Postmodern Approach to Organizing Information: IMDb.com Database
Library and information science literature has recently broached the idea of a postmodern approach to the profession. Although a unified theory has not developed, some common themes have arisen. A review of the recent literature presents the salient theoretical concepts of postmodernism in information environments. Next I examine how the Internet Movie Database (http://us.imdb.com) embodies many postmodern attributes and attitudes towards the organization of information.
The information revolution created by the internet has led some librarians to question the intellectual underpinnings of the profession. Postmodern library science, which adopts ideas principally from the humanities and the social sciences, attempts to understand this new information environment. A review of the relevant literature reveals three major theoretical ideas of a postmodern library. First, postmodernism challenges the traditional positivist notion that an objective and strictly logical methodology is possible or desirable. All theories and methodologies are social constructs reflecting the biases of their creators; therefore, no one classification system is complete or useful for all users (Day, 1996). The “aboutness” of an information object is subjectively determined based on the requirements of the collection and the user. Rather than assisting the user, attempts at objective classification restrict a library’s ability to help the user. A surrogate record, if it is needed at all, should not be created for all possible searches, but only for a specific type of search.
Second, a postmodern approach posits a fusion of library and user. This is a patron
centric model of librarianship in which the user, or community of users becomes the
library. Barriers between user and library disappear. A common metaphor is that of Prometheus (Young, 1996). Postmodern Prometheuses not only climb Mount Olympus to steal the fire of the library gods, but become the fire themselves and share this fire with others (Radford, 1998).
Third, a library is not only a physical location that stores books, but a connection among texts that creates the context for transforming information into knowledge. The library/librarian assists in enhancing the information flow and in turn is enhanced by the information flow (Zwadlo, 1997, p.115). The information flow is heterogeneous and in constant flux. No single list of predetermined subject headings of a classification scheme can adequately describe the information flow. The information object’s location on the shelf or the server is inconsequential compared to its location in the community of ideas.
Computer technology plays a central role in allowing users access to the contextual information flow. For a postmodernist, technology does not dehumanize librarianship. A contextual, patron based model means that libraries focus on user...