August 31, 2017

CFP: GSISC18: Work


How do gender and sexuality WORK in library and information studies?

Gender and sexuality play various roles in the production, organization, dissemination, and consumption of information of all kinds. As categories of social identity, they do not act alone but in interaction and intersection with race, class, nation, language, ability and disability, and other social structures and systems. These intersections have been explored by information studies scholars, librarians, archivists, and other information sector workers in various contexts, including at two previous colloquia in Toronto (2014) and Vancouver (2016).

The planning committee for the 2018 Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium invites you to continue these conversations July 20-21, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts at Simmons College.

We invite submissions that address gender and sexuality and WORK: working it and doing the work, organized labor and emotional labor. The colloquium takes place in a moment of intensification both of various systems of oppression and resistance movements to them. As conservative national, state, and local politics and policies threaten healthcare and abortion rights, intensify the militarization of national borders, and attack organized labor from multiple directions, we are heartened by surges of organizing, activism, and direct action against them. In the information sector we see renewed focus on issues related to diversity and inclusion, open access and open collections, and critical approaches to everything from teaching to data management. Feminist and queer theory and practice are central to the work of making new and just worlds.

We are especially interested in submissions that link gender and sexuality to other, intersecting forms of difference. Potential topics might include:

– Gender, race, and class dimensions of “professionalism”
– Sex and sexuality in materials selection, organization, preservation, and access
– Intersections of social, political, and cultural organization with information organization
– Information practices of diversity, equity, and inclusion
– The work of the “normal” in information studies and practice
– Labor organizing in information workplaces
– The ways that gendered or feminized labor is and is not documented in the historical record
– “Resistance” as a mode of information work
– Ability and disability as structuring forces in libraries and archives
– How information workers inhabit, deploy, restrict, and manifest as bodies at work
– Eroding distinctions between work and leisure
– Distinctions between embodied, emotional, intellectual information work
– Contingent and precarious labor in the information workplace
– Ethics of care and empathy in information work
– Masculinity and power in libraries and archives
– Desire in the library and archive

We invite submissions from individuals as well as pre-constituted panels. Submit your proposals here:

Deadline for submission: December 1, 2017
Notification by February 1, 2018
Registration opens February 15, 2018

Please direct any questions or concerns to Emily Drabinski at

July 1, 2016

Robert Montoya wins the 2016 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2016 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information. We are granting this year’s award to Robert Montoya of the UCLA Department of Information Studies, based on his dissertation project, tentatively titled, “Articulating Composite Taxonomies: Epistemology and the Global Unification of Biodiversity Databases.” Montoya’s nominating faculty member wrote:

“Our field, information studies, is often misunderstood as a field in which technocrats and managers impose standards on data or records for the purpose of implementing tasks that make it easier for people to find and use information or cultural legacy materials. This misapprehension ignores the complex and profound inquiry into the nature of knowledge models, epistemological discourse, and the historicity of these models and discourses across fields, disciplines and professions. Robert Montoya’s work on classification and nomenclature is relevant to scholars and scientists working with the identification and assessment of species viability. Perhaps more importantly for the Information Studies community, his work on classification used in the natural sciences is going to offer insights into the ways classification systems and knowledge organization meet a specific set of conditions in application and use. His dissertation should also be of interest to those working in the history of science, cultural history, bibliographical study, and discourse analysis from a philosophy of knowledge perspective.”

The award consists of a certificate suitable for framing and $1000 check.

Since this award is for ongoing research, other applicants who are still working on their dissertations will be eligible to enter their work next year, and we strongly encourage them to do so.

For more information about the award, please visit

July 1, 2015

2015 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information. We are granting this year’s award to Quinn DuPont of the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, based on his dissertation project, tentatively titled, “Plaintext, Encryption, and Ciphertext: A History of Cryptography and its Influence on Contemporary Society.” DuPont’s nominating faculty member wrote:

“His intellectual background allows for cross-pollination of rigorous theoretical approaches from different fields and is useful as a way to add dimension to media archaeology, which has its roots in history and the social sciences. This hybridization adds theory to empirical research, while forcing information studies into a theoretical conversation of its own methods.”

The award consists of a certificate suitable for framing and $1000 check.

