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Hot Topics at ASIS&T 2017
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Posted On November 14, 2017
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The Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) held its 80th annual meeting in Arlington, Va., Oct. 27–Nov. 1, 2017. Its theme was Diversity of Engagement: Connecting People and Information in the Physical and Virtual Worlds.

The Future of Tech

Video games are played by 2.2 billion people and account for $109 billion in software sales globally ($24.5 billion in software and $5.9 billion in hardware in the U.S.), stated plenary speaker Richard Marks (research fellow and head of the PlayStation Magic Lab at Sony Interactive Entertainment; see first image in upper-right corner of this article) in his presentation Playing With Reality. “Real-time display and interaction technologies are allowing us to create, explore, and interact with a wide range of virtual worlds and characters,” he said. He demonstrated a merging of virtual and actual reality, showing how a real drone could be controlled using virtual reality (VR). After rapidly creating a virtual representation of the room, he controlled its lighting. He noted that VR is not just for games, but now includes tourism, concerts, sports, education, and training.

Technology as Humanism: The Next Digital Frontier was presented by William Powers (Laboratory for Social Machines at MIT Media Lab and author of The New York Times bestseller, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age; see second image in upper-right corner of this article). He discussed the rise of “technological humanism” and what it means for the future. His 2006 paper “Hamlet’s Blackberry: Why Paper is Eternal,” based on research conducted at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, was the precursor to his book.

Over the last several decades, digital technologies have connected billions of people in astonishing new ways. Now there is a growing realization that connectedness alone is not the point. A longtime obsession with technological means is giving way to a new focus on ends.

Fake News

In the panel Digital Literacy in the Era of Fake News: Key Roles for Information Professionals, Michael Seadle (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) suggested that information professionals can provide a range of historical and social information to put the news in proper context and can take measures to treat the issues in grayscale terms rather than as true or false. He noted that both actions take time.

Alex Kasprak (staff science writer at Snopes; see third image in upper-right corner of this article) presented Scientific Disinformation, Perspectives From Fact-Checking Science at Snopes.com. He provided examples of his work at Snopes, including debunking PIN code scares, cancer cure claims, and, humorously, an article titled “Now 400 Scientific Papers in 2017 Say ‘Global Warming’ Is a Myth.” The article’s author responded to Kasprak’s query on the length of time it took to research it with “As little as I possibly could” and said that he did not have time to read the papers.

Awards and Honors

Thomas Daniel Wilson (professor emeritus at the University of Sheffield, visiting professor at the University of Leeds Business School, and senior professor at the University of Borås) received the Award of Merit, the highest honor presented by ASIS&T, which recognizes an individual who made sustained contributions to the information science field. Wilson has significantly contributed to information science for more than 50 years. He is best known for studies in information behavior, and he founded and edited, for several years, the International Journal of Information Management. He is also the founder of the OA, peer-reviewed journal Information Research (one of the first OA journals in the information science field).

I was honored to receive the Watson Davis Award for more than 40 years of continuous, dedicated service, including as a member of the ASIS&T board of directors and as chairman and advisor for the European Chapter and for various Special Interest Groups (SIGs). I was responsible for launching the European Student Chapter and initiating support for the creation of the Asia-Pacific Chapter.

Michael Twidale (University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign) was given the Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award. He is widely recognized for his innovative teaching methods, which explain highly technical material in both online and hybrid environments. The award included a $1,000 check from Clarivate Analytics.

Interactions With Search Systems, by Ryen W. White (lead at Cortana Research), was selected the Best Information Science Book.

Jeremy McLaughlin (head of historical collections and government documents at ProQuest) was the recipient of the James M. Cretsos Leadership Award, which recognizes a new member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities within ASIS&T.

Arjun Sabharwal (University of Toledo) was recognized as SIG Member of the Year for his service to SIG AH (Arts & Humanities) and SIG VIS (Visualization, Image, and Sound). Chapter Member of the Year was awarded to Christopher Khoo (Nanyang Technological University), chairman of the Asia-Pacific Chapter.

SIG VIS was chosen as the winner of the ASIS&T 2017 SIG of the Year Award. For the second consecutive year, the European Chapter was selected as the Chapter of the Year.

A New SIG and Chapter

A new SIG was approved by the SIG Chapter Assembly: SIG SM (Social Media). SIG SM supports a unique forum for research, teamwork, international cooperation, communication, analysis, interaction, and discussion specifically on social media-related topics in the form of practical, educational, and scholarly studies; case studies; content analyses; users; challenges; motivations; dangers; and solutions present in the digital and social environment. This interest is characterized by the significant growth in the field as demonstrated through new conferences, journals, and scholarly articles (e.g., in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology; JASIST) specifically related to social media. Aylin Ilhan and Isabelle Dorsch (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf’s Department of Information Science; see fourth image in upper-right corner of this article) are co-chairwomen of the SIG. (Ilhan is also co-chairwoman of the European Student Chapter and was selected as one of the 2017 ASIS&T New Leaders.)

A new regional chapter, Brazil, was formed in 2017. Interest was expressed by information professionals in creating a regional chapter for South Asia, which would include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

A New ASIS&T Executive Director and President

Lydia Middleton assumed the role of executive director of ASIS&T in May 2017. She is an adjunct faculty member in the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and formerly served as executive director of the American Academy of Orthoptists & Prosthetists and as the president and CEO of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration from 2004 to 2013. Middleton holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Spanish from the University of Virginia and an M.B.A. from Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management. She became a certified association executive through ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) in 2002. In other leadership news, Lisa M. Given (Swinburne University of Technology) is the new president of ASIS&T.

Wrap-Up

The conference attracted 536 representatives from 26 countries (including 22 from Canada, 17 from China, 11 from the U.K., nine from Germany, eight from Australia, and six from Israel and Japan). The program is at asist.org/am17/program.

The 2018 annual meeting will be held in Vancouver, Canada, Nov. 9–14. Recognizing the international aspect of ASIS&T, the 2019 meeting will be held in Melbourne, Australia. 


Emil Levine is an American information science and library consultant living in Vienna. He has been a member of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) for more than 40 years, and is the recipient of the ASIS&T 2017 Watson Davis Award.



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