Information Technology and the Knowledge Workers of the New

Dr. Frits Pannekoek
Director, Information Resources
University of Calgary
Calgary, Canada
Information Technology and the Knowledge Workers of the New Information Age
Most workers in knowledge based or research and development organizations have the
sophisticated skills to find and manipulate information in the new digital environment.
However, studies indicate that until users have undertaken at least a research-based postsecondary masters or doctoral degree they do not known how to use the key digital or
indeed print information resources without specialist intervention.1 In the petroleum
industry, for example these could include Petroleum Abstracts, GeoRef, Geobase,
Enviroline, Compendex, Applied Science and Technology Abstracts, SPE papers,
Science Citation Indexes, and various business databases. Any company dependent upon
technology in its business activities should have a similarly relevant set of information at
its disposal. Often information exchanges and needs of these technology intensive
companies are made on corporate, institutional or discipline based intranets, controlled by
senior management, and/or if there is a strong scientific component, by a few senior
Ph.D. scientists.
These observations are serious particularly given the profound change in the nature and
composition of information and its delivery. In the twenty years following 1975,
electronic databases have grown in number from 301 to 10,338. In 1975 these databases
contained about 52 million records; in 1997 they contained 11.3 billion records. Of
these, the single largest subject is business (27 per cent); while the next most significant
is science and technology (17 percent).2 A growing number, at least 60 per cent in 1997,
are now produced in the United States. Use is also increasing rapidly. In 1974 there
were about 750,000 searches; in 1996 there were about 82.5 million. This is reflected in
database sales, which have increased from $40 million in 1979 per year to $1.5 billion
per year in 1996. It is also important to note that while in the early years, datasets were
largely generated by government, now they are overwhelmingly provided by the private
Eileen Pritchard and Paula R. Scott, Literature Searching in Science, Technology, and Agriculture
(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996).
Martha E. Williams, “Highlights of the Online Database Industry and the Internet 1998,”19th Annual
National Online Meeting Proceedings 1998, edited by Martha E. Williams. (New York: Information
Today, 1998), pp. 1-2. This contains an excellent statistical summary from which all statistics in this
paragraph are drawn.
sector. Of concern should be the fact that about 90 per cent of the data base sales are
controlled by six to ten key vendors. What is also important to note is that while in the
late 1970’s data base content was largely statistical or raw data, today it is over 50
percent full text, searchable and in English. The revolution is real and profound. 3
This revolution can have serious consequences not only for the sciences but also for the
“grass roots” development of technological innovation. In the very early years of the
Canadian oil and gas industry (1890 to 1945), for example, most of the innovations in gas
processing were made in the field. The technologists generously adapted engineering
drawings drafted in distant urban centers to fit local conditions. However, as the
companies grew in size and as knowledge became increasingly complex, centrally
controlled and bureaucratized, field-based innovation ceased. The current hope is that
new ubiquitous information technologies will restore greater capacity and responsibility
for innovation to all professional and technical staff. The technology should remove the
shackles of distance, and the tyranny of structures derived from educational status, and
organizational hierarchies.
The gurus who are daily outlining new promises of the technology driven information
age suggest this democratization of information as an immediate inevitable outcome.4
A networked environment encourages employees to take the initiative, by
gathering information, consulting with experts, and solving problems
collaboratively. It transcends the traditional barriers of departments, management
hierarchies, and even company boundaries.5
And on the surface this would seem to be a truism. The literature does suggest significant
change, but that it is driven by a reaction to the new technology, rather than by any
careful integrated planning, reflective of the internal, national and professional cultures in
which knowledge-based organizations find themselves. For the new information
technologies to have real impact, significant commitment to information literacy
See for example Neil Barrett, The State of the Cybernation (London: Kogan Page Limited, 1996).
Nerissa Nelson, “Can Computer-Mediated Communication Democratize the Workplace?” Information
Outlook 4: 6 (June 2000).