Since this award is for ongoing research, other applicants who are still working on their dissertations will be eligible to enter their work next year, and we strongly encourage them to do so.

For more information about the award, please visit

Rory Litwin
Litwin Books, LLC
PO Box 188784
Sacramento, CA 95818

May 2, 2015

New book: The Dialectic of Academic Librarianship: A Critical Approach

The Dialectic of Academic Librarianship: A Critical Approach
Author: Stephen Bales
Price: $35.00
Published: May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-936117-89-5
200 pages
Printed on acid-free paper
Publisher: Library Juice Press
Available on Amazon

Oftentimes, academic librarians are not fully conscious of the role that their libraries play in late-capitalist society or how they, as information professionals, help to perpetuate this role. Adopting a dialectical materialist perspective, Stephen Bales investigates the modern academic library as an institution and academic librarianship as a profession. The author examines the academic library’s position as a culturally and historically situated producer and curator of knowledge and its instrumental role in driving social reproduction and the status quo. The book then considers the effect of academic librarians in bolstering dominant ideologies and argues instead for a transformative, engaged librarianship that recognizes and implements the academic library as a locus for positive social change. To these ends, the book serves as a tool for deepening the theoretical consciousness of practicing academic librarians and as a point of entry for praxis.

Stephen Bales is a Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at Texas A&M University Libraries.

March 31, 2015

Call for Papers: Why is the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies needed today?

Call for Papers: Why is the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies needed today?

The Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies is a peer-reviewed open access journal which addresses the need for critical discourse in library and information science and associated domains such as communication and media studies. It critically engages the cultural forms, social practices, the political economy, and the history of information and information institutions. It also seeks to broaden the methodological commitments of the field and to broaden the scope of library and information studies by applying diverse critical, trans-disciplinary, and global perspectives. The journal engages issues of social and cognitive justice and the historical and contemporary roles of documentary, information, and computational technologies in creating, mediating, surveilling, and challenging personal and social identities in cultural and political economies of power and expression.

For its inaugural issue, the JCLIS will focus on why such a journal is needed, as a platform for critical discourse in LIS. JCLIS seeks to publish research articles, literature reviews, and possibly other essay forms (up to 7000 words) that use or examine critical perspectives on library and information studies. Some of the issues that might be addressed are: What are the current gaps in disciplines and discourses that make the JCLIS necessary? How can scholars speak to past silences in research and thinking in information studies? What is “critical perspective” in library and information studies research? What ethical or political commitments might a critical perspective entail? What do critical perspectives look like in practice?

The theme for the inaugural issue is broad by design in order to encourage diverse perspectives in describing, analyzing, and providing insight into how and where library and information studies might intersect with ethical, philosophical, and/or political concerns, interpretative or speculative approaches to analysis, or experimentation with novel, unique, or exploratory research designs that might be marginalized or excluded from mainstream library and information studies research. JCLIS aims to be a an inclusive platform for library and information studies research,including locally specific research designs and investigations as well as research that adopts a more global or international frame of inquiry. To that end, the journal also welcomes unpublished works in translation. Deadline for receipt of manuscripts is Monday, August 31st, 2015, for Winter 2015 publication.

Possible topic areas may include (but are not limited to):

– What is/are critical library and information studies? What might distinguish critical approaches?
– The use of a particular critical perspective for research into topics relevant to library and information studies
– Different notions of critical approaches and perspectives, and their relations to information and knowledge studies and research
– When and why are critical approaches timely? How does its timeliness or not apply to today’s problems of information and knowledge?
– Applications of critical approaches in information institution, organization, or community contexts of practice.
– How critical approaches or methods might relate to other contemporary topics within library and information studies: open access, patron privacy, evolutions in scholarly communication, digital humanities, etc.
– How are critical perspectives included or excluded from empirical or engineering methods in the information and library sciences?
– Descriptions and reflections on methods for conducting library and information studies research with a critical approach. What is the relationship of method to critical activity?
– Critical perspectives on race and ethnicity in LIS, and/or the need for critical perspectives in LIS research.
– How might postcolonial theory expand the scope and methods of LIS research?
– Critical approaches for investigating militarism and the politics of information.
– Development/Implementation of information services for diasporic populations.
– What has been the relation of critical theory to the LIS tradition and its modes of historical, qualitative, and quantitative research?
– What is the relationship of critical theory to LIS education and to LIS research?
– Failures and shortcomings: how can critical perspectives inform and improve library and information studies?
– Gender and identity within LIS: how might critical perspectives or approaches be used to explore or investigate them?
– #critlib and alternative platforms for critical professional conversation
– Library and information studies vs library and information science: What are the differences?

