundamental building blocks. This article is one of four articles that documents the results of the Critical Delphi study conducted in 2003-2005. The study, Knowledge Map of Information Science, was aimed at exploring the foundations of information science. The international panel was composed of 57 leading scholars from 16 countries who represent nearly all the major subfields and important aspects of the field. In this study, the author documents 50 definitions of information science, maps the major theoretical issues relevant to the formulation of a systematic conception, formulates six different conceptions of the field, and discusses their implications.


 Dr. Hanne Albrechtsen, Institute of Knowledge Sharing, Denmark
Information Science is concerned with design and use of information systems for mediation of knowledge.

Prof. Elsa Barber, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Information Science is the study of the functions, the structure and the transmission of information and the management of information systems. It is the study of data, information, knowledge, and message, as they exist in the collective domain, explores only the mediating aspects, focuses in hi-tech and included user studies.

 Prof. Aldo de Albuquerque Barreto, Brazilian Institute for Information in Science and Technology, Brazil
Information science is the study of production, organization, control, and use of information in any support and going through any channel. It is the study of the rare and surprisingly phenomena of the transformation of information into knowledge that occurs in an individual mind.

Prof. Shifra Baruchson–Arbib, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Information science explores the methods for allocation, organization, analysis, and dissemination of information, and the human and the technological tools appropriate for these  purposes. It is the study of the technological and the social process that occurs while changing data to message.

Prof. Clare Beghtol, University of Toronto, Canada
Information Science is the study of data, information, knowledge and message (however defined and in whatever relation to each other) in relation to human behaviour and use.

 Prof. Maria Teresa Biagetti, University of Rome 1, Italy
Information Science, as well as Library Science, is a discipline concerning theories, methodologies and procedures elaborated to individuate, organize, and disseminate the knowledge contained in books and documents, in whichever form, and to connect the knowledge recorded in the external memories (documents and books) with the human mind. In a broad sense, Information and Library Science is part of a general Science of Communication, meaning Communication as a connection between external memories and cognitive system or knowing subject.

Prof. Michael Buckland, University of California, Berkeley, USA 
Definition. Information science is the field formerly known as "Documentation", and now commonly referred to as “Information Science". My definition would be that it is, broadly, concerned with the creation, dissemination, and utilization of knowledge. Within that broad scope there tend to be two sub-areas: a wide-ranging concern with human and social aspects: information related behavior, organizational and social concerns; and a technical/ engineering concern with the design and evaluation of information systems.
Three conceptions. There is not one Information Science, but multiple different views of Information Science. One is the “Message Science” which is a recognition/re-discovery of the primary historical basis of I.S: Documents and Documentation from 1880s onwards. Another is a more general information science that attempts to include all of D-I-K-M. A third is an IT-constrained view that is anchored in digital technology.

Manfred Bundschuh, University of Applied Sciences, Cologne, Germany 
Information Science is the study of all aspects of the management of information (e.g., research, creation of IT systems, storage, change, deletion, it’s handling actualization, tools for development, handling, administration, information about information, introduction to end-users, etc.).

Dr. Quentin L. Burrell, Isle of Man International Business School, Isle of Man
Information science is the study of the mediating and technological aspects of information accumulation, publication, communication and interpretation.

 Prof. Rafael Capurro, University of Applied Sciences, Stuttgart, Germany
Information Science in a narrower sense is the study of messages within the context of human communication, which implies the process of meaning offer (i.e., message), meaning selection (i.e., information) and understanding. In a broader sense it is the study of messages in non-human phenomena.
In my view information science should take the phenomenon of message as its core perspective. I use the word `angeletics' (originating from the Greek word for message = `angelia', not a science of `angels' or angelology!) for pointing to a field of study that should include the process of selection, i.e., traditional information retrieval,  as well as understanding or information science hermeneutics.
Message and information are related but not identical concepts. A message is sender-dependent, i.e., it is based on a heteronomic or asymmetric structure. This is not the case of information: we receive a message, but we ask for information. A message is supposed to bring something new and/or relevant to the receiver. This is also the case of information. A message can be coded and transmitted through different media or messengers. This is also the case of information. A message is an utterance that gives rise to the receiver's selection through a release mechanism or interpretation. (Capurro, 2000).

