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Best Information Science Book of the Year Award 2015

The Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Indexing It All: The Subjects in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data (2014)

In this book, Ronald Day offers a critical history of the modern tradition of documentation. Focusing on the documentary index (understood as a mode of social positioning), and drawing on the work of the French documentalist Suzanne Briet, Day explores the understanding and uses of indexicality. He examines the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data.

Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, "the father of European documentation" (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media's use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robots to embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social "big data" as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.

The Modern Invention of Information: Discourse, History, and Power (2001)

This book investigates the conceptual and rhetorical underpinnings of three "information ages" in Europe and the U.S. through the 20th century in order to understand the relation between information, rhetoric, politics, and culture during that period and into our own. The book engages the texts of figures in information science and social theory such as Paul Otlet, Suzanne Briet, Norbert Wiener, Warren Weaver, Pierre Levy, Martin Heidegger, and Walter Benjamin. The book's main theme is about how a common conception and rhetoric of "information" has leveraged modern history, culture, and society toward being an "information" age, culture, and society.

Link to PowerPoint Summary

What is Documentation?: English Translation of the Classic French Text (2006)

Below are links to Briet’s book (translated by Ronald E. Day (Indiana University) and Laurent Martinet (Paris), with Hermina Anghelescu (Wayne State University) and to the preface and commentary on that text, as well as to Michael Buckland’s biography of Briet and his selected bibliography of her works.

Link to Preface in PDF
Brief biography of Suzanne Briet
Suzanne Briet, What is Documentation?
Selected bibliography of the works of Suzanne Briet

Rethinking Knowledge Management: From Knowledge Artifacts to Knowledge Processes. (2007)

Link to Preface in PDF