Guest Editors for Volume 1, Issue 1
Ronald Day, Indiana University – Bloomington
Alycia Sellie, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Journal Editors
Associate Editor: Emily Drabinski
Associate Editor: Rory Litwin
Managing Editor: Andrew J Lau, UCLA Extension

Editorial Board
Amelia Acker
Melissa Adler
Howard Besser
Michelle Caswell
Jonathan Cope
Ronald Day
Jonathan Furner
Patrick Keilty
Joyce Latham
Lai Ma
Jens-Erik Mai
Marlene Manoff
Melissa Morrone
Lilly Nguyen
Safiya Noble
Ricardo Punzalan
Toni Samek
Alycia Sellie
Rebecka Sheffield

Description of the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies
The mission of the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies is to serve as a peer-reviewed platform for critical discourse in and around library and information studies from across the disciplines. This includes but is not limited to research on the political economy of information, information institutions such as libraries, archives, and museums, reflections on professional contexts and practices, questioning current paradigms and academic trends, questioning the terms of information science, exploring methodological issues in the context of the field, and otherwise enriching and broadening the scope of library and information studies by applying diverse critical and trans-disciplinary perspectives. Recognizing library and information studies as a diverse, cross-disciplinary field reflective of the scholarly community’s diverse range of interests, theories, and methods, JCLIS aims to showcase innovative research that queries and critiques current paradigms in theory and practice through perspectives that originate from across the humanities and social sciences.

Each issue is themed around a particular topic or set of topics, and features a guest editor (or guest editors) who will work with the managing editor to shape the issue’s theme and develop an associated call for papers. Issue editors will assist in the shepherding of manuscripts through the review and preparation processes, are encouraged to widely solicit potential contributions, and work with authors in scoping their respective works appropriately.

JCLIS is open access in publication, politics, and philosophy. In a world where paywalls are the norm for access to scholarly research, the Journal recognizes that removal of barriers to accessing information is key to the production and sharing of knowledge. Authors retain copyright of manuscripts published in JCLIS, generally with a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license. If an article is republished after initially publication in JCLIS, the republished article should indicate that it was first published by JCLIS.

Submission Guidelines for Authors:
The Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies welcomes submissions from senior and junior faculty, students, activists, and practitioners working in areas of research and practice at the intersection of critical theory and library and information studies.

Authors retain the copyright to material they publish in the JCLIS, but the Journal cannot re-publish material that has previously been published elsewhere. The journal also cannot accept manuscripts that have been simultaneously submitted to another outlet for possible publication.

We welcome:

Research Articles (no more than 7000 words)
Literature Reviews (no more than 7000 words)
Interviews (no more than 5000 words)
Book or Exhibition Reviews (no more than 1200 words)

Citation Style
JCLIS uses the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition as the official citation style for manuscripts published by the journal. Footnotes and reference lists should conform to the guidelines as described in the Manual.

Submission Process
Manuscripts are to be submitted through JCLIS’ online submission system. This online submission process requires that manuscripts be submitted in separate stages in order to ensure the anonymity of the review process and to enable appropriate formatting.

The main text must be submitted as a stand-alone file (in Microsoft Word or RTF)) without a title page, abstract, page numbers, or other headers or footers. The title, abstract, and author information should be submitted through the submission platform.

Abstracts (500 words or less) should be submitted in plain text and should not include information identifying the author(s) or their institutional affiliations. With the exception of book reviews, an abstract must accompany all manuscript submissions before they are reviewed for publication.

