School of Information
 Previously School of Library & Information Studies

 Friday Afternoon Seminar: Summaries.
  296a-1 Seminar: Information Access, Spring 2021.

Fridays 3-5. Zoom only during the Spring 2021 semester. Campus policy requires all participants to sign into a Zoom account prior to joining meetings hosted by UC Berkeley.
A link to each Seminar session is available only at the School's event listing:
Schedule. Weekly mailing list. Details will be added as they become available.

Jan 22: Nick MERRILL: Understanding the "Splinternet".
    The Internet is breaking apart. Or is it? Recent moral panic around Internet fragmentation, or the "splinternet," hides an uncomfortable truth: the Internet has never floated freely, untethered from political realities. But how does the Internet differ across national borders? How are these variations shifting over time? This talk discusses our efforts to measure Internet fragmentation (and interoperability). Our measurements reveal a multi-polar Internet, one that challenges the simple binaries of "free" and "closed." We then correlate our Internet measurements to other domains of international relations, trade, military alliance and political culture, underscoring the degree to which the Internet both drives and reflects the political alignment of states.
    Nick Merrill (PhD, UC Berkeley, 2018) directs the Daylight Lab at the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity. His lab produces tools for understanding and addressing critical issues in security.

Jan 29: Clifford LYNCH: Science Nationalism.
    In late 2020 I led a seminar discussion on emerging science nationalism and its implications for the research enterprise and the global system of scholarly communication. This was partially to do some preliminary exploration of issues to be examined in two Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Executive Roundtables in mid-December 2020. In this seminar I'll present some of the issues, themes, and research questions that emerged from these roundtables for further discussion; CNI has released a report on the Roundtables. See

Feb 5: David ROSENTHAL: Securing the Digital Supply Chain.
    The Internet is suffering an epidemic of supply chain attacks, in which a trusted supplier of content is compromised and delivers malware to some or all of their clients. The recent SolarWinds compromise is just one glaring example. This talk reviews efforts to defend digital supply chains.
    David Rosenthal started programming in 1966 and retired 51 years later. He was a member of Carnegie-Mellon's "Andrew" project, a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, employee #4 at Nvidia, and a co-founder of the LOCKSS digital preservation program at Stanford. His talks to the Information Access Seminar have included "Blockchain: What's Not To Like?" (2018), "The Amnesiac Civilization" (2017), "Emulation and Virtualization as Preservation Strategies" (2015), "The Half-Empty Archive" (2014), "The Truth is Out There: Preservation and the Cloud" (2012) and "Stepping Twice In The Same River" (2010).

Feb 12: Paul DUGUID: Historicizing Information.
    The 900-page Information: A Historical Companion was released by Princeton University Press in late January. It is the outcome of four years working with three co-editors and more than 100 contributors. It was also personally the outcome of 15 years teaching the course "History of Information" to undergraduates here at Berkeley. In this talk, I will reflect on these experiences to explore the utility and challenges of historicizing information.
    For the publisher's blurb, see

Feb 19: Cathy MARSHALL: Prediction Games: Using Evidence and Data-based Forecasting to Pique Interest in Complex Topics and Real-world Events
    Prediction games pit players against one another as they use open data and news stories to forecast the outcome of real-world events. These games, motivated by the high uptake of fantasy sports, as well as established offshoots like FantasySCOTUS, can encourage players to engage more deeply with different types of evidence and data, as well as learn about the game’s central topic. This talk explores the basic principles of prediction games via a design exercise conducted with 24 study participants, many of whom don't ordinarily play fantasy sports. What's essential? Where is the elasticity? What makes a prediction game appealing? I'm presenting work done in collaboration with Gabe Dzodom and Frank Shipman at Texas A&M University.
    Cathy Marshall is a San-Francisco-based research scientist in the CS Department at Texas A&M University, and a former principal researcher at Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley and Xerox PARC.

