Troubled Worlds

A Course Syllabus about Information Work and the Anthropocene

  • Megan Finn Information School, University of Washington
  • Daniela K. Rosner Human Centered Design & Engineering, University of Washington
  • Suzanne Black Department of English, SUNY Oneonta
  • Nathan Cunningham University of Washington
  • Kristin N Dew University of Washington
  • Josephine Hoy University of Washington
  • Kevin McCraney University of Washington
  • Colin Morgan University of Washington

Abstract

The goal of this syllabus is to interrogate the material, and socioeconomic processes which underpin our everyday information work. In particular, we examine the relationships developing between contemporary information practices and what problematically gets configured as “nature”—that messy world of non-human entanglements that often exists beyond the purview of innovation work, whether digital software development or industrial engineering. Much recent work on the environmental conditions of computing has sought to break down technology-nature dualisms in order to expose the implication of information technology in broader social and material ecologies. Library and information professionals and researchers are well poised to deepen this inquiry by presenting alternative nature-technology epistemologies grounded in longstanding analyses of information resources and their consumption. The “Troubled Worlds” syllabus starts with a discussion of concerns most obviously germane to the work of most library and information science professionals: practices at the intersection of structuring information and computing. Building on this attention, we turn to humanistic approaches to thinking through the era of dominant human activities widely known as the “Anthropocene” by introducing poetic, artistic, and activist lenses. We explore how artistic objects representing an increasingly troubled natural world raise awareness of the challenges facing it, as well as how they may incorporate and reshape information for aesthetic ends. We then look to questions of disability justice and how it works in blended built and natural spaces as well as the many different ways in which bodies respond to the toxic environments produced by information technologies. We next consider the newer design approaches to library and information research, specifically asking how design perspectives on digital information objects get inscribed in the Anthropocene. Lastly, we consider paradigms of repair and making and analyze the different valences through which information researchers and professionals categorize and contextualize what is possible with them. This compilation does not provide a comprehensive review of the literature on the environment within the information fields. Instead, it extends this literature to promote experimental research and practice. The modules construct an interdisciplinary and provisional path through the related literature in a form that we hope may be continually adjusted, rearranged, and augmented.

Pre-print first published online 03/15/2020

Author Biographies

Megan Finn, Information School, University of Washington

Assistant Professor

Daniela K. Rosner, Human Centered Design & Engineering, University of Washington

Associate Professor

Suzanne Black, Department of English, SUNY Oneonta

Associate Professor

Published
2020-05-17