Prof. Thomas A. Childers, Drexel University, USA
Information Science is the study of information acquisition, identification, storage ,representation, transference, and use.

Prof. Charles H. Davis, Indiana University, USA 
Information science is an interdisciplinary field encompassing all aspects of data from data generation via measurement and observation, through data capture, analysis, representation, organization, evaluation, storage, transformation, presentation, protection, and retention. Note that ‘Data’ can be used as a collective noun in English.  As such it can and should be used to imply a set of symbols, and would be preferable to using ‘information’ in such a narrow context (Rush & Davis, [in progress]).

Prof. Anthony Debons, University of Pittsburgh, USA
Information science is that area of study and practice which attempts to determine the laws and principles pertaining to the analysis, design and evaluation of Data, Information and Knowledge Systems. It is based on the following rationale: All organisms are data, information, and knowledge systems, varying in the degree with which they can process these cognitive/affective functions. Each of these functions are aided and augmented by technology that each species generate, invent, and apply.
The human Organism is a DIK system. It is limited in its capacity to respond to the demands of the physical world and its constituents (society, technology, culture. etc). Due to this limited capacity it seeks to augment this capacity through technological and sociological (e.g., political, economic) arrangements. The business of information science is to find the laws, and principles that can integrate these essential properties.
The forms of technology that I have reference are extensive and many, including the abacus, ink, pen, rock, blackboard, eyeglass, hearing aid, computers, etc. This includes institutions like schools, libraries, newsprint, journals, etc.

Prof. Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic, Mälardalen University, Sweden
Information science is the science concerned with manipulating (gathering, storing, retrieving, classifying, interpreting) information and understanding its underlying mechanisms.

Prof. Henri Dou, University of Aix-Marseille III, France
Information Science explores the ways to mange data for creating information, to manage information, and to understand their meaning to create knowledge.

Prof. Nicolae Dragulanescu, Polytechnics University of Bucharest, Romania 
"Information Science is the science of information systems. It studies the information (as a process, as a product or as a state of awareness) as well as its five basic sub-processes - generation, processing, communication, storage, and use - in order to optimize them (note that all these processes are being time and resources dependent). Its goal is to facilitate the knowledge transmission from a person to another and from a generation to another, in order to accelerate the progress of mankind (Dragulanescu, 2004).

Prof. Carl Drott, Drexel University, USA
Information Science is the field concerned with the collection, organization, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of information.  Information is a product of human intellect fixed in tangible form.

Prof. Luciana Duranti, University of British Columbia, Canada
 Information science is a mathematical discipline that studies technological ways of conveying information.

Prof. Charles Ess, Drury University, USA 
Information science is composed of theoretical and applied efforts to define information, how it may be processed with computers and affiliated technologies (i.e., information systems), and how such information and systems may interact with specific human practices and studies, such as business, culture, library science, philosophy, etc. (See Buchanan 2001; Ess 2003, 2004; Tavani 2004, for further discussion).

Prof. Raya Fidel, University of Washington, USA
Information science is the study of the interaction between humans and information and all the mechanisms and elements of context that play a role in this interaction.

Prof. Thomas J. Froehlich, Kent State University, USA
Information science is that field of inquiry that deals with information systems, so that it can provide access to information in an effective and/or efficient manner (Taylor, 1986). Information science is fundamentally about practice – building, improving, designing implementing systems and servicing that meet the  needs of users – that is where is starts and that is where it ends.

Alan Gilchrist, Cura Consortium and TFPL, UK
Information science is the study and practical management of messages (i.e. recorded information, including data recorded as information) through all points of the information life cycle.

Dr. H.M. Gladney, HMG Consulting, USA
The name ’information science’ is a self-serving attempt to ennoble what used to be called ‘library science’.

