Defended on October 16th, 1997

Full-text in Czech



Doctoral Dissertation Thesis Summary

The principal questions dealt with in this dissertation concern communicational-informational models and processes in cyberspace. From the point of view of the methodological apparatus of information science, cyberspace can be defined as a ”field of penetration” of client/server network technologies into the present models and processes of social communication. From the point of view of the categorial apparatus of information science, the cyberspace phenomenon can be understood as an evolving new (global) communicational paradigm.

The dissertation consists of four main thematic chapters:




The introductory part, THEORETICAL INFORMATION SCIENCE deals with drawing basic theoretical aspects of the approach towards the new communicational-informational models and processes in cyberspace. According to M. Tudjman, ”Information science deals with theoretical problems of transfer, cumulating, preservation and reproduction of knowledge; information science does not deal with any aspect of cognitive processes related to emission or perception of communicated knowledge.” (Teorija informacijske znanosti. Zagreb, Informator, 1990, p. 76.). Such definition of the subject of information science is untenable from the point of view of traditional epistemology, since traditional epistemology does not credit knowledge with objective status, i.e. it does not differentiate knowledge and cognitive subject. This is also the reason why some distinguished scholars still hold the opinion that information science is not a scholarly discipline but merely a technology. However, as Karl Popper points out: ”The so-called scholarly subject is merely an artificially defined conglomerate of problems and their tested solutions. What really exists are problems, solutions and scholarly tradition.” (Source: Vujic, A.: Problem utemeljivania znanosti u filozofiji Karla Poppera, doktorska disertacija. Zagreb, Filozofski fakultet Sveucilista u Zagrebu, 1984, p. 182-191). In this respect, “theoretical information science” deals with pragmatic and utilitarian questions of transfer, cumulating, preservation and reproduction of knowledge against the background of Khun´s model of “scientific paradigm” as a sum of universally accepted scientific achievements, which provides a certain community of experts with a model of problems and their solutions for a certain period of time.

Further on, the author carries on a comparative analysis of the respective paradigmatic starting points of information science:

- and as an alternative proposes a ”media conception” as a methodological basis for approaching the question of informational-communicational models and processes in cyberspace.

At present, dynamic network configurations, especially the global computer network Internet, form completely new communicational models and forms (interactively shared procedures, decentralized ”hypermedia” structures, virtual reality, etc.), which (with their ”media qualities”) differ considerably not only from the classical, but also highly automated models and forms occurring in traditional formalized informational processes. Since the methodological apparatus of information science works with information forms which "act” as certain formal representatives of knowledge in communicational processes, i.e. as (in the physical sense) recorded data, pieces of information, facts, etc., problems arise if unstable, ”hypermedia” or e.g. ”virtual” information configurations enter the ”pragmatically oriented” methodological scope of information science. Problematical digital ”physicality” and the dynamic network consistency of such configurations are very difficult to be grasped by the present methodological apparatus of information science. These ”virtual” configurations can not only re-present, but also directly present (”show”) certain so-called objective contents.

In the author’s opinion, the right understanding of the basis of communicational phenomena appearing in cyberspace is of vital importance for information science. The objective is to find adequate means to use the newly arising possibilities of communication. ”However, these can be seen only IF WE CROSS THE TRADITIONAL CATEGORIAL FRAMEWORKS; if we worked with the model of traditional reflexivity even in this situation, we would hardly see these possibilities. The era of representation may be really over, not only in the sphere of communication …”, as Miroslav Petricek argues (Petricek, Miroslav: Osobni svedectvi o komunikacnich sitich a virtualni realite. Kavarna A.F.F.A. 1996, p. 25). In this sense, the ”media concept” as a base for the paradigm of information science, just as the methodological procedure of ”syncretization of paradigmatic premises” (enabling the application of Popper´s method of ”immunization of hypotheses” when evaluating the respective theoretical, methodological and applicational operations of information science) represents an attempt to ”cross the traditional categorial framework”.




