19th International CODATA Conference
Category: Infoscience

From information to knowledge management: a new role for the information professional?

Marie-Josèphe Pierrat (pierrat@iresco.fr) , Engineer-Documentalist, IRESCO-CNRS, France
William Turner (turner@limsi.fr ), LIMSI-CNRS, Université de Paris Sud, France

Information is now available from a wealth of sources an in a variety of formats through Internet. This is particularly true in the social sciences, but sociologists (at least in
France) are reluctant to use Internet as a source of information for their scientific practices. We will first report on research undertaken to better understand the reasons for this reluctance and then go on to describe software we are developing  to help overcome it. The three concepts essential to our research are information spaces, interaction spaces and social mediation. Each concept serves as a mean of better understanding the process transforming information into useful knowledge for sociological research.

1.) Our software assists in the construction of an information space containing both the working documents of the sociological community we are studying and information downloaded from external (Internet) sources. Assistance is provided by an ontology that is dynamically updated and serves as a mean of visualizing different points of view. An information space is considered as being a vast zone of uncertainty. For information to be considered relevant (or not), conflicting interpretations first have to be identified (that is the goal of building an ontology) and then overcome (that is the goal of building an interaction space).

2.) The interaction space uses natural language processing techniques to map out regions of consensus and dissensus, by building graphs to represent word use patterns encountered in the document set of the information space. These graphs are interaction tools in the sense that they mediate discussions about how the ontology of the system should be updated.

3.) Graph-mediated interactions are managed by an information professional who is not considered "neutral" in the knowledge production process but, to the contrary, is called upon to "make the case" for specific forms of collective action aimed at either enlarging the scope, or deepening the analysis of a specific point of dissension.

We will end our talk by presenting the new knowledge management tools we are constructing as a means of enabling information professionals to actively take part in the process of transforming information into useful knowledge for collective action. This research has received funding from UNESCO, the National Science Foundation in the United States and the CNRS in France.