  Prof. Glynn Harmon, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Information Science is the study of systems phenomena, their information subsystems and processes and their interrelations through different environmental contexts.  This definition would apply to the molecular and cellular levels or to organ, organism, group, community or higher levels.  Information technology is concerned with optimal information handling and processing, usually for given individuals or organizations, and usually for human applications. Bioinformatics has recently extended information science to the rest or the animal and plant kingdoms (see Travis,  2003).

Dr. Donald Hawkins, Information Today, USA
Information science is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the theoretical and practical concepts, as well as the technologies, laws, and industry dealing with knowledge transfer and the sources, generation, organization, representation, processing, distribution, communication, and uses of information, as well as communications among users and their behavior as they seek to satisfy their information needs.

Prof. Caroline Haythornthwaite, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA
Information science is the study of information in all its manifestations. Although attention is directed traditionally to information storage and retrieval – including library systems, classification schemes, indexing and abstracting, catalogs, as well as search engines, concept mapping, studies of relevance and retrieval – this expands to include user search and retrieval behaviors, information needs, user communities, human-computer interface design, and information visualization. IS also includes the production of information, from authors to printers, and the industries and consumers that keep them in business; government information collection and dissemination; business uses and maintenance of information. IS questions the premises on which information is collected, organized and disseminated – monitoring censorship and copyright, as well as the constraints and invisible information that may be lost by western, patriarchal or other ideological organizing schemes (whether conscious or unconsciously at work). IS includes understanding about reading, literacy, learning and the production and use of knowledge (e.g., philosophical approaches to knowledge as well as business approaches to knowledge management). IS applies across all fields, whether indexing the text produced by a field, or in formulating organizing schemes for data and knowledge in those areas. IS more recently includes understanding of the impact of information technologies and the Internet, particularly as these change the way we work and how this modifies the information environments in which we work.

Ken Herold, Hamilton College, USA
Information Science is the study of the transformations and interactivities among data, information, knowledge and message objects, structures and processes, for the purpose of constructing systems to communicate culture as a regeneration of knowledge. Information science is the mutable and transitory discipline at the confluence of librarianship, documentation, media & communications, computation, and applied philosophy. Although the field emerged in the twentieth century with great force and seeming novelty, its growth as an intellectual discipline has been tentative and the enterprise shows much immaturity.

Prof. William Hersh, Oregon Health & Science University, USA
Information Science is the study of data, information, and knowledge and how it is used by individuals. Another term used to describe the study of information and its use is 'informatics'. This term is particularly prevalent in the United States, and most frequently used in the context of the health and biomedical fields, e.g., medical informatics describes the study and use of information in clinical settings whereas bioinformatics describes the study and use of information in biomedical research settings  (Hersh, 2002).
Prof. Birger Hjorland, Royal School of Library and Information Science, Denmark
Information science is a field studying the documentation of knowledge claims and their representation in primary, secondary and tertiary literatures and information services. Information Science is the study of knowledge dissemination, production and use. Books and documents are selected, represented, described, indexed and so on based on their assumed contribution to knowledge.
Information Science is a field that aims at providing better library, documentation, and information service to various groups of people. Historically, IS developed out of special librarianship and documentation. People in the field were originally subject specialists who worked to improve scientific and scholarly communication in their respective fields, or in general. In schools of IS, many attempts have en made to construe a theoretical framework for practical-oriented information activities.

Prof. Wallace Koehler, Valdosta State University, USA 
Information science is the totality of the process of communication and understanding, both intra-and inter-personally. As such, it is a broad discipline, ranging from Shannonesque info theory to semiotics and memetics. Information Science is such a broad field that no single meaningful definition is possible unless we seek to limit it and define its other characteristics as something else.

Prof. Donald Kraft, Louisiana State University, USA
Information science is the study of the phenomena surrounding information, including creation, acquisition, indexing, storing, retrieving, and disseminating information.

Prof. Yves François Le Coadic, National Technical University, France
Information science is the scientific study of information properties and processes (construction, communication and use). Information technology (the science of information techniques) is the scientific study of information products, services and systems (Le Coadic, 2004).

Dr. Jo Link-Pezet, Urfist, and University of Social Sciences, France
Information science is the science of the management and retrieval of information for action.