In the chapter called THE MEDIA ASPECT OF THE PHENOMENON OF THE DOCUMENT, the author tried to create a methodological framework in order to approach a whole range of ”pragmatic” problems related to the new informational-communicational configurations in cyberspace that have to be solved by experts in information science and librarians. These are e.g. questions concerning the creation, administration and bibliographical description of WWW documents and other network documents as well as those concerning accessibility, formal arrangement and looking up of the network informational sources, etc.

The traditional understanding of the document as a ”physical” record of a certain artifact can not be used as a starting point for solving the above mentioned ”utilitarian” tasks of information science. ”Electronic documents exist within the methodological framework of information science only if the individuals use them for transfer or saving of some artifact information. And, finally, in case information is defined by facts that acquire meaning or relevance in the process of individual knowledge, the document does not exist at all.” (Schamber, Linda: What is a Document? Rethinking the Concept in Uneasy Times. JASIS, 47 (9), 1996, p. 671)

Therefore, the author carried out the comparative analysis of the semiotic and ”media” qualities of the four categories of document: textual document, media document, digital document and network document. On the semiotic level, the author compared the sign forms constituting the respective categories of the documents on the basis of: a) criterion of permanence or immediacy (topicality) of the signans; b) criterion of replicability or non-replicability of the signans; c) criterion of discretion (digital quality) or analogue quality of the contents. On the ”media” level, the author compared modalities, for which the respective categories of documents transpose or ”form” the media picture of reality. At the same time, he also analyzed to what extent and how the given categories of documents realize the ”structures of direct transfer” in the sense of complete feedback in real time on the same communicational channel. This comparative analysis showed that the ”process oriented understanding of document” (Schamber, Linda, ibid. p. 671) is a necessary prerequisite of adequate ”introducing” of hypermedia, interactive and virtual 3-D informational configurations into the methodological scope of information science. These (from the semiotic or media point of view ”paradoxical”) information configurations enable transparent presentation, not only representation of certain ”contents”. Or, as Derrida put it, "the development of the practical methods of information retrieval extends the possibilities of the 'message' vastly, to the point where it is no longer the 'written' translation of language, the transporting of a signified which could remain spoken in its integrity." (Quoted by Landow, G.P. in Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. The Johns Hopkins University Press, London, 1993, p. 22)

The author concentrates namely on WWW documents, which are the most frequent and most used form of cyberspace documents. Even if we took the whole corpus of so-called non-scientific WWW documents out of the reach of the categorial and methodological apparatus of information science, the relevant ”rest” is so large and, at the same time, ”usable” that it is impossible to overlook or dismiss it. However, it is necessary to beware the danger of ”methodic conflicts” brought about by the so-called process-oriented understanding of document. Even the visible results of information experts´ efforts to create desirable standards, defining the minimum of basic bibliographical ”meta-elements” or so-called metadata for formal description of WWW documents show that some ”updated” traditional methods can be authoritative in this field.




In the third chapter, INFORMATION SCIENCE AND THE ORGANIZATIONAL-PROCEDURAL MODELS OF THE FLOW OF INFORMATION, the author points out the unsuitability of the traditional, ”institutional” approach of information science towards questions of building and managing of public informational structures in the present situation, when cyberspace becomes a kind of global communicational paradigm. The new communicational environment, evolving in cyberspace and characterized by open, decentralized and flexible ”hyperstructures” as well as by interactively transferable communicational procedures, is a complete opposite of the traditional centralized and institutionally managed library and informational structures and processes.

The basic conceptual question of this field of study is how the experts in information science should participate in solving the problems of the public library-informational environment in the present situation, when the library-informational structures are not the only and exclusive mediator of (for the users of the potentially useful) information. The fundamental deficiency of all centralized library and information structures stems from the fact that inevitably they are centered around institutions. On the contrary, in cyberspace there is no fixed center. It is substituted by ”variable centers” represented by individual users at the moment of placing their information request. It is symptomatic that the experts in information science usually approach these questions from the position of the outdated ”institutional concepts”.