Feb 26: Wayne DE FREMERY & Michael BUCKLAND: Context and Relevance.
    "Context" and "relevance" have long been central to information science. Yet both still lack satisfactory explanation. The usual empirical approaches yield endless definitions and descriptions. A linguistic approach to context based on the word "context" yields a more relevant conceptual framework for considering context and its relationship with relevance.
    Wayne de Fremery is associate professor in the School of Media, Arts, and Science at Sogang University in Seoul and Director of the Korea Text Initiative at the Cambridge Institute for the Study of Korea in Cambridge, Massachusetts (/ He represents the Korean National Body at ISO as Convener of a working group on document description, processing languages, and semantic metadata (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 WG 9). Some of his recent research projects have concerned the use of deep learning to improve Korean OCR (funded by the National Library of Korea) and technology and literary translation (paper forthcoming in Translation Review). More at

Mar 5: Marcia BATES: Information Seeking Research: A State of the Art.
    Research in information science on information seeking and transfer between people in all sorts of work environments, cultures, and personal situations has been done in the field for fifty years. Over those years, many different models and paradigms have been experimented with by researchers. The bad news is that no one theoretical model has captured everyone’s allegiance to produce a single focused body of results. The good news, however, is that each model or proto-paradigm has enabled the field to enrich and extend its understanding of information seeking in ever more novel ways, until we have reached a point of very rich understanding of this phenomenon in ways that most other social sciences do not have.
    I will review some of these research orientations and the kinds of things we have learned from them, and bring us up to date with the current enthusiasms in the field, including the information behavior vs. information practice debate, a radically new concept of information literacy, and the interest in the role of embodied information.
    Marcia J. Bates is Professor Emerita in the UCLA Department of Information Studies. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she is a leading authority on information search, human-centered design of information systems, and information practices. She was Editor-in-Chief of the 7-volume Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd ed., and has received awards for research and leadership. She has been active as a technical consultant to numerous organizations. She is a graduate of Pomona College (B.A.) and of this School (M.L.S., Ph.D.). She served in the Peace Corps in Thailand. More at

Mar 12: Clifford LYNCH: Post-Covid Issues.
    Later this month, my organization, the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) will convene leaders from our membership, which includes the majority of the major US research universities, to explore and discuss the assumptions and strategies that they are using to plan for the 2021-2022 academic year, and the broader post-pandemic environment. This includes consideration of the ways in which online and in-person instruction will operate and in what proportions, space utilization on campus, workforce issues, the shape of the research enterprise, ongoing investments in resilience, and many other issues. In this seminar session, I'd like seminar participants to share their views on the key decision-making parameters of university leaders, the most important areas of uncertainty, and the issues and even opportunities that are not being sufficiently considered in most analysis at present. I'll start by briefly summarizing my views on some of these questions to seed discussion My hope is that this seminar discussion will inform the upcoming CNI roundtables.
    Later in the semester, I plan to report on what I actually heard in the CNI roundtables, and we can compare them to the perspectives offered by the seminar participants.

Mar 19: Clifford LYNCH and Michael BUCKLAND: Varied Topics.
The originally scheduled program for March 19 will be rescheduled: Leslie JOHNSTON, NARA: Applied Trustworthy Digital Repositories and Risk Assessment.
    One of the greatest challenges for any digital collection is the multiplicity of file formats, some of which may be decades old, each of which carries different risks and risk mitigation strategies. The discussion will cover some leading digital preservation risk models, what risks exist that they measure (or not), and what data you need. This will be accompanied by an applied use case from the United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and its Digital Preservation Framework, which includes a holdings profile, a risk analysis matrix, and preservation plans for 550 file format variants.
    Leslie Johnston is the Director of Digital Preservation for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), responsible for developing and executing their digital preservation strategy. Ms. Johnston has worked in the cultural heritage, higher education, and federal communities; her expertise includes system design and implementation, setting and applying content and metadata standards, still image digitization, and the preservation of born-digital and digitized collections. She has a B.A. and an M.A., both from UCLA.

Mar 26: NO SEMINAR MEETING. Spring break.

Apr 2: Ryan SHAW, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: How to Care About Information.