Mary J. Cronin, Doing Business on the Internet How the Electronic Highway is Transforming American
Companies (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1994), p. 11
initiatives and to the thoughtful social re-engineering of the information components of
these cultures will have to take place.
Today the flow of high-end refereed scientific information, or raw information from
databases, tends to be top down, mediated by “knowledge brokers,” or in large
institutions by information experts. The staffs who implement technical decisions are
generally not fully engaged in the process of securing the information required for the
best solutions. This has been partially altered by intranet and digital technology.
However, these actions have other as yet undetermined consequences. Most of the
technical, financial and management databases are rooted in North American culture and
are in English. The impact of this now readily available material on indigenous cultures
had not been fully understood. The problems can be mitigated were there to be a healthy
dialog on their intranets in indigenous languages respecting individual traditions. To date
there are few instances of this happening.6
It has been assumed that information technology will transform “creation, ” that is the
process by which new ideas that have human and/or commercial value will be generated.
Yet unless the traditional path of knowledge creation is defined, it is difficult to
determine technology’s impact, and more important how technology can be managed to
demystify it and to maximize its utility.
There is a debated and recognized literature in the information sciences on the sociology
of knowledge creation. The arguments are complex, but extremely important in an
understanding of how technology is filtered by culture and how this impacts the creation
of knowledge. It is clear from the literature that the environments that create knowledge
differ amongst universities, governments, and industry. Some are highly efficient and
effective, others are not. As important it is also clear that host culture and organizational
size are also critical variables.
F. Pannekoek, “The Commodification of Information and the Marginalization of Indigenous Culture,”
Paper delivered at TEND 2000, Abu Dhabi, April 2000.
Members of an “invisible college” generate most “high end” knowledge, regardless of
organization, in some way. This “college” is a matrix of scholars, largely Ph.D.’s, who
tend to exchange information, share ideas, and act as mutual intellectual and sometimes
social support, generally, regardless of employer. This “invisible” college has been the
foundation of modern scientific discovery and has ensured that new knowledge is
reflective of what has gone on before. The “invisible” college ensures that new ideas are
the product of informal collaboratives, that ideas are shared, commented upon, and
discussed well before publication. Indeed “publication” in senior journals is the end of
this continuum of constant validation. Several studies of this process have found that
when informal “information and knowledge” communications are tracked from
laboratory conversations, to discussions with colleagues, and to the informal sharing of
papers, that generally 10 to 15 % of those involved in a field are key validators or
influencers. In the case of psychology for example, the majority of Ph.D.’s publish in a
particular journal only once. Also only 10 per cent of the articles in key journals are cited
frequently over the years. It could be argued then that if there are 10,000 authors in the
field, and only 10 percent of the articles are cited on the average once or more a year,
only 1000 scholars, and probably even fewer are discipline leaders. There will be
variations on other disciplines, but all evidence the “informal” college, and all have some
informally recognized peer recognition system. It is then a few key members within the
informal college who influence others.7
The role and composition of the many “invisible colleges” varies significantly from
technical college, to government, to university to corporation. Generally the colleges can
be ranked in order of ability to influence the creation and assimilation of new knowledge.
The doctoral universities with significant programs hold the “key influencers” and
“validators” of the process of discovery and validation. The smaller the university, the
less likely their faculty or students will influence or create new leading ideas. The
graduates of smaller universities tend to publish in journals with lesser prestige, and be
on the “outside” of the invisible college. While the journals themselves are key sources of
See Part 1 “The Structure and Dynamics of Science Information Flow” in Belver C. Griffith, ed. Key
Papers in Information Science (Washington: American society for Information Science, 1980).
information, many scientists source the increasingly complex and voluminous literature
through knowledge brokers, generally key colleagues. It is not an infrequent occurrence
at the University of Calgary library, to have senior scholars ask for an author citation list
for a new sub field, just so they can source senior members of the “invisible” college for
a new field of interest.
