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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Self-Imposed Limits of Library and Information Science: Remarks On the Discipline, On the Profession, On the University, and On the State of "Information" in the U.S. at Large Today


The topic of this paper is the self-imposed limits of Library and Information Science discourse and its institutional discipline. In particular, this paper discusses the disciplinary limits that the field places upon itself, its phobia regarding critical theory and interdisciplinary work (outside of computer science), and why public information, such as 'the news,' is not seen as part of our domain of inquiry. It also engages how persons are understood and constructed as 'information seeking' subjects in this field, including LIS students and researchers. Finally are questions of the overarching disciplining of students and researchers toward 'positive' research in the field, a research that is, in part, often founded upon very shaky 'foundational' theoretical models. Arguably, these questions are linked in the construction of an 'informationalized,' rather docile and uninteresting, political subject, both within and outside of information research in the university, both within and outside of information professionalism, and in the public at large, which should all now be educated to be "information professionals" in a critical manner. All of this is more striking given the amount of verbiage in the past twenty years or so about the presence and the importance of 'the information age.' These questions are specific to Library and Information Science, but they also extend out to information science more generally understood and to questions about the formation of subjectivity in the contemporary university and in U.S. politics. Issues regarding method and critique are central in this paper.

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