I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the lovely city of Pisa earlier this month, to give a keynote talk at FEIS 2018, an international symposium on the future of education in information science.
The symposium was part of the EINFOSE Erasmus+ project, which is examining the variation in entry requirements and learning outcomes in LIS education, with a view to harmonising standards, so as to encourage student mobility, encourage more diverse routes into LIS programmes. My presentation, jointly written with Lyn Robinson, built on a talk given by Lyn at an EINFOSE meeting in Ljubljana in March. That talk dealt with developing standards for LIS courses; our Pisa presentation looked more broadly at how students can be prepared to be effective information professionals in a rapidly changing information environment.
With the title “Never again the in the history of humanity”: information education for onlife, this talk was based on Luciano Floridi’s idea of the infosphere as the condition of onlife, a seamless merging of analogue and digital, offline and online. In a 2018 paper on soft ethics and the governance of the digital, Floridi points out that the transition to onlife has already happened, and happens only once in the history of a species. Those of us teaching LIS today are the only generation that will ever experience the world before and after this transition. It is therefore no surprise that the LIS profession, and LIS education, seem in a state of constant transition. LIS education must prepare our students to participate in the design and curation of the infosphere, and of the information society which will inhabit it. Following Floridi, we argue that what is needed is a careful study of our direction of travel, not simply a speeding up of our activities; and this applies to LIS education as much as to our professional activities. Examples were given, particularly in education for data management and for digital ethics. Those interested can find a summary of the presentation, with slides and references, in the Humanities Commons.
The proceedings of the conference are available online: a pdf can be downloaded here. A wide variety of topics around LIS education were covered, with analysis of education issues, curriculum, and national differences. One constant theme, emphasised by another keynote speaker, Gary Marchionini, was the increasing relevance of the information science perspective in the age of data science and big data. LIS is the only discipline which covers the whole of the data lifecycle, and our input with regard to governance of the digital, and to data ethics.
So, intellectual stimulation amid the beauties and history of Pisa. Academic conferences can be jading, but not this time.