Michal Lorenz, Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic
Information Science is the study of the nature of information, its attributes and forces governing a flow of information for the purpose of its optimal accessibility and utilization. Information Science concerns with both potential information (recorded data) and psychophysical information (stored in a brain and processed in a consciousness). Information Science is concerned with receptivity of man in (organized) information environment and its impact to thought and behavior whereas Cognitive Science explores relation between the brain and thoughts.

Prof. Ia McIlwaine, University College London, UK
Information Science is the study of information and the ways in which it is organized, stored and used, in the broadest sense.

Prof. Michel J. Menou, Knowledge and ICT management consultant, France
 The study of the mediating of human knowledge” would be sufficient though I'd prefer “knowledge in human societies” to possibly highlight the social character of the field.

Prof. Haidar Moukdad, Dalhousie University, Canada
Information Science is the study of information in its raw form. This includes: creating information based on data, retrieving information as basis for knowledge, and assessing the usefulness of information based on its organization and its meaning.

Dennis Nicholson, Strathclyde University, UK
Information Science studies information, focusing on the identification, behavior, characteristics, environmental context, use, management, and impact of information in its various forms (i.e., the data – information – knowledge – message continuum), and their instantiations (e.g., electronic data, electronic interactive, human & machine mediated, hardcopy forms etc), on tools and processes for their evaluation, control, transmission, and utilization, and on information futures.

Prof. Charles Oppenheim, Loughborough University, UK
Information science is the rational and systematic study of the way information is created, stored, indexed, disseminated and used. It's not to do with knowledge, but with information - the formal recorded types of information in particular. Rationale: information science is to do with the ways human create and process information, so is primarily a social science. However, technological means are an important component, so some of information science falls within that ambit.

Prof. Lena Vania Pinheiro, Brazilian Institute for Information in Science and Technology, Brazil
Information Science is the scientific and interdisciplinary approach for the construction of concepts, principles, methods, theories and laws related to the information phenomena and their technological applications in the process of transfer information and its message (i.e. meaningful content) in a historical, cultural and social context.

Prof. Maria Pinto, University of Granada, Spain
Information science is simply and plainly the science of the data and of the information, and consequently the domain of science charged of setting the transition between data and knowledge. (Saracevic, 1999).

Scott Seaman, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
Information science is an interdisciplinary field studying the sources, organization, communication, and uses of information.

Prof. Richard Smiraglia, Long Island University, USA
Information science is the science of how people become informed. It is the empirically derived theoretical base that underpins a variety of applications (e.g., knowledge management, librarianship, and documentation), and a variety of social and cultural expressions (e.g., information policy, and ethics). The process of becoming informed is both physiological and psychological, involving the communication of knowledge via messages. Knowledge is a human and social phenomenon, the deliberate product of the human mind. It can be recorded, which makes its communication more efficient, and facilitates its storage, manipulation, and retrieval. Knowledge is made up of raw elements, called data, and is carried in packages, called documents.
Information science embraces sub-disciplines, such as knowledge organization. It makes use of other disciplines such as psychology, physiology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, communications, and the like.
Note, there is a difference between the science (i.e., "information science"), and what we teach in schools (i.e., "information studies"). The science is the area in which investigation furthers knowledge, while the more generic study incorporates applications.

Prof. Paul Sturges, Loughborough University, UK
Information science is a name for one of the approaches to information and communication characterized by a background in specialized (scientific and technical) librarianship. The domain exists alongside information systems, informatics, communication studies and various other domains, with which there is surprisingly little linkage given that there is no real barrier separating them.

Dr. Joanne Twining,, a virtual information consultancy, USA
Information science is the scientific investigation of information and its inherent nature, forms, and functions.

Prof. Anna da Soledade Vieira, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil 
Information science is the theoretical approach to understand and explore the information phenomenon, as the basis of human knowledge and social communication, as well as its tangible products.

Dr. Julian Warner, Queen's University of Belfast, UK
Information science is what information scientists do (Roberts, 1976).

