Jonathan Furner: New Book Highlights Analytic, Historical and Humanistic Aspects of the Information Field

Scholar of cultural stewardship explores fundamental concepts in "Information Studies and Other Provocations."

UCLA Professor of Information Studies Jonathan Furner has recently published “Information Studies and Other Provocations: Selected Talks, 2000–2019,” based on talks that he has given over the last two decades. 

“The book’s title came from something a colleague from another university said to me when I bumped into him at a conference a couple of years ago,” says Furner, a former chair of the UCLA Department of Information Studies. “’Ah, Jonathan,’ he said, ‘Written any more provocations recently?’ I thought, I like that — it’s nice that someone thinks of my work as provocative. And given that I’ve written a series of articles arguing that the term “information studies” is itself a bit of a misnomer, the phrase ‘Information Studies and Other Provocations’ came to mind. 

“I think it holds together quite well as an overview of the kinds of questions I’ve been interested in,” says Professor Turner. “These include several questions of the form, ‘What is X?,’ where X might stand for any of the fundamental concepts of information studies. These questions are generally analytical in nature, by which I mean that they can often be answered by thinking about things from the perspective of analytic philosophy. But I’m not averse to a spot of historical analysis, too. And an underlying assumption is that the humanistic values of information studies must be emphasized in any characterization of the scope and purpose of the field.”

Professor Furner hopes that the book will reach a wide and varied audience of information professionals but also of individuals who are considering advanced degrees in the field.

“It would be great if the book were to reach not only people who are already in the information studies field but also those who aren’t quite sure yet whether IS is for them, who are maybe deciding whether or not to enroll in an MLIS or PhD program, and who are looking for relatively easily digestible examples of the kind of analytical work that goes on in the field,” says Furner. “I’d like to think that this book would make a good invitation.”

Furner achieved his M.A. at the University of Cambridge and his Ph.D. at the University of Sheffield. His research interests include the history and philosophy of cultural stewardship, and teaches classes on the representation and organization of archival records, library resources, and museum objects. He has published over fifty papers on these and related topics, frequently using conceptual analysis to evaluate the theoretical frameworks, data models, and metadata standards on which information access systems rely. 

Professor Furner served for six years (2014–2019) as chair of the Dewey Decimal Classification’s editorial policy committee. He is co-editor of book series for the MIT Press and Facet Publishing, and a regular reviewer of contributions to journals and conferences in the fields of philosophy of information, knowledge organization, and bibliometrics.

For more information on “Information Studies and Other Provocations: Selected Talks, 2000–2019,” visit the Litwin Books website.