In the instance of workers with undergraduate degrees, the “invisible” college takes on a
different structure. These workers, especially in the professions, tend to secure new
information or undertake new developments based on coworker input. At the same time
the undergraduate degree professionals particularly in the corporate and government
world to value “vendors” of key technological solutions as reliable sources of
information. Generally these vendors are intellectual peers and tend to have been
“information” brokers themselves within the corporate or government work place. Their
skills at communication and empathetic validation make them natural “information
Generally then, within every organization there is a single individual who is known for
his/her ability to secure information and who is known as a “broker.” These people
rarely read or contribute to the literature. However these information brokers know how
to acquire information, and pass it on within a context of reliability. Generally if
knowledge information systems are re engineered, it is critical that these information
“brokers” be included. These are precisely the people who should be involved in
organizational intranets. If they have been effective, they will know and understand the
information needs of the work place. And depending upon national culture, the
information brokers, might be the “youthful” new graduate, or in other cases the “elder”
statesman. In research and development laboratories it might be a key laboratory
technician or in some cases a key scientist. The “leading” expert will not always be the
“information” broker. Even in organizations where there are professional information
mediators, they are most influential where they team up with the informal “brokers.”
The complexities and social rootedness of the informal approach to knowledge
acquisition, creation and validation is carried through into the government and corporate
sectors. However the connection of the government and corporate sector to the invisible
college would appear to be more tangential and to diminish over time. In most
disciplines, and there are exceptions, there is proportionally less participation in the
“invisible college” by government and corporate Ph.D’s. The reasons would seem to be
First in the case of the corporate sector, those that have significant research and
development teams, are insistent that innovation and attendant new information remain
proprietary until such time as it is ready for patent. As important, while the individual
scientists may still see themselves in their first years of their profession as members of
the “informal college” their success does not depend upon it. This however is not
uniformly true, and often depends upon the nature of linkages between the university and
the corporation. It is interesting to note that in the corporate sector the nature of the
linkages to the appropriate “informal college,” has less relevance to the success of
innovation than the size of the corporation. It would appear that new small start up
research and development based corporations do better than larger corporations. Why
this might be has not been the subject of much study yet, although perhaps the small
aggressive teams are effective because they know how to access and share information,
without the intervention of knowledge “brokers.” There is also lingering suspicion
however that the differing productivity is in part due to the degree of control attempted
by management on the flow of ideas, and the enforced conformity which generally marks
larger and more hierarchical organizations.8
Government departments and government research institutes are often charged in their
mandates with innovation. In Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Alberta
Research Council, or the National Research Council are cases in point. The employees of
these organizations within tend to be full participants of the “informal college.”
Narissa Nelson, “Can Computer Mediated Commications Democratize the Workplace?” Information
Outlook, 4:6 (June, 2000), p. 19 ff.
However, not infrequently the demands of “policy” conformity, parliamentary
accountability for the expenditure of funds, and the demands for information control
mitigate the ability to participate as “knowledge brokers” in the “informal college” except
in their own units.
Most important of all, however is the role in the bureaucracy of the worker with the
undergraduate degree. Most are “desk officers” responsible for the development of
policy, and for the management of social and economic change. Their need for the best
information is critical. However like their scientific counterparts, most receive their
information from information brokers, that is individuals who appear to be the best
informed, in their organizations. Most, even if they have access to the scholarly literature
rarely have the time to use and assimilate the material.9 Studies undertaken recently at
the university indicate that undergraduate students are modeling behavior that will be
repeated in the work place. The majority for example finds e-mail connection with the
faculty member one of the more effective means to access information. This is slightly
less important than internet-sourced information. At the University of Calgary, students
use internet material 63% of the time to complete research projects. In the instance of
Faculty it is only 35%.10 If workers believe that their mentors and the internet will be the
primary source for information for the creation of knowledge, then employers, if they
want to be successful, will have to acquire or create e-based information and ensure the
involvement of senior information “brokers” in their information dissemination
strategies. The cost will be considerable – but so might the returns. The conclusion that
becomes obvious is that the traditional intellectual hierarchies engendered by the
medieval culture of the universities persist and are still being passed on to the work place.
