Fields of study

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Students in the iSchool are encouraged to specialize in areas of specific interest.  While the program provides many opportunities for cross-interactions, students benefit from focusing their studies within a particular area of specialization, in order to enhance their career goals.  The program offers opportunities for specializations within seven fields of study:


Critical Information Studies

The Critical Information Studies specialization involves critical analyses of the social, technical, political, legal, economic, and cultural assumptions and implications of information systems of all types. As is increasingly recognized, socio-technical information systems—which involve the collection, organization, management, preservation, and use of information—are constructed and deployed within complex social and political contexts. This field brings to bear qualitative and quantitative techniques from social sciences and humanities to analyze the design, development, deployment, and use of such systems.

Topics include:

  • Privacy, security, open and inclusive access, and intellectual freedom
  • Intellectual property and information rights
  • Integrity, authority, and authenticity
  • Political economy
  • Risk, use, and context
  • Social equity, justice, and inclusion

Associated faculty members:
Nadia Caidi | Andrew Clement | Sara Grimes | Jenna Hartel | Patrick Keilty | David Phillips | Matt Ratto | Leslie Regan Shade | Siobhan Stevenson


Library & Information Science

Humanistic perspectives on and approaches to the study of information services are considered against a backdrop of fundamental social change and global transition.

Topics include:

  • The information life cycle, including creation, organization, management, dissemination, and preservation
  • The range of information intensive and service-oriented institutions, including public, academic, governmental, health sciences, and corporate libraries
  • The social, economic, political, and technological forces that affect information processes, practices, policies, and professionals

Associated faculty members:
Nadia Caidi | Juris Dilevko | Alan Galey | Sara Grimes | Jenna Hartel | Lynne Howarth | Patrick Keilty | Mike McCaffrey | Wendy Newman | Siobhan Stevenson


Archives & Records Management

  The Archives & Records Management concentration explores the multiple perspectives that inform documentary practices over time, drawing on diverse foundation disciplines, including:

  • Management theories and diplomatics for organizational records
  • Archival science in arrangement and description
  • Appraisal theories and practices in relation to both organizational and personal archives
  • Preservation principles and strategies for paper and digital records
  • The history of records and recordkeeping  

This field concentrates on the social, institutional, technological and personal practices affecting the creation, use, selection, and preservation of recorded information.

Topics include:

  • Theories and methods for capturing, classifying, managing, appraising, and preserving authentic records in all media
  • Properties of archives and records to serve business, accountability, and historical needs of public and private organizations and persons
  • Digital preservation concepts and strategies
  • Changing perspectives and social contexts
  • Evidence law and regimes of privacy and access
  • Intellectual property rights management
  • The role of archival appraisal in society

Associated faculty members:
Wendy Duff | Fiorella Foscarini | Alan Galey | Heather MacNeil | Seamus Ross


Information Systems, Media & Design

The innovative and imaginative design and use of media and information systems, particularly as they underpin the digital revolution, are approached from a humanistic angle. This field combines critical analysis with a strong emphasis on design, including technical systems design, and the full context of their deployment and use. The field emphasizes the design perspective on information and systems, based on fundamental values and foundations that cover the full iSchool curriculum.

Topics include:

  • Fundamental issues of architecture, implementation, data representation and organization, and information processes
  • Technologies used to organize and manage information within design and systems contexts
  • Effects of choice of information systems on the growth and development of institutions
  • Critical perspectives and methods for acknowledging and encompassing cultural and social differences
  • Design perspectives for stability, sustainability, conservation, preservation, and tradition
  • Digital systems and support for a wide spectrum of media, and diverse forms of interaction and engagement

Associated faculty members:
Periklis Andritsos | Andrew ClementKelly Lyons | Rhonda McEwen | Seamus Ross | Aviv Shachak | Eric Yu


Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage is the legacy from the past that defines our society, and determines what culture we pass on to future generations. An irreplaceable source of life and inspiration, cultural heritage teaches us much about who we are, and informs who we become. This legacy includes the physical and digital artifacts acquired, managed, curated, and preserved by libraries, archives, historic sites, and museums, as well as intangible culture inherent in a society’s customs, traditions, artistic expressions, and language.

Associated faculty members:
Wendy Duff | Alan Galey | Lynne Howarth | Matt Ratto | Seamus Ross


Knowledge Management & Information Management

This field examines the concepts, tools, and practices that enable the systematic, imaginative, and responsible management of information in an organization or community. The goal is to promote social learning and innovation, and to provide groups and individuals with the information they need in order to perform their work and to engage in self-development.

Topics include:

  • Theoretical frameworks that integrate the creation, sharing, and use of information and knowledge
  • The effective use of information to support decision making
  • Knowledge access management, including metadata-enabled search and resource discovery
  • Strategic modeling of goals and dependencies for knowledge management
  • The design of information systems as platforms for creating and sharing knowledge

Associated faculty members:
Chun Wei Choo | Lynne Howarth | Aviv Shachak | Eric Yu


Philosophy of Information

This field explores the foundational concepts, general principles, and shared theories applicable to information practices of all types. Fundamental epistemological and ontological techniques are brought to bear to design, examine, and assess general information architectures, classifications, organizations, and practices of use.

Topics include:

  • Theoretical conceptions of information
  • Organization and representation of knowledge
  • Context dependence and independence
  • Formal and informal record keeping
  • Fundamental principles of documentation
  • Orality, literacy, and visuality
  • Analogue and digital media
  • Epistemology and ontology
  • Ethics, values, and political commitments

Associated faculty members:
Jenna Hartel | Matt Ratto | Seamus Ross | Brian Cantwell Smith