Beki Grinter

A Little Information History

In computer science, discipline on March 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Mark recently blogged about the disciplinary structure of Computing that Georgia Tech is experimenting with. We have three schools: Computational Science and Engineering, Computer Science, and Interactive Computing. Despite prevailing trends elsewhere, note that we do not have an Information School.

Mark’s post concludes that Computer Science (the discipline and not the Georgia Tech school) is getting too large and that it’s time to separate out fields within the discipline. Our structure is one attempt at that, our non-CS degree programs are another. And again, we don’t have an information offering (such as a M.S. in Informatics or Information).

Now why am I so focused on information, or more accurately the lack of it?

Well in a rather peculiar twist of history, Georgia Tech appears to have had an early role in the creation of the very idea of Information Science. In a 1976 paper by JP Emard (which is a chronological history of the development of Information Science) there’s mention of a 1961 conference.

That conference, supported by the NSF, was focused on Training Science Information Specialists and was held at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1961 and again in 1962 (Emard, 1976).

According to Robert S. Taylor (1976) these conferences represented

the first time the distinction was made between specialist and scientist, between information technology and information science.

Taylor went on to add that

Two graduate programs, reflecting this vision, were direct results of the Georgia Tech Conferences: the School of Information and Computer Science at Georgia Tech and the Centered for the Information Sciences at Lehigh University. At the same time, approximately 1962, a program in Information Science was intiated in the Drexel Institute of Technology

And the School of Information and Computer Science remained as such until it became a College of Computing. The name also stuck for the degree, B.S.’s and so forth were in Information and Computer Science, although eventually Information was dropped from their names. And so while information is absent today in the names of the organizations and degrees that comprise the College of Computing, it was a name that led to the formation of some of the very entities I and my colleagues inhabit, some of the commitments in teaching that we make.

So, Georgia Tech may not have Information today, but it has Information in its origins and it was in part an origin of Information.

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  1. […] the original post here: A Little Information History « Beki's Blog (there's an original name) tags: centered, computer-science, conferences, decided-last, georgia, georgia-tech, […]

  2. […] more:  A Little Information History « Beki's Blog (there's an original name) tags: focused-on-training, georgia-institute, institute, nsf, robert, technology, training, […]

  3. Have you seen Robert S. Taylor’s page on Wikipedia? I think he’d like SIC: “In 1963, Taylor argued behavioral sciences provide fundamental approach to information science, as well as logic and mathematics, linguistics, and systems analysis. Taylor suggested breaking the 4 approaches to information science into information sciences and information engineering. Information engineering would apply to any discussion of the development, design, or operation of information systems, indexing and abstracting services, information services, etc.”

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