For questions about the submission process and guidelines, please contact the JCLIS managing editor:

March 19, 2015

CFP – Interactions, Special Issue on Gender in Education and Information Studies: Interrogating Knowledge Production, Social Structures and Equitable Access

Interactions Journal

Call For Papers 2015-2016
Special Issue on Gender in Education and Information Studies: Interrogating Knowledge Production, Social Structures and Equitable Access

Submission must be received by September 1, 2015

Please feel free to email the editors with abstracts or questions about your project:

This special issue is a direct outgrowth of a partnership between InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies and Thinking Gender 2015, a Graduate Student Research Conference sponsored by the UCLA Center for the Study of Women. This year’s conference foregrounds feminist approaches to knowledge production, addressing historical and contemporary marginalization, access to technology and resources, educational opportunity and structural oppression. InterActions situates this forthcoming special issue in conversation with activists, scholars and artists whose work engages critically with feminist epistemology and knowledge production. This issue seeks to complicate and deconstruct hegemonic ideas of what counts as knowledge, the effects of which challenge traditional approaches to pedagogy, information literacy and information access. InterActions is committed to an intersectional approach, recognizing that markers and categories of gender, biological difference and sexuality co-constitute political and embodied subjectivities alongside and through race, class and ability. Both Education and Information Studies contend with both the pragmatic and the theoretical and are intimately tied to technologies and techniques of social control. We must commit to developing and nurturing critical language and research agendas contending with gender, sexuality and identities. We hope to continue to challenge and expand existing conversations as well as break new ground through crucial, interdisciplinary work. Additionally, Education and Information Studies can offer entryways into all parts of the knowledge production lifecyle and each provide their unique points of critical interrogation. We welcome a range of submissions, including (but not limited to) research articles, literature reviews, book reviews, exhibition reviews, featured commentaries, position pieces, literary or artistic pieces. All submissions will be subject to double-blind peer review and the authors are expected to adhere to the deadlines to ensure the timely publication of the special issue.

Thematic Priorities

InterActions seeks to enhance the visibility of marginalized communities and amplify scholarship committed to challenging modes of oppression. We invite scholars and impacted community members to participate, a few possible research topics include:

– Experiences of and responses to oppression through an intersectional framework

– Engagements with Chicana Feminism, Black Feminism, Trans feminisms, Queer Theory

– Colonial and Postcolonial legacies embedded in information and education institutions and practices

– Theoretical challenges to traditional education and information studies literature

– Community movements, archives, library activism

– The politics of self and community representation

– Fostering political work in information and educational institutions

– Censorship and institutional discrimination

– Wage and management gaps in the information and education professions

– Complicity in or resistance to state and/or administrative power

– Gender disparities in STEM

– The “digital divide”

– Transnational and global movements

– Womanist and feminist perspectives on pedagogy, epistemology and methodology

– Activist responses, mobilizations and coalition building around issues of knowledge production

At this time, InterActions is also currently accepting applications for guest editors in the field of education and information studies for this special issue. Please submit a CV and a letter of interest to:

February 6, 2015

Call for Papers: Affect and the Archive

Special Issue of Archival Science

Call for Papers: Affect and the Archive

Guest editors: Anne J. Gilliland ( and Marika Cifor (, UCLA Department of Information Studies.

Building upon the momentum generated by the Symposium on Affect and the Archive held at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in November 2014 and the enthusiastic critical reception of the work it profiled, this special issue of Archival Science on Affect and Archive will further explore and expose scholarly and professional understandings of and encounters with affect in the archive as well as in broader record- and memory-keeping contexts. Responding to the affective turn in scholarship and calls for scholarship regarding the archive and archival practice to engage more directly with affective aspects such as intimacy, sexuality, love, trauma, hope, fear and credulity, this special issue will have three main objectives:

to expose a range of conceptualizations, spaces and approaches relevant to this topic, for example, those relating to gender and sexuality or to conflict and other forms of violence, or in healthcare, the arts and humanities;

to generate dialogue between disciplinary (e.g., literature, art, gender studies, anthropology) and the professional archival and curatorial fields relating to affect and the archive/archives;

and,mto identify potential contributions that might be made by archival studies and records theory to the field of affect studies or vice versa.

