Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Exploring the Information Age at LC

We have become so accustomed to the use of " information society" or " information age" that we tend to accept it an an uncritical way. Cultural anthropologist Samuel Gerald Collins, in his Library of Walls: The Library of Congress and the Contradictions of Information Society (Duluth, MN: Litwin Books, 2009), demonstrates why we should not accept such terminology without additional reflection. Offering an ethnography of the information society by an in-depth analysis of the Library of Congress, reconstructing its history and drawing on observations of practice and internal practice, Collins cuts through the usual hype and excessive focus on expanding and more powerful information technologies. Collins tracks the changing meanings of information and, consequently, changing meanings of the Library. As Collins states, "We must see 'information society' as part of a late-modernist penchant for sublimating the traces of power, social conflict and racial politics in order to attain a 'consensual' corporate culture" (p. 156). Collins examines in considerable detail the role of cataloguing and cataloguing standards and the emergence of the concept of the digital library. This is an interesting, useful study.

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