Research Brown Bag Schedule 2013-2014

Unless otherwise noted, SIRLS Research Brown Bags take place on Wednesdays from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm in the SIRLS Multi-purpose Room. SIRLS is located at 1515 East First Street, just west of Cherry Avenue.

Additional titles and abstracts will be posted as the semester progresses. Please check back.


September 18
Kay Mathiesen, UA School of Information Resources and Library Science

"The Many Facets of Access: When is information truly accessible?"


The concept of information access is central to Library and Information Science. In this talk, a relational understanding of access is proposed. On this view, access is a relationship between a piece of information and a person or group of persons.  This relation can then be analyzed in terms of five aspects: (1) availability, (2) reachability, (3) findability, (4) comprehesibility, and (5) useability.  These 5 aspects were distinguished through a “standard threat analysis” focusing on threats to access to consumer health and government information. This theory is then related to two prominent analyses of access (viz., McCreadie and Rice 1999, Burnett, Jaeger, and Thompson 2008).

Powerpoint Slides


September 25
Jennifer JenkinsUA Department of English

"The American Indian Film Gallery: A Cultural and Information Resource"


The American Indian Film Gallery is an online moving image database of over 450 films by and about Native peoples of the Americas. Many of these films are products of the educational and industrial film industry that supplied schools with social studies films in the 1940-1960s. Some contain some very offensive historical attitudes, while others reflect the social policies of their times.  From the late 1960s onward more of the films are Indian-made, as consumer-grade video reached tribal communities.  The collection as a whole offers a vivid timeline of issues of Native representation, image sovereignty, cultural preservation practice, and a host of other interesting practical and theoretical ideas in information and image management.  Interns from Knowledge River, American Indian Studies, Literature, and Film Studies have been developing metadata and ways to understand these films in their historical, aesthetic, and information contexts.

Prezi Slides with Voiceover


October 30

Martin Frické, UA School of Information Resources and Library Science

"Big Data and its Epistemology"


The paper considers whether Big Data, in the form of data-driven science, will enable the discovery, or appraisal, of inductive or instrumentalist theories, tools, or inferences. It points out, initially, that such aspirations are similar to the now discredited inductivist approach to science. On the positive side, Big Data may permit larger sample sizes, cheaper and more extensive testing of theories, and the continuous assessment of theories. On the negative, data-driven science encourages passive data collection, as opposed to experimentation and testing, and hornswoggling (‘unsound statistical fiddling’). The role of theory and data in inductive algorithms, statistical modeling, and scientific discoveries is analyzed, and it is argued that theory is needed at every turn. Data-driven science is a chimera.

Big Data and its Epistemology


November 13

Søren Harnow Klausen, University of Southern Denmark, Department for the Study of Culture

"Group Knowledge: Towards a real-world approach"


Knowledge is not only ascribed to individuals, but also to groups and organizations. We regularly say things like ”the CIA didn’t know”, “scientists know the universe is expanding” or “the team knows how to win”. With the increased flow of information in the digital age, the emergence of “online knowledge communities” and researchers, students and laypeople relying still more heavily on digital sources, understanding collective knowledge has become – if possible – even more important than before. Existing theories have focused more or less one-sidedly on formal procedures and legal entities like juries and committees and can be said to suffer from an intellectualist bias, putting overly strong requirements on group knowledge. I will suggest a more inclusive approach, which is able to account for more cases of real-world group knowledge (or lack of such knowledge). Regardless of the merits of this approach, reflecting on different kinds and conditions of group knowledge serves to highlight some of the factors that are important to the collective pursuit and use of knowledge.

Powerpoint Slides


November 20

Don Fallis, UA School of Information Resources and Library Science

"Bullshit and Other Dangerous Forms of Information"


In order to learn about the world, we gather information.  Sometimes, we make direct observations using our own senses.  But more often, we get information from other people (in face-to-face interactions, via books, via the internet, etc.).  Unfortunately, not all of this testimony is to be trusted.  In order to avoid being misled, we need to understand what the various types of misleading information are.  After all, the clues that suggest that someone is lying are likely to be different from the clues that suggest that she just does not know what she is talking about.  In this talk, I investigate the phenomenon of bullshit and describe how it differs from other epistemically dangerous forms of information, such as lies.


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