It should be a frightening prospect that graduates of Universities with rudimentary
information literacy skills are relying on “unreferereed” “dumbed down” information
from the internet as the foundation for the solutions to complex problems. Given the
Hazel Hall, “Online information sources: tools of business intelligence?” Journal of Information Science,
26:3, p. 141.
demands of the government workplace for instant information to solve instant problems
can it be otherwise? If new scholarly work impacts government decision making, it is
because of the occasional link that may exist with the “informal college” through the
senior mentors. The niceties of intellectual integrity are also being eroded. Can one
imagine several years ago a corporation offering its employees the “Thief of the Year”
award to the one who has “stolen” the best idea?
It should be acknowledged that the focus of this paper has been on the creation of new
knowledge used largely in research and development initiatives, or in policy
development. All organizations also have the need for management/operational
information systems, which might include client information, staff data, financial data,
and performance information. The creation and use of this information is obviously
critical, and since these needs often drive the technology systems of the corporation, the
culture of the groups requiring this information can determine the communication and
information protocols for an entire corporation. Often the security and privacy needs of
corporate management information system, and the “propaganda” purposes of the
marketing systems are at variance with the need for openness and continued questioning
of research and development systems.
Will, or have the new technologies transformed the use of information and the creation of
knowledge as just described. There are innumerable books that suggest that the
revolution is sweeping us along now! Neil Barrett in The State of the Cyernation
Cultural. Political and Economic Implications of the Internet offers typical observations.
He sees increasing democratization of the work place, the increase in sharing of
expertise, the erosion of national, and the elimination of discipline borders. This vision is
one of incredible optimism and economic opportunity. Without doubt there is ample
evidence to support this vision.
Julie Kearns, Keith Scharnau, and John Cole, “Learning Support Needs: What University of Calgary
Students Need to be More Effective Learners” (Calgary: University of Calgary Information Resources,
1999), Table 12.
But what specifically has changed in the cultures, which impact how we access and
process information? Have we changed anything but the volume of material, particularly
at the low end of the continuum, or the speed of access? First, has the still, somewhat
closed, “informal college” been changed? Will new scholars be able to by pass the
keepers of the gates of the “informal college?” Will new electronic communications
replace the print and -e journals controlled by the “informal college?” The reality shows
that tradition still has a strong grip on scholarly communication and that the “informal
college” if anything will likely strengthen its hold. This is proven in a recent study
undertaken by several University of Calgary social scientists and its Information
Resource directorate for the Social Science and Humanities Federation of Canada on
scholarly communication.11 The majority of scholars in the humanities and social
sciences in Canada (a very highly wired nation) are prepared to draw upon WEB based
resources to complete their own research, however they are not inclined to have their own
material placed in WEB based publications. The greatest reluctance comes from the real
or imagined perceptions that WEB based scholarly journals are not reviewed by “status”
peers. Electronic journals, despite their growing numbers, are still considered low status
alternatives. As important, although this was not articulated by the respondents as
frequently, is the fact that electronic journals are not always abstracted in the critical
citation indices, and that they are not always archived. Simply put, because of this
consideration, scholars do not feel that their publications in these new e creations would
have the status required for promotion and recognition in their organization or profession.
The prediction of the gurus that the informal academy will be broadened and that those
senior in the informal academy will lose their paramountcy has also not happened either.
