D-Lib Magazine
November 2001

Volume 7 Number 11

ISSN 1082-9873


Challenging Times

Early this month, I attended the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) conference in Washington, DC. The theme of the conference was "Information in a Networked World: Harnessing the Flow", and conference presentations included those on privacy, competitive intelligence, the digital divide, and globalization and cultural identity. These topics were important before the events that took place on September 11, 2001, but they have assumed a new urgency since then.

In one conference session, "Information Science and Intelligence Work: Mutual History Lesson", five former military intelligence agents, three from the US and two from Britain, shared their experiences of two earlier periods of rapid and tremendous change for information scientists -- World War II and the subsequent Cold War. Asked why military intelligence services would be interested in recruiting librarians and information scientists to become intelligence agents, the former agents replied that their skills in seeking, acquiring and organizing information, as well as their ability to recognize patterns in what had appeared at first to be random and disparate bits of data, were key information management skills that librarians and information scientists brought to intelligence work.

In another session, Joseph Pelton, Research Professor, George Washington University and Director of the Arthur Clarke Institute, spoke about what he termed "telepower vs. teleshock". In his talk, entitled "e-Sphere: Technology, Information and the Networked Future", Dr. Pelton warned that the already large and growing amount of information -- which he said is growing 200,000 times faster than the world's population is growing -- will have critical, but as yet unknown, impacts on those working in information science. He also pointed to the difference in opportunities available to the information "haves" from those of the "have-nots" as being an issue of our times. Dr. Pelton concluded that the only certainty is that the way we deal with information must and will fundamentally change.

These are challenging times. We live in a world in which information is a more critical asset than ever before and in which information systems are key to economic growth and productivity, public safety and the waging of war. To what extent can privacy and security co-exist? Will increased information flows help hold the world together or help tear it apart? The D-Lib community occupies but a modest place within these larger issues, but even that place has changed over the past few months.

Bonita Wilson
Managing Editor


Copyright © 2001 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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DOI : 10.1045/november2001-editorial