Metadata The simplest way of making searching easier is to attach an electronic 'catalogue card' to each document. Such data about data is called 'metadata'. For example, the Dublin Core is a metadata standard which specifies a set of required and permitted elements for such a catalogue card. The Resource Description Format (RDF) is a general standard for such metadata. Metadata allows software agents to find, retrieve, and process data. Just as books in a library are made accessible by the catalogue, so information on the web is made accessible by metadata. The Semantic Web is a project that aims to provide a common framework for such efforts, by having data on the web defined and linked in such a way that it can be used by machines not just for display purposes, but for automation, integration and reuse of data across various applications, so that tomorrow's programs can share and process data even when these programs have been designed totally independently. Structured data Digital documents allow, in principle, much richer automated processing - content selection, information extraction, price comparisons, or document clustering. To facilitate this, data is structured; documents are given internal structure. There are many different formats for structured data, some simple in their description, others complex and rich. Automated natural language generation is also being applied, to new forms of information delivery. Machinegenerated text can be used to present information tailored to the user (Oberlander et al. 1998). Such tools will be applied to present information derived from database queries, information extraction, and data mining. Tools for document clustering will be linked to natural language generation to provide automatically generated summaries drawing on a variety of sources. Natural language processing is one example demonstrating the way informatics relates to longer-established disciplines. It relies on computer science for underlying software and hardware technologies, and for algorithms that make this processing feasible. It draws on logic and linguistics for appropriate representations of linguistic and semantic structures, on machine learning techniques from artificial intelligence for tools that extract from large text corpora information on the words and concepts relevant for a particular domain, and on cognitive science and psychology for an understanding of how people process and react to information. These disciplines are drawn together, in informatics, by the common purpose of understanding how language can communicate information between human users and a formal representation stored in a machine. This marriage of computational and theoretical linguistics with cognitive psychology and neuroscience has generated new tools, and also thrown new light on human communication. It is clear that information, and hence informatics, must play a pivotal role in any analysis of human communication. During your college career, you will probably take a variety of classes in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and other fields. Although the demands for these courses will vary widely, in each of the classes you will need to determine the information required, evaluate the credibility of primary and secondary resources, communicate complex ideas in simple and clear ways, research sources for your own writing, and use such sources to help you explain your ideas. These skills, which teachers and librarians often refer to as "information literacy skills," will be necessary in every class you take—particularly writing courses.
Information Literacy Defined
Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." 1Links to an external site. Information literacy also is increasingly important in the contemporary environment of rapid technological change and proliferating information resources. Because of the escalating complexity of this environment, individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices--in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives. Information is available through libraries, community resources, special interest organizations, media, and the Internet--and increasingly, information comes to individuals in unfiltered formats, raising questions about its authenticity, validity, and reliability. In addition, information is available through multiple media, including graphical, aural, and textual, and these pose new challenges for individuals in evaluating and understanding it. The uncertain quality and expanding quantity of information pose large challenges for society. The sheer abundance of information will not in itself create a more informed citizenry without a complementary cluster of abilities necessary to use information effectively.
Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:
Determine the extent of information needed
Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
Evaluate information and its sources critically
Incorporate selected information into one's knowledge base
Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally
You may be using this book for any one of a variety of reasons. It may have been assigned by a professor, in whole or in part. You may be using it to enhance your research techniques for your classes. Or you may see the importance of being savvy about information use and production, and have decided to learn more on your own. After all, our world is defined by our easy access to information. In fact, as is often said, we are drowning in information. Some is valuable. Some is worthless. And some is just fun, in its proper context. As you know, information comes in many different formats and sometimes, depending on the content, information in one format can be in any of these categories. For example, a tweet could be valuable (maybe an expert on a topic has just announced something groundbreaking), worthless ("Going shopping. Looking for socks that don't fall down."), or fun (I'll let you decide what that message might be). So it seems that information content, context, and quality matter more than what kind of package or format the information takes. You will have a chance to read more about this later in the book. And accessing information is just one component; there is also your role as an information producer. We'll get to that, too. You will learn a number of ways to enhance your abilities to work with the information that surrounds you.