Post-Modern Information Science and its "Journal"











Terrence A. Brooks

School of Library and Information Science

University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195


Post-Modern Information Science and its "Journal"

For fifty years JASIS has reflected the modern information era when scholars sought tenure by publishing in paper journals, and universities paid twice for scholarly products (once as academic salaries, again as subscriptions to academic serials). The Internet has placed JASIS in the cross hairs of tumultuous technical and social change. In the 21st century, scholars will abandon print in favor of more immediate and multidimensional venues. In the post-modern information era scholars will be publishers, academic review will be instantaneous with publication, and universities will seek to maximize their assets and vend a product. We may be witnessing the last days of the paper-based scholarly journal. This essay suggests JASISWeb is the more appropriate post-modern information science "journal."

Impatient scholars developed the scholarly journal as a speedier communications channel than the book. They will abandon paper journals when faster channels appear. That faster channel appears to be the Internet (Peek & Newby, 1996). The literature of physics has already shifted to the Internet at [], which describes itself as "a fully automated electronic archive and distribution server for research papers." It is now the primary means of disseminating physics information, a post-modern journal for physics. "Dr. Ginsparg, highly regarded as a high-energy particle theorist, did not set out to build a digital Alexandria. He does not disguise his disdain for scientific journals, many of which he believes are unnecessary intermediaries, slow-moving and run by profiteers." (Hafner, 1998, April 21)

The scholarly workstation has revolutionized scholarly work. The active desktop metaphor obliterates the distinction between local files and hypertexts on the Web. File transfer protocols permit scholars to share documents. Listservs, bulletin boards, newsgroups, chatrooms, electronic conferencing, etc., have turned the scientific community into a global village. The technically advanced scholar can turn his desktop computer into a web server, advertise and disseminate his work to the web public.

The personal web site plays to the scholar's hunger for recognition. Students worldwide are attracted by a scholar's personal collection of documents and links. During the Renaissance, students would travel for months to witness a lecture by an academic superstar like Galileo. During the modern period, one had to subscribe to costly scholarly journals, but in the 21st century the academic superstar scholar/publisher will transcend the constraint of the academic journal as well as the institutional constraint of the university by attracting digital pilgrims to his web site. We are about to enter the post-modern information era when scholars will be information entrepreneurs.

University libraries and university administrators recognize that the digital revolution will reduce their costs. Extraordinary serials inflation are driving universities away from paper subscriptions and towards digital copies (Kiernan, 1997, September 12). The press has already focused on the disconnect between our interest in emerging information technologies and the commercial publishing practices:

The irony of the ASIS session was that neither the panel nor the desultory questioners afterwards saw fit to reveal that the price of the Society's own Journal of the American Society for Information Science (known as JASIS), under the contract with Wiley, would increase another $150 to a whopping $1,149 in 1999, as compared to $130 in 1988. Of course, libraries can become institutional members for $425 and receive JASIS, the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, and the ASIS Bulletin.

Library Hotline, November 9, 1998, v. XXVII, (44), p.2-4

The digital revolution has also changed the nature of documents. Scholars can now accessorize their writing by including active objects like applets, scripts such as JavaScript and VBscripts, hypertext links, database interfaces, spreadsheets, images, etc. The typical scholarly product is now a hypertext, or a cluster of hypertexts. Scholarly journals can not compete with the Web in either speed of transmission or complexity of scholarly product. A new generation of Web-sophisticated scholars will seek Web-based channels of communication.


The fifty-year print run of JASIS coincides with the modern period of information science. Symbolically, the modern period began with the Memex machine (Bush, 1945) and ended about fifty years later with the World Wide Web. In many ways the Memex machine reaches full expression as the personal computer on the scholar's desk. Linking all these machines via the web initiates the post-modern period of information science. The post-modern period is characterized by free and plentiful information that originates on the desks of the world's scholars. By the year 2000, 75% of all data will be born digital (Forrester Research, 1998). Academic libraries are transforming to fully digital collections (Young, 1997 October). Clearly the "journal" serving the post-modern information science community must be web based, not paper based. One can anticipate authors illustrating future scholarly essays by dynamically linking to interfaces, portals, web tools, etc. A paper journal in an academic field that focuses on information technologies is simply noncompetitive. We must invent "JASISWeb."

Because the web can deliver sight, sound as well as large amount of data, scholarly articles are no longer are our sole product. They are merely advertising that draws a worldwide audience to the JASISweb products such as:

The competitive advantage of JASISweb is that the world considers us masters of information science. The world will travel to JASISweb to find the wealth of information science laid out before them: the people and their writings, exemplary tools and engines and the links that express the information science perspective. This is what we have been doing for fifty years. It is time to transform our journal to continue the task in the Internet age of the 21st century.


Bush, V. (1945). As we may think. Atlantic Monthly, 176, 101-108.

Forrester Research (1998, June). [Switch to digital] Communications of the ACM, 41, 10.

Guernsey, L. & Young, J. R. (1998, June 5). Who owns on-line courses? Professors and universities anticipate disputes over the earning from distance learning. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 44, A21-A23.

Hafner, K. (1998, April 21). Physics on the web is putting science journals on the line.

The New York Times, B11.

Kiernan, V. (1997, September 12). University libraries debate the value of package deals on electronic journals. Chronicle of Higher Education, 44, A31-A33.

Peek, R.P., Newby, G.B. (1996). Scholarly publishing: The electronic frontier. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Wilson, R. (1998, June 26). Provosts push a radical plan to change the way faculty research is evaluated. The Chronicle of Higher Education, A12-A13.

Young, J. R. (1997, October). University of California plans new on-line library. Chronicle of Higher Education, 44, A25.