These predictions were based on the assumption that senior scholars maintained their
hegemony through the illegitimate control of the refereeing mechanisms. Some have
advocated that WEB mechanisms like pre-print servers would reform scholarship and
make “discoveries” immediately available. While there is an increase in sharing of
preliminary findings with a wider international network in the informal college through e-
Keith Archer, “Electronic Publishing in the Humanities and Social Sciences: A Preliminary Report on
Survey findings” (Calgary: Unpublished paper for the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of
mail and a discussion of ideas through various “list servs,” there is no indication that this
has resulted in the erosion of the “informal” college. Indeed it can be argued that if
anything it has strengthened it. While the internet has incredible possibilities for
openness, there is an equal opportunity through structured intranets controlled by the
“informal colleges,” to refine and restrict access.12 Even where this is not formally done,
in Canada and the United States many of the humanities “list servs” require certain post
graduate academic qualifications before they will allow participation. Even on these
restricted access discussion groups, certain messages are taken more seriously than others
are. Those who were previously on the margins, continue to be so. Their contributions
and queries are simply not taken seriously. And, if the “noise” made by those struggling
to get recognition is too great those who are senior simply discontinue their
While social science and humanities research disseminated through serials has not moved
to the WEB, a significant number of scientific journals have a digital as well as print
format. However, it is not clear that WEB based journals have radically added to the
numbers reading the journal. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if anything traditional
mediation by knowledge brokers has increased. There are several probable reasons for
this. First, electronic journals are expensive, and cannot be afforded by either
individuals, or their employing organizations no matter their wealth. The situation had
become so serious in Canada, a small but reasonably wealthy country, that only one
university can really afford all available scientific e-material. Now Canada is
experimenting with national site licensing of electronic product so that at least its sixtyfour senior universities can have access to the most critical full text materials and indices.
Second, many individuals do not have the equipment required to access the higher-end
complex databases, particularly those dealing with geo spatial information. Third, where
Canada, Feb. 3, 2000).
Mike Crandall, “Intranet Case Study: Boeing,” in Martha E. Williams, ed., Proceedings of the Nineteenth
National Online Meeting (New York: Information Today, 1998), pp. 85-94. See also Beth Schultz,
“Drilling down into an intranet,” Network World, 13:24 (June 10, 1996) deals with the Schlumberger Ltd, a
oil service company, intranet.
Nelson, Norris. “Can Computer-Mediated Communication Democratize the workplace?” Information
Outlook (June 2000), pp. 12-22.
institutions have a complete or almost complete suite of data, there is now so much
material, that no one individual can digest it. Fourth, those seeking information have to
have sophisticated information literacy skills to negotiate through the over 10,380
databases and their 11.3 billion records which are likely to grow by a factor of 200 per
cent again in the very near future. The information resources specialists at the University
Calgary have noted that if anything that the reliance on the one person in a particular
discipline who is the “keeper of the knowledge” has become even more important. And
where digital information is available in the same place where expert mediation is
available, reference activities will increase dramatically. That is certainly the case at the
University of Calgary which in 1999 developed a leading edge facility which fully
integrated print, image and digital information and the technology and expertise to access
information regardless of form.14
But to suggest that this has resulted in an information literate, discerning undergraduate
population is not necessarily the case either. Studies at the University of Calgary on
undergraduate learning needs have indicated that while well over sixty percent of
undergraduates feel they can get all of the information they need from the internet, about
forty percent feel they lack the skills needed to retrieve that information. Since this
number doesn’t include those who feel they have the skills but in reality do not, this is a
frightening prospect since there is an accompanying unsubstantiated suspicion that most
of the information needs subsequent to graduation will also be secured from the internet.
Perhaps what should be taken from the University of Calgary study is that university
graduates will demand instant information gratification, and that those institutions and
companies who are able to provide it in a popular inter or intra net format may be the
most productive. What this also indicates is that the creation of legitimate, easily
digestible information in digital format will result in greater use of information. That
being said, there is so much information, and no search engine can efficiently
Information Commons Team, “Information Commons Fall Term Report,” (Calgary: University of
Calgary Information Resources January 2000), pp. 31.
discriminate, that the role of the individual mediator will continue to be important.15
He/she will continue to suggest the most relevant URL’s and the methods for securing the
best information quickly. So has anything really changed, other than a new preference
for a format which offers instant gratification?