The Affect and the Archive Symposium included innovative research on the intersections of affect and the archive relating particularly to human rights, migration and diaspora, sexuality, labor, bodies and embodiment, and visual art. However, in addition to such themes, there are many other aspects of affect that might also be addressed. In order for this special issue to be as representative as possible of state-of-the-art research we are soliciting relevant work being undertaken in fields as diverse as anthropology, sociology, literature, art, cultural studies, gender studies and post-colonial studies, as well as archival studies. Papers addressing affective aspects associated with Indigeneity, place and displacement, performance, sports and leisure, literature, belief and faith, (post)colonialism, and health and wellbeing are especially encouraged. If you have any questions about whether a paper would be a good fit for this issue, please email the editors: and

Archival Science is an independent, international, peer-reviewed journal on archival science, covering all aspects of theory, methodology and practice, with appropriate attention to the non-anglophone world.

Paper submission due date: April 30, 2015. Papers are to be submitted for review online. Please select Article Type: SI: Affect. Submission of a manuscript implies: that the work described has not been published before; that it is not under consideration for publication anywhere else; that its publication has been approved by all co-authors, if any, as well as by the responsible authorities – tacitly or explicitly – at the institute where the work has been carried out. (Full instructions for authors)

December 20, 2014

Statement from Information Studies Academics and Professionals on Documentary Evidence and Social Justice

There is a new open statement circulating, written by UCLA Information Studies faculty, led by Safiya Noble. Written in response to the events in Ferguson and the crisis that it has opened up, it expresses the political orientation of members of the LIS field. It is titled, “Statement from Information Studies Academics and Professionals on Documentary Evidence and Social Justice,” and it is the first item on the new #critinfo blog. Here’s the blog’s self-description:

This blog was inspired by working on a statement that “Black Lives Matter” to the LIS community by a majority of the faculty at the UCLA Department of Information Studies. Because there is a lack of clarity about whether UCLA resources can be used to promote such a statement, we are posting our statement here, and asking our colleagues to link to us and promote more signatures and affirmation about the importance of social justice to the LIS community.

We invite other statements to be sent to this site, which is currently maintained by Safiya Noble in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. For more information: contact criticalinfostudies (at) gmail *dot* com

Read More

December 2, 2014

Emily Drabinski reports on the recent Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium

Emily Drabinski, co-organizer of the recent Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium at the University of Toronto, has done a nice writeup about the event for the Metropolitan New York Library Council:


By Emily Drabinski, Coordinator of Library Instruction, Long Island University, Brooklyn

At its heart, our work in libraries is about finding a place for everything, and putting everything in its place. We usually think of this as work for the greater good, and it is: without ordering mechanisms like the Dewey Decimal System, cutter numbers, Library of Congress call numbers, and linked data, users would have to chance upon relevant materials and build archives anew every time, all by themselves. We need librarians! But the responsibility for organizing collections also reflects the power to determine how materials fit into these schemas. Someone—and that someone is us—gets to decide what goes where, and why.

Around 100 librarians, archivists, and information studies scholars gathered at the University of Toronto this past October to explore these issues. Organized by Library Juice Press/Litwin Books, the Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium (#gsisc14) addressed a number of broad themes: queer theory and information organization, affect theory and archives, gender and sexuality in the library classroom and at the reference desk, pornography in library and archival collections, and intersections of gender, race, and class in the profession.

Keep reading…

November 24, 2014

Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

1. Nature of the Award

1.1 The award shall consist of $1,000, given annually to a graduate student who is working on a dissertation on the philosophy of information (broadly construed). As we see it, the range of philosophical questions relating to information is broad, and approachable through a variety of philosophical traditions (philosophy of mind, logic, philosophy of information so-called, philosophy of science, etc.).

2. Purpose of the Award

2.1 The purpose of this award is to encourage and support scholarship in the philosophy of information.

3. Eligibility

3.1 The scholarship recipient must meet the following qualifications:
(a) Be an active doctoral student whose primary area of research is directly philosophical, whether the institutional setting is philosophy or another discipline; that is to say, the mode of dissertation research must be philosophical as opposed to empirical or literary study;
(b) Have completed all course work; and
(c) Have had a dissertation proposal accepted by the institution.

3.2 Recipients may receive the award not more than once.

4. Administration

4.1 The Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information is sponsored and administered by Litwin Books, LLC, an independent scholarly publisher.

5. Nominations

5.1 Nominations should be submitted via email by June 1, 2015, to

5.2 The submission package should include the following:
(a) The accepted dissertation proposal;
(b) A description of the work done to date;
(c) A letter of recommendation from a dissertation committee member;
(d) An up-to-date curriculum vitae with current contact information.