Prof. Irene Wormell, Swedish School of Library and Information Science in Borås, Sweden
Information science is the study of handling and mediating information, with relevance to both the subjective and objective domains of knowledge.

Prof. Yishan Wu, Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC), China
Information Science is the study of appropriate human approaches to extracting information from data, and knowledge from information, as well as the study of approaches to composing message with the smallest number of clearest symbols to solve information explosion problem, and the study of approaches to impacting the production of information process with knowledge, and the production of data with appropriate amount of  information.

 Chaim Zins, Knowledge Mapping Research, Israel
Definition. Based on the distinction between the subjective and the universal domains of date, information, and knowledge(Zins, in press1, 2), information science concentrates on the universal domain. It is focused on the meta-knowledge perspectives of universal knowledge. Information science is the study of the mediating perspectives of universal human knowledge (i.e., human knowledge in the universal domain). The mediating perspectives include cognitive, social, and technological aspects and conditions, which facilitate the dissemination of human knowledge from the originator to the user.   
Cognitive sciences vs. information science. Unlike cognitive sciences and neurosciences, which focus on the subjective domain by exploring thinking and learning, information science explores cognitive aspects only in relation to facilitating the accessibility and usability of objective human knowledge. For example: while the information scientist explores how we access or search for new knowledge (what we, information scientists, call "user studies"), the cognitive scientist explores how we understand, remember, and utilize this knowledge.

Meta-knowledge of human knowledge. Information science is one of six knowledge fields that establish the meta-knowledge foundations of human knowledge. These are philosophy of knowledge (epistemology), philosophy of science, history of science, sociology of knowledge, methodology of science, and information science. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that explores the possibility of knowledge, and seeks to formulate a theory of knowledge. Philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy that explores the philosophical perspectives of science, and seeks to formulate a theory of science. History of science is the branch of history that explores the history of the various sciences. Sociology of knowledge is the branch of sociology that explores the sociological aspects of knowledge, including the social origins of ideas, and their effects on societies. Methodology of science is a branch of knowledge that is focused on exploring and formulating research methodologies in all branches of science. Information science is a branch of knowledge that explores the mediating perspectives of human knowledge.

Six Conceptions of Information Science

The Hi-Tech Model. Information Science is the study of the mediating aspects of D-I-K-M phenomena as they are implemented in the hi-tech domain.
The Technology Model. Information Science is the study of the mediating aspects of D-I-K-M phenomena as they are implemented in all types of technologies.

The Culture Model. Information Science is the study of the mediating aspects of D-I-K-M phenomena as they are implemented in the cultural domain.
The Human World Model. Information Science is the study of all the aspects of D-I-K-M phenomena as they are implemented in the human realm. 

The Living World Model. Information Science is the study of all the aspects of D-I-K-M phenomena as they are implemented in the living world, human and non-human.
The Living & Physical worlds Model. Information Science is the study of all the aspects of D-I-K-M phenomena as they are implemented in all types of biological organisms, human and non-human, and all types of physical objects.





 Explored Phenomena










Model (1) Hi-Tech

(Focusing on the mediating aspects of D-I-K-M as they are implemented in computer-based technologies)

Model (2) Technology

(Focusing on the mediating aspects of D-I-K-M as they are implemented in all types of technologies)

Model (3) Culture/Society

(Focusing on the mediating aspects of D-I-K-M as they are implemented in human societies)


(all  aspects)

Model (4) Human World

(Focusing on all aspects of D-I-K-M as they are implemented in the human realm)

Model (5) Living World

(Focusing on all aspects of D-I-K-M as they are implemented in the living world)

Model (6) Living & Physical Worlds

(Focusing on all aspects of D-I-K-M as they are implemented in all types of biological organisms, human and non-human, and all types of physical objects)

Six Conceptions of Information Science; What is your conception of the field?

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November 2013  © Copyright Dr. Chaim Zins, Jerusalem, 2002-2013. All rights reserved. 
Chaim Zins, Knowledge Mapping Research, 26 Hahaganah St. Jerusalem, 97852 tel: 972-2-5816705