If the internet has not yet radically changed the research culture of organizations, it is
beginning to have a real impact on post degree continuous learning, so critical to
knowledge based organizations. Most resident based universities are feeling threatened
by the digital distance education providers, and by corporate intranet universities, of
which the most famous is probably that of British Aerospace. These providers can offer
WEB based, individually paced courses especially created for the needs of any particular
organization. Through electronic information portals, the learners can have access to all
the material the course owner feels the student needs to complete. While largely
confined to professional course based postgraduate learning in business or public
administration, it is spreading to the sciences and engineering as well. Organizations can
pay a content expert a significant sum of money, secure the services of the ubiquitous
learning expert, and develop courses tailored to specific needs with a shelf live of five to
ten years. This could allow for a large number of simultaneous learners, “taught” by low
cost content assistants. The theory is that this will free senior content specialists for
research and development, target learning more effectively, and eliminate the “waste” of
time that individual discovery takes. And there is truth in this, although without careful
consideration it could destroy the “team” that human interaction in the learning process
builds. Others will argue it would also lead to the “dumbing” down of the knowledge
organization. Changes to courses will happen less frequently because of cost, leading to
fewer instances of leading edge research being immediately introduced. Not that it would
be difficult to alter the course, only that there would be a controllable cost. The
increasing imperative for information literacy skills will also not likely be accommodated
since most support information will be in “electronic “ packages. There is no doubt that
the “just for you” learning environment will see higher satisfaction ratings.
Stephen e. Arnold and Erik S. Arnold, “Search Engines; Lost and Found in Cyberspace,” in Martha E.
Williams, ed., Proceedings of the Nineteenth National Online Meeting (New York: Information today), pp.
If the new “packaged learning modules” might threaten to “dumb down” information,
there are other trends that threaten to do the same thing. Past habits by government and
corporations of relying of the nearby university collections and expertise will become a
phenomena of the past. Information aggregators, who have transformed print to digital
information, tend to license rather than sell information. Even if the post secondary
institutions wanted to assist government and corporate research, their licenses
increasingly prevented this. It is possible for corporations to lease access to literally
thousands of journals and databases, and make available to all of its employees the most
sophisticated data and information that exists on the planet. Anecdotal evidence suggests
that few knowledge-based companies subscribe to the sophisticated high-end
information. Often specialists or consultants, who may have access to a single database,
or individuals with “information connections” secure what is required. This seems to
work well, but it cannot continue particularly as copyright issues are being resolved
increasingly in favor of the creator rather than the user. What may well happen in the
next few years as smaller start-up companies find that the information they need is
increasingly restricted, there will be pressure for the nation state to acquire “national”
licenses to this information for all potential users. When this happens, the ability to
secure information will not be at issue, rather the issue will be the ability of an
organization’s knowledge workers to retrieve and manipulate the best data. Another
issue in the social sciences in particular, will be the compromises that may have to be
made when political, academic and research agendas collide.
In the new age where some nations can offer their citizens complete access to commercial
databases, corporate intranets will become increasingly important. This is where, it is
hoped, employees will discuss technical issues and collectively resolve technical
problems. There are instances where these have been successful, however, in some cases
intranets have become “empty nets,” particularly where the culture of the organizations
misinterpreted. If the traditional informal information mediator has been left out of the
process, the intranet will likely find little real use, since he/she will continue in their
informal very influential role.
Any attempt to persuade professional degree holders (i.e.
engineers and other technology experts) to participate in intranet technical discussion
teams may also not always be successful, since their culture is once of accepting
information not providing it. Intranets also tend to exclude other traditional sources of
information, for example, the vendors. The “informal college” is also sometimes not
included, given any organization’s penchant for using the new technology to create rather
than eliminate boundaries. Since most information based organizations restrict access to
and control participation in their intranets, the only way real exchange will take place is
through the ‘informal colleges.” So really has anything changed!
