The Ecology of Information Work: A Case of Bridging Archaeological Work and Virtual Reality Based Knowledge Organisation

Publication Type:



Isto Huvila


Åbo Akademi University Press, Åbo (2006)



Information work is a part of all work. Success, effectiveness and efficiency of information work are based on a successful implementation of effective and efficient work practises, tools and infrastructures. Besides the success and quality of the individual components of information work, its prosperity is also dependent on an ability of generating and nurturing a functioning synergy between information, the organisation of information, and the practises of work. Work shapes information and is shaped by information and by the way information is organised. The study explores an interface between the human patterns of information use and the methods of structuring and organising information and knowledge. The issue is discussed with a reference to information work in the domain of archaeology. The study refers to the notion of virtual realities as a prospective basis for a knowledge organisation system and discusses the question that whether and how a virtual reality based knowledge organisation system might enhance the practises of archaeological information work. For analysing information activity in work contexts, the study introduces a new approach titled information work analysis. The approach incorporates a common ecological framework to explicate both the qualitative understanding of the information work and the formality of the knowledge organisation systems, which makes it possible to bridge the two notions. The study also presents for the first time a concise analytical description of work and information work within the domain of archaeology from an information science point of view. The study forms a solid basis for the future development of information systems and information services for archaeology and cultural heritage professionals. The conclusion is that the critical success factors of archaeological information work are fit and sustainability of the information processes. The information work analysis showed that archaeological information work would considerably benefit of more systematically coordinated and integrated information processes and of closer usage orientation. For the time being, archaeological information work resembles unnecessarily often an archaeological excavation. Virtual realities are potentially beneficial in supporting these factors in complex instances of information work, where the information is fluid, and in a state of making, and where the information work combines several contexts of the work and grasps the entire life-cycle of the information from the creation of information to its use and preservation. Typical examples of such work in archaeology is archaeological field work, research and policy related cultural heritage administration duties.

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