    Why should students care about what information professionals do? When students enter graduate programs at information schools, the question is easily answered: They should care because they are preparing to do it themselves, or because they hope to research or teach about it. But when information schools expand into undergraduate education, the question becomes more difficult to answer. One possibility is to repeat the same answer in a slightly different tone: they should care because they are potential pre-professionals, like their pre-med or pre-business friends. Over eight years of teaching an introductory information science course for undergraduates, I’ve explored a different possible answer: they should care because what information professionals do is intrinsically interesting, and because we all ought to know more about the practices that organize our lives.
    Ryan Shaw is associate professor and director of the undergraduate program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information and Library Science. He teaches courses on the foundations, theory, and practice of information science and information organization. Research-wise, he interested in how information technologies are used to conceptualize and model our worlds and pasts. He is a member of ORG. More at

Apr 9: Susan EDWARDS, Gisèle TANASSE, Lynne GRIGSBY, and Salwa ISMAIL, University Library: Local to Global: E-Reserves at UC Berkeley.
    Providing course reserves in the Library has been an important safety net for generations of students. But the sudden closure of the physical library in March 2020 abruptly ended this service. And when the university decided that students could participate from anywhere in the world, students with the financial resources to buy their books -- but living in countries where Amazon doesn’t deliver, and the local bookstore doesn’t stock the titles they need -- joined financially challenged students in needing e-access to required readings and videos. The Library had an opportunity to rise to the challenge and provide required materials to all students in a fully virtual, global, environment.
    Join us for a discussion of how the Library adapted its service model, through a complex and creative mix of in-house scanning, controlled digital lending via HathiTrust Digital Library, reformatting to streaming video, and licensing for all formats, which helped provide resources to not only UC Berkeley users, but faculty and students across all the ten UC campuses. We will also discuss some of the challenges we've encountered to opening access to scholarship -- overly restrictive digital rights management (DRM), exclusive licensing, and even some resistance to open educational resources (OERs).
Gisèle Tanasse, Film and Media Services Librarian
Lynne Grigsby, Head, Library IT
Salwa Ismail, Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Information Technology, and
Susan Edwards, Head, Social Sciences Division

Apr 16: Clifford LYNCH & Ivy ANDERSON, CDL.
    Clifford LYNCH: Stewardship of the Cultural Record: Recent Case Studies in "Cancellation"
    There has been a lot of press recently about the announcement that several Dr. Seuss books are being withdrawn from sale. This situation has been widely mis-represented. Further, the impact of the situation from a stewardship perspective is very limited, because we are dealing with physical books. Possibly more telling harbingers have been developments around libraries of historical films on various streaming services in recent months, where we can see genuine dangers emerging. In this short conversation and discussion during the first 50 minutes of seminar, I will try to briefly describe what is actually happened and suggest an analysis for discussion.
    Approx. 4:00 pm: Ivy ANDERSON, California Digital Library: Elsevier contract.
    The University of California's new open access agreement with Elsevier.
More at: UC secures landmark open access deal with world’s largest scientific publisher.

Apr 23: Ron DAY, Indiana University: “Living Document”: from Mimesis to Indexicality, from Documentation to Documentality.
    My discussion will explore the concept of the “living document” as it was understood in the mid-twentieth century as the problem of joining knowledge and experience, science and literature. It will focus on documents as representation versus documents as what various authors have called documentality or philosopher Barry Smith has called “document acts.” In this context I will attempt to articulate documents as strongly fixed and strongly causal indexical, rather than representational, signs, which move agents from one point to another, physically or logically, epistemically within chains of what Latour has called “information.”
    Ronald E. Day is Professor and Chair of the Department of Information and Library Science, Indiana University. He researches the philosophy, history, politics, and culture of information, documentation, knowledge, and communication in the 20th and 21st centuries in the U.S. and Western Europe and in the discipline of Library and Information Science. His writings include The modern invention of Information: Discourse, history, and power (2001) Indexing it all: The subject in the age of documentation, information, and data (2014), which won the ASIST Book of the Year Award; and Documentarity: Evidence, Ontology, and Inscription (2019). More at

Apr 30: Clifford LYNCH: Higher Education Planning Assumptions and Strategies Emerging from the Pandemic.
    My organization, the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), convenes topically-focused executive roundtables periodically for leaders of its member institutions, which are predominantly major research universities in the US. In mid-March 2021 we convened a series of these meetings to discuss institutional planning assumptions and strategies for the 2021-2022 academic year and what we hope will be a post-pandemic environment. Earlier this semester, I led a discussion in this seminar about the potential issues to be considered in planning for fall 2021 and beyond. In this session, I'll report what I actually heard from the leadership of research universities around the nation. A report on these workshops is available now available at Also, there is an early readout video that I presented at the CNI spring member meeting plenary days giving a very preliminary read-out of these meetings at
The Seminar will resume for the Fall semester on August 27.
Fall 2020 schedule and summaries. Fall 2021 schedule and summaries.