Digital Information Contexts: Theoretical Approaches to Understanding Digital Information

Madely du Preez (University of South Africa)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 11 April 2008




du Preez, M. (2008), "Digital Information Contexts: Theoretical Approaches to Understanding Digital Information", Online Information Review, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 285-286.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Chandos published Luke Treddinnick's first book, Why Intranets Fail (and How to Fix Them) in 2004. That book was concerned with information architecture and explored ways to reconcile competing expectations of the organisation and the user of intranets. It advised on how to organise, design and manage intranets within this user‐ and organisation‐oriented approach.

Two years later Treddinnick published his second book, Digital Information Contexts. In this publication, Treddinnick considers the place of digital information and what can be learned from librarianship, information science and computer science. Similar to libraries not being just collections of information but socially situated institutions, Treddinnick regards websites as mediations of a wider social discourse and not merely the implementation of hypertext. He finds it incidental that the developments in digital information management since the rise of the web trace a more pluralistic outlook on the nature of information than is usually recognised within the library and information science community.

This book approaches the problems of information, and the analysis of the theoretical frameworks for discussing those problems, from the perspective of critical theory. It deliberately apposes a range of theoretical approaches by stating that, in analysing these theoretical frameworks within which information is discussed, the techniques of critical theory have been applied.

Digital Information Contexts is a book about digital information, and the central premise thereof is that the digital revolution has destabilised traditional understandings of the nature of information. It suggests that the digital age has unleashed qualities that were always coiled unrealised within formalised ideas of information. Chapter 1 reflects on the meaning of information and sets the stage for a great discussion on ways of approaching an understanding of the kinds of transformation that digital computing has enabled through approaching an understanding of digital information itself.

The chapters on librarianship, information science and computer science are briefer than they might have been. This is because the book tries to set the key ideas in a broader conceptual context rather than giving detailed expositions of individual theories within each of these fields. These chapters should then be regarded as establishing themes addressed by the rest of the book, and not as comprehensive or even necessarily balanced treatments.

In conclusion, Treddinnick briefly reflects on why the study of information as a socio‐cultural product is such a marginal pursuit and on whether there is some discordance between the problems which information now poses and the traditions of the information profession. Treddinnick himself regards detailed treatments of media theory and cultural studies as well as insights arising from sociology as the main omissions from this book. He plans to explore themes from these perspectives in a subsequent book, Digital Information Culture due for publication shortly.

Digital Information Contexts is a thought‐provoking book. It reads easily and makes a valuable contribution to the literature on digital information and acquiring a better understanding of digital information. It is a “must read” for all interested in the context of digital information and its place in information science.

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