6. Selection of the Awardee

6.1 Submissions will be judged on merit with emphasis on the following:
(a) Clarity of thought;
(b) Originality;
(c) Relevance to our time;
(d) Evidence of good progress toward completion.

7. Notification

7.1 The winner and any honorable mentions will be notified via letter by July 1, 2015.

Advisory Board

Jonathan Furner, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA
Ron Day, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University
John Budd, School of Information & Learning Technologies, University of Missouri

Past Winners

2014: Patrick Gavin, of the University of Western Ontario FIMS, for his dissertation propsoal, titled, “On Informationalized Borderzones: A Study in the Politics and Ethics of Emerging Border Architectures.”

2013: Steve McKinlay, of Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia, for his dissertation proposal, titled, “Information Ethics and the Problem of Reference.”

September 3, 2014

New book: Critical Journeys: How 14 Librarians Came to Embrace Critical Practice

Critical Journeys
How 14 Librarians Came to Embrace Critical Practice

Author/Editor: Robert Schroeder
Price: $28.00
Published: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936117-92-5

A growing number of librarians are engaged with critical theories such as critical pedagogy, feminist theory, queer theory, critical race theory, or post-colonialism. Because librarians have backgrounds in all disciplines and inhabit a uniquely central space in our culture, they are combining these theories in unique ways. By remixing ideas from Foucault, Freire, hooks, and Habermas, new and creative practices are emerging. In this book you will hear the story of fourteen librarians and how they each came to be engaged in a critical practice. In each chapter a different academic or public librarian will be interviewed. Interviewees will include instruction librarians, catalogers, archivists, administrators, and library school professors. Discover what these librarians find inspirational about critical theories, how they work to create a critical practice in their professional lives, and how they see critical practices growing in our profession. Hear these librarians reflect on their own critical practices of librarianship and perhaps become inspired to begin a critical journey of your own.

Table of Contents



Maria T. Accardi
Jonathan Betz-Zall
John Buschman
Deidre Conkling
John Doherty
Emily Drabinski
Dave Ellenwood
James Elmborg
Benjamin Harris
Julie Herrada
Mark Hudson
Heidi Jacobs
Alana Kumbier

Bob Schroeder’s Journey

August 3, 2014

Conference Agenda – Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies

Litwin Books has organized a colloquium to take place this October at the University of Toronto, based on our book, Feminist and Queer Information Studies Reader.

The colloquium is called Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies (named after Emily Drabinski’s series with Litwin Books). We have recently posted the schedule of presentations, so you can see what will be going on there.

The deadline for abstracts is passed and all the papers have been selected, but there is still room for more people to attend. You can register here.

July 1, 2014

Patrick Gavin Receives the 2014 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

Award Announcement

July 1, 2014

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information. We are granting this year’s award to Patrick Gavin of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario, based on his dissertation proposal, titled, “On Informationalized Borderzones: A Study in the Politics and Ethics of Emerging Border Architectures.” Award Committee member Ron Day had the following comments on Gavin’s work:

“The modern documentary tradition transforms spaces into places and people into identities. Modernity is synonymous with this event and is unthinkable without it, but the violence is even more ancient in its cult of group and personal identities and the documentary functions of writing. The modern documentary tradition itself, however, is a tremendously important event, which Patrick Gavin’s dissertation analyzes in terms of the tradition’s contemporary technocracy and devices in establishing and reinforcing ‘real’ borders, ramping up forces of truly apocalyptic governance, power, and greed that ancient tribal identities and patriarchs could only have wished for. Today, in an era when information technologies have threatened to break down borders, all sorts of ancient and modern ‘traditions’ and ‘states’ and their modern patriarchs and protectors have become unglued and are issuing their greatest, most reactionary, most venomous and violent powers and armies to harness this trans-modernity. ‘Information,’ as a liberating force, is becoming reharnessed into the convoluted stasis of religious zealots, modern nation states, and capital markets, roping information and its speakers back into the modern documentary tradition of the past two centuries and its borders, even as information was born out of this and threatened to break away in the communication, ultimately, of life itself. Gavin should be congratulated on his well chosen and well analyzed dissertation, whose theme is timely again and again, and invites consideration by a wide body of readers interested in information, communication, and the meaning of the technical turmoils of a late modernity, that is, after all, a synonym for contemporary human consciousness at its logical and necessary wit’s end.”

