Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The publication of ARIST is one of the highlights of the year for all those who care about the development of the discipline of information science (IS). This year, editor Blaise Cronin has chosen four broad themes that either revisit topics covered in previous volumes, or develop familiar areas. Although it was a small disappointment to see no really new themes this year, it is to be readily acknowledged that one of the great strengths of ARIST is its longevity, and the consequent perspective it gives to the development of topics within the discipline.
It is no surprise to see the section on “Information seeking and retrieval”, for although this has been covered in ARIST with either this title or a variation of it on several occasions before, it is nevertheless a core part of the discipline and there is always something new that is worth wider dissemination. This year the chapters cover visual image retrieval, interactive information retrieval, multitasking behaviour, and the use of activity theory in information seeking. Enser's chapter on visual image retrieval is a strong one that will probably be read by many people trying to make information retrieval in digital libraries more approachable. This sort of theory building to underlie the indexing of images ought to give rise to new practice. Wilson's chapter on activity theory is a curiosity, not least because there seems to have been little application of this theory to library and information management LIM), but also the paucity of references to Kuhlthau's work on behaviour during information seeking.
The second section is given the broad title “The nature of academic disciplines”. Cronin says in his Introduction that we frequently take academic writing for granted, and regard it only as a natural afterthought to the actual research. Yet, he says, the writing process cannot be separated from all other activities in this way, for texts are shaped by, and in turn shape, the disciplines of which they are a part (p. vii). Each different discipline has its own culture that guides the researcher in decisions such as whether or not to circulate pre‐prints, the prestige attached to journals and conferences, and so on. We only need to witness the extreme variations in scholars' responses to institutional repositories to see this at work. Cronin's explanation of this is so clear that it is something of a disappointment that he did not contribute his own chapter to the volume. Of the chapters we have, Palmer and Cragin can be regarded as a very thorough general introduction to the subject, then Morris and Van der Veer Martens look at mapping research specialities. It appears from these two chapters that much of what we know about scholarly writing is derived from bibliometric studies, so it is a delight to see how Hyland and Salager‐Meyer put scientific writing into a social context in their chapter called, simply “Scientific writing”. Hyland and his colleagues have developed a model of scholarly interaction. In this, interaction is divided into stance and engagement. Stance is then divided into hedges, boosters/markers, attitude mention, and self mention. Engagement is divided into reader, directives, questions/reference, knowledge, and asides. This fascinating model can be used to analyse a variety of genres, including science popularisers and textbooks.
The third section in ARIST 42 is “Information management and systems”, which is a rather odd mixture of Martin on knowledge management (KM), Ford on educational informatics, and a chapter on syndromic surveillance systems by Yan, Chen and Zeng that continues the themes of security and surveillance Cronin began a few years ago. I suspect Martin's chapter will be read quite widely, simply because any overview that helps to clarify the nature of knowledge management to those of us who are still unsure just what it means, is bound to be popular. He has certainly covered the obvious points well, and the extent that he says “learning” has affected KM is worth the read. One aspect on which I was still unsure after completing Martin's chapter is whether KM is actually a branch of information science or not? It appears to be closer to the discipline of Management than it is to either IS or LIM.
The final section called simply “Issues in information science” combines a chapter on information commons by Kranich and Schement, and one on education for information science by Mezick and Koenig. The latter, which is the latest in the long line of ARIST chapters on this subject, is a little disappointing, though to be fair the authors are drawing upon what educators have said in the literature rather than what is happening in practice. I suspect that a lot more has been done than this chapter can acknowledge.
So, once again, this volume includes some real gems and some solid bibliographic resources. It is an absolutely essential purchase for libraries supporting IS or LIM programmes, and it deserves to be in many more libraries as a staff resource.