Information Access Seminar

The Concept of Context

2019-05-03T15:10:00 - 2019-05-03T17:00:00
Friday, May 3, 2019
3:10 pm - 5:00 pm
Michael Buckland

Information is inevitably created in a context and, whenever used, is necessarily used in some context. Intermediaries, too, have their own contexts. The literature on information-related behavior mentioning context is vast and varied. Nevertheless the concept of “context” itself seems underdeveloped in information studies beyond the simple case of spatial and temporal metadata. Formal models of systems exist independently of contexts. Information system design ordinarily recognizes inputs, outputs, and boundaries, but neglects contexts. The large literature on “information seeking in context” is much more about seeking than about context. I will argue, however, that components have long been available, in hermeneutics, social constructivism, bibliography, information science, and elsewhere, which, if combined, can support theorizing both context and contextualizing. Join us for a discussion.


Michael Buckland is emeritus professor in the School of Information and co-director of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative. He grew up in England and studied history at Oxford and librarianship at Sheffield University. He trained at the Bodleian Library in Oxford and moved to the University of Lancaster Library in 1965. In 1972, Buckland moved to the United States to be Assistant Director of Libraries for Technical Services at Purdue University Libraries before becoming Dean of the School of Library and Information Studies at Berkeley from 1976 to 1984. He served from 1983 to 1987 as Assistant Vice President for Library Plans and Policies for the nine campuses of the University of California. Professor Buckland's interests include bibliography, library services, search and discovery, cultural heritage, and the history and theory of documentation.

Last updated: April 22, 2019