Last year we sent four New Englanders to the ASIS&T Annual Conference in Washington, DC (October 27 – November 1) with travel awards paid for out of the proceeds from our regional winter conference. We had awards for one practitioner, one student, and two awards for services to the local chapter awarded to the program committee co-chairs from last year. In this four-part series, they share their experiences at the conference with us.
In this installment, William Lundmark, recipient of the 2017 NEASIS&T Practitioner Travel Award recounts his experience. If you are interested in traveling to Vancouver this fall to attend ASIS&T Annual 2018, keep an eye out for this year’s travel award, which will be announced within the week!
Attending the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) was a most instructive and enjoyable experience for me, and I thank the New England chapter for supporting my travel expenses to Washington, D.C. As is true of professional conferences I’ve attended in the past, it is often difficult to choose among the sessions offered, and this year’s ASIS&T was no exception.
The opening plenary session with Richard Marks provided a fascinating insider’s look at the Sony Interactive development lab and the progress they are making with hyper-immersive virtual reality. Through VR, Mr. Marks demonstrated the value of the “play instinct” and how it might be harnessed for teaching and learning beyond the “gamification” trend.
Later that day, I attended a panel on “Evolving Traditions: From ‘Documentation’ to ‘Information Science & Technology,’” which began with a presentation on the multidisciplinary development of Library and Information Science, describing the early broad vs. narrow conceptions of the Humanities and Sciences respectively, and the historical quest for a “unifying theory” or umbrella concept. This was followed by a biographical sketch of pioneer information scientist, James Perry, and ended with a retracement of the development of the taxonomy through the centuries.
Of particular interest to health sciences librarians like myself was a discussion by Jeannine Turner and Theresa Horton on the changing nature of physician-patient communications. These are no longer a mere transmission of information but have become a translation that now acknowledges and incorporates the patient’s expertise about themselves, their lives, and their habits. I also attended a wide-ranging panel discussion on “Digital Literacy in the Era of Fake News” which had an illuminating Q&A session featuring Alex Kasprak, science writer for fact check site, Snopes.com. The undergraduate literature major in me most enjoyed the presentation by the Univ. of Austin’s Phil Doty on “Fiction as Informative and Its Implications for Information Science Theory,” examining how reading fiction, poetry, drama and the like are profoundly information seeking behaviors, wherein we learn values, empathy, social norms, and make meaning of our own lives and experiences. Prof. Doty contends that this is an area of information science study that has been grossly ignored.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the second plenary session with author William Powers of the MIT Media Lab and his presentation on “Technology as Humanism: the Next Digital Frontier.” Reflecting philosophically on his own experiences, Mr. Powers made the case that increased technological connectedness has not facilitated increased human connectedness in our society. Just as the availability of vast amounts of information cannot be equated with an increase in knowledge, so being connected all the time via our smart phones and other devices does not translate into attaining a deeper place of meaning in human relations. In fact, our screens are taking away more than they are adding to our human relationships, constantly distracting us, limiting our attention spans and direct, face-to-face interactions.
But, most important of all, was the opportunity afforded by the conference to become acquainted with other like-minded individuals from the region and, indeed, from around the world. In particular, I most enjoyed the company of Kate Nyhan and Louisa Choy, the current co-chairs of NEASIS&T, with much appreciation for their guidance in navigating my first ASIS&T conference. I look forward to working with them this coming year as the new chapter Treasurer and making our organization a better resource for all of our members.