There is a belief that the ability to share information across boundaries has created a new
cybernation. But evidence suggests otherwise. It is instructive to look at patents, and the
number of “foreign” patents registered. The majority of American and Japanese patents
are issued to nationals whether living at home or abroad. There are relatively few patents
granted to “foreigners.” There is also a tendency, although not universal, to centralize
research and development in large corporations. The point is that the freedom and chaos
of invention that was the promise of the internet has yet to fully materialize. It may be
that where there is infinite chaos of information, there will be greater tendency to
gravitate to the comfort of control.16 And the influence of the “informal college” to
mediate and validate information needs will grow even stronger. The role of the
“information mediator” will become more and more important, not less.
A last point that should be made is that increasingly technical knowledge is transmitted in
English. Most of the information aggregators produce their materials in English because
the cash aggregators (i.e. the large corporations and universities) conduct most of their
business and research in that language. This will mean that those nations who want to
undertake scientific and technical work within their “national” cultures will likely be at a
Zvi Griliches, ed. R&D, Patents and Productivity (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984). p.
93 and Jack N. Behrman and William A. Fischer, Overseas R&D Activities of Transnational Companies
(Cambridge: Oelgeschlager, Gunn and Hain, 1980).
disadvantage. If there has been capitulation for the most part to English in the scientific
and technical world, the capitulation has not yet happened in the social sciences and
humanities, although I would argue that is about to happen. The information aggregators
require considerable capital to transform existing material into digital form or to create
new databases in indigenous languages. Since there is generally not enough cash
aggregated by non-English language universities or corporations, high-end information in
indigenous language will be decreasingly available. This will only be reversed if national
government take the initiative in the creation of digital materials, or in the conversion of
existing cultural materials. However, the prospects of that happening are diminishing
daily. If national scholars, technologists and scientists cannot find their cultures validated
in the information sources they use to generate new knowledge, that culture and the role
of its research establishments will surely be marginalized.
Digital technologies have allowed for an increase of control of
commodifed information. This high-end information will continue to
increase significantly in cost as information aggregators assume roles
as data, information and knowledge brokers. This will be tempered by
individual professional organizations attempting to create and to
mediate their own refereed information. The vulnerability of highly
specialized information sources to the financial blandishments of the
aggregators will increase with the value of the information.
Traditional processes of acquiring and transmitting information have
not changed significantly. The “invisible college” persists and indeed
shows signs of tightening its grip as the information world becomes
increasingly unmanageable and chaotic.
The amount of information available to knowledge workers has
increased dramatically in the digital world, but the sophistication of
workers to select and create has not kept pace. This has reinforced the
tendency to use informal information brokers or mediators. Only the
very large organizations have designated information specialists on
The dominance of English in science and technology has meant an
increasing shift to Euro American cultural norms in information data
basis and organization. If national governments do not begin to notice
the same shift in the humanities and social sciences digital technologies
will press for the use of English in these areas as well. Cultural
differentiation based on language or approach to information will
The internationalization of the invisible college has not diminished the
concentration of expertise in fewer hands. Just as senior scholars at
senior universities control the informal academy, senior “r and d”
professionals control knowledge validation in the corporate world.
New knowledge that is not validated by these structures will be
Organizations will support post degree continuous learning with WEB
based instruction. However rather than nurturing an ability for
individual to be self-learners, there will be an increasing tendency to
“homogenize” information into modules required by organizations to
achieve their goals.
The differentiation of research cultures amongst national cultures will
increasingly diminish.
I would like to thank Peggy White, the University of Calgary, Head Science and
Engineering Unit, Access Service, Information Resources, and Claudette Cloutier, Head,
Gallagher Library of Geology, University of Calgary for their insights and comments.
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Preliminary Report on Survey Findings.” Unpublished report prepared for the Humanities
and Social Sciences Federation of Canada, Feb. 3, 2000, 25pp.
Barrett, Neil. The State of the Cybernation Cultural, Political and Economic
Implications of the Internet. London: Kogan Page Limited, 1996.
Behrman, Jack N. and Frischer, William A. Overseas R&D Activities of
Transnational Companies. Cambridge: Oelgeschlager, Gunn and Hain, 1980.
Bradley, Stephen P., Hausman Jerry A and Nolan Richard L “Globalization and
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