Information Ecologies and Digital Libraries

Vicki O'Day

16 November 1999

8:30-9:00 Coffee and Doughnuts
9:00-10:30 Presentation

OCLC Auditorium
6565 Frantz Road
Dublin, OH 43017

The way we pay attention to technology has consequences for how we design and use it. In this talk, I will discuss different ways of seeing, thinking, and talking about technology and technological change, drawing from ethnographic studies of technology applications in libraries, schools and offices. In particular, I suggest that one good way of paying attention to technologies and the social practices that surround their use is to think ecologically. The talk presents the idea of an information ecology, which we define as a system of people, tools, practices and values in a local setting. The metaphor of information ecology suggests particular ways we can sharpen our critical sensibilities and generate new design possibilities. The talk especially focuses on using this ecological perspective as a resource for the design of digital library tools and services.

Vicki O'Day is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at University of California Santa Cruz. Her current work in technology studies builds on her earlier graduate training in computer science and her experience of doing ethnography in industrial research labs. Before returning to school, she worked at Xerox PARC (the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center), where she did research on two network communities; SeniorNet, an online community designed to help senior citizens and other adults. In earlier work at Hewlett Packard Labs, she did ethnographic studies of reference librarians, engineers, and business people, and she also designed and implemented software tools to support information access and collaborative work.

Ms. O'Day is co-author of the book, Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart, which discusses some of the ways people can take more active roles in evaluating and choosing how technology is used in their workplaces, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other familiar settings.