The award consists of a certificate suitable for framing and $1000 check.

Since this award is for ongoing research, other applicants who are still working on their dissertations will be eligible to enter their work next year, and we strongly encourage them to do so.

For more information about the award, please visit

Rory Litwin
Litwin Books, LLC
PO Box 188784
Sacramento, CA 95818

June 24, 2014

Baudrillard on the futility of information

There’s a passage from the first part of Jean Baudrillard’s In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities that always resonated with my more pessimistic moments of doing library instruction. There is a faith involved in pursuing information literacy, a passionate belief in the empowerment of people, especially students, though teaching them to find, filter, and use information. For Baudrillard, there was a God behind that faith, and he is dead. I always read Baudrillard with a healthy dose of skepticism, because he took things to such extremes and wrote as if history had reached its endpoint. With all we are hearing now about rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and mass extinction, his words are seeming more relevant. For an idea about why the public largely ignores these issues, consider this passage:

The Abyss of Meaning

… Whatever its political, pedagogical, cultural content, the plan is always to get some meaning across, to keep the masses within reason; an imperative to produce meaning that takes the form of the constantly repeated imperative to moralise information: to better inform, to better socialise, to raise the cultural level of the masses, etc. Nonsense: the masses scandalously resist the imperative of rational communication. They are given meaning: they want spectacle. No effort has been able to convert them to the seriousness of the content, nor even to the seriousness of the code. Messages are given to them, they only want some sign, they idolise the play of signs and stereotypes, they idolise any content so long as it resolves itself into a spectacular sequence. What they reject is the “dialectic” of meaning. Nor is anything served by alleging that they are mystified. This is always a hypocritical hypothesis which protects the intellectual complaisance of the producers of meaning: the masses spontaneously aspire to the natural light of reason. This in order to evade the reverse hypothesis, namely that it is in complete “freedom” that the masses oppose their refusal of meaning and their will to spectacle to the ultimatum of meaning. They distrust, as with death, this transparency and this political will.They scent the simplifying terror which is behind the ideal hegemony of meaning, and they react in their own way, by reducing all articulate discourse to a single irrational and baseless dimension, where signs lose their meaning and peter out in fascination: the spectacular.

Baudrillard could have been talking about Facebook, but that was published in 1983, in a small book from Semiotext(e), In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, pp. 9-11. The book is a pessimistic response to the likes of Habermas – or at least it seems pessimistic to someone who believes in Habermas. I’m not sure Baudrillard would have called himself a pessimist; he rather would have said he had made an adjustment to a new state of affairs.

May 26, 2014

Dalton and Thatcher commentary – “There is a need for a critical data studies”

Craig Dalton and Jim Thatcher’s provocative piece “What does a critical data studies look like, and why do we care? Seven points for a critical approach to ‘big data’” begins like this:

As the public discourse around data turns from hubristic claims to existing, empirical results, it’s become nearly as easy to bash ‘big data’ as to hype it (Carr 2014; Marcus and Davis 2014; Harford 2014; Podesta 2014). Geographers are intimately involved with this recent rise of data. Most digital information now contains some spatial component (Hahmann and Burghardt 2013) and geographers are contributing tools (Haklay and Weber 2008), maps (Zook and Poorthius 2014), and methods (Tsou et al. 2014) to the rising tide of quantification. Critiques of ‘big data’ thus far offer keen insight and acerbic wit, but remain piecemeal and disconnected. ‘Big data’s’ successes or failures as a tool are judged (K.N.C. 2014), or it is examined from a specific perspective, such as its role in surveillance (Crampton et al. 2014). Recently, voices in critical geography have raised the call for a systemic approach to data criticisms, a critical data studies (Dalton and Thatcher 2014; Graham 2014; Kitchin 2014). This post presents seven key provocations we see as drivers of a comprehensive critique of the new regimes of data, ‘big’ or not. We focus on why a critical approach is needed, what it may offer, and some idea of what it could look like.

Read the rest in Society and Space, a journal of critical geography.