The proponents of the institutional approach advocate the concept of the ”information superhighway”. This term usually denotes Al Gore´s concept of the ”informational connection of every school, every public library and social centre to the national informational structure before the year 2000” (source: Bearman, Toni Carbo: United States Policy on The National and Global Information Infrastructures. FID News Bulletin, 46 (1/2) 1996, p. 38) and the regional, national and supranational projects, plans and initiatives resulting from it (e.g. KickStar Initiative, EC Information Society Project, etc.), promoted by political and economic power structures of the Western world. Its opposite is a phenomenon of the open, flexible, decentralized and ”volunteer” informational environment originating in cyberspace.

In his comparative analysis, the author points out the above mentioned as well as other differences between the popular concept of the so-called information superhighway and the phenomenon of cyberspace and refers to the very topical warning of Jan Patocka from 1974: ”One of the phenomena, which are seemingly almost necessarily connected with mass society, its production and administration is bureaucracy, which grows proportionally with the quantitative growth and the bigger the number of individuals and associations which it affects, the more pernicious consequences it has. However, the roots of bureaucracy, even if not the whole phenomenon, consists in the one-sided, protracted and distorted flow of information, which is inevitable in the centralized system of management. Bureaucracy and bureaucratic despotism draws its justification from this fact. This very fundamental excuse can be removed by the systematic use of information science, which can lead to 'integral traffic', which assures not only complete circulation of information in all directions, but also optimal measures reacting directly at informational data. If such objectivity was achieved and implemented, it could have positive effect on the entire style of management and administration: let objectivity be everywhere where objectivity is possible, decision making should be concentrated in the areas where the real borders of objectivity are.” (Patocka, Jan: Filozofie a spolecensky problém informace. Rukopis. 1974, p. 15) The author concludes that ”´integral traffic´ where not only complete circulation of information in all directions is assured, but also optimal measures reacting directly at informational data” is more likely feasible in cyberspace than on information highways.

In practice, it is apparent that some of the centralized or institutionally managed library and information procedures (e.g. shared cataloguing, co-ordinated acquisition, union catalogues, interlibrary loan services etc.) are irreplaceable, both for economic and procedural reasons. The solution is to combine all accessible adequate models, methods, techniques, means and skills: the main objective is to satisfy the information needs of users – as comfortably, quickly and perfectly as possible.




The fourth chapter consists of a methodological study of the integrated virtual library – INVIK, which represents an alternative approach to the question of the role and function of the modern library in the conditions of interactive, decentralized and open communicational structures and processes which are affected and influenced by the media and technical qualities of the WWW. The author also suggests a new solution for a higher level of electronization of library-informational procedures, i.e. a qualitatively new epoch in the transition from electronization of ”material” holdings and catalogues (and other secondary information sources) to electronization of services.

The INVIK Concept presents an alternative approach to questions regarding the role and function of the modern library conditioned by interactive decentralized and open communication structures and processes which is marked and influenced by the media properties of cyberspace. This concept was aimed at the establishment of the fundamentals for functional co-existence of the traditional library with the ”virtual library” in the sense of an integrated information service which is able to combine electronic access to both ”material” and ”virtual” sources of information with a wide variety of methods of delivery and mediation. The scope and quality of services offered is based both on the ability to implement new network sources, technologies and co-operative models into the outputs of traditional services as well as on the ability to merge proven traditional library methods and techniques (know-how) in conditions of the newly established global network environment. The desired result is an amalgamation of all appropriate procedural models and techniques, of all accessible sources and means which would provide comfortable and barrier-free access to relevant information sources.

INVIK presents a concept, an idea of a communication system (i.e. not only technology in the sense of hardware and software) integrating various sources and services on one interactive communication channel in the media environment of the WWW; i. e. the sources and services that are separated from each other in space and time.

The concept of INVIK is the conceptual and methodological basis for INVIK STK – Integrated Virtual Library of the State Technical Library in Prague. The relevant documentation concerning INVIK STK, in which the author was a key contributor, is a part of the thesis.



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