Internet Studies Arrives: A New Category Status in the Oxford Libraries

The Oxford University Library System – specifically the Subject Librarian most closely involved with Internet-related research – has decided to create a category for the library of ‘Media and Internet Studies’. These categories are listed in OxLIP+, and therefore significant in helping people to find work on the Internet.

Queen's College Library, Oxford

Of course, how Internet studies is categorized as been a long problem for those working in this field. Where do you look in bookstores, libraries, …? Often books on the social aspects of the Internet are shelved with computer sciences, sometimes with business and management, sometimes with media studies. At long last, Internet studies might well be moving to a new stage of legitimacy as it finds some place in the categories of major libraries. Now we can begin discussion of whether this is the right category.

I thank Nesrine Abdel-Sattar, one of our DPhil students, who – among others – has urged the library to up-date its categories to capture the development of Internet Studies. Well done.

4 thoughts on “Internet Studies Arrives: A New Category Status in the Oxford Libraries

  1. I could not agree more. Fact is that a proper classification or taxonomy of internet studies has not been realised yet because the sector is still considered in its infancy, there is no general academic acceptance of it (apart from some rare exceptions like the OII), and “battles for the dominance” of its commercial, legal and governance routes are still going on.

    Search the subject “internet” in most of the library catalogs (including http://searchbeta.bl.uk/, http://copac.ac.uk/, http://library.ox.ac.uk/ just to name example of three diverse generations of library management systems) and you recall thousands of books, journals, conference papers. Without any possibility of further categorisation of this impressive quantity of materials it is very hard and time consuming to select and access new resources, make comparisons, find new ideas and theories etc. It seems that the interdisciplinary nature of the internet has not been shaped and defined in more manageable chunks, for now.

    An interesting exception comes from (still rare) catalogs that facilitate resource discovery in that they apply to traditional bibliographic records new data mining technologies to produce “faceted views” of the results.
    For instance searching for internet as subject (or ) in http://ncsu.worldcat.org/ gives you about 330,620 items narrowed by 31 diverse “topics”. That means the results are automatically aggregated on the ground of disciplinary divisions. Browse them and you may better define a more complex set of multiple words that can represent the specificity of what you are looking for. Besides, these subdivisions of the subject “internet” testify that internet studies represents a truly new interdisciplinary field that should require novel attention by cataloguers, taxonomists and indexers.

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  2. I could not agree more. Fact is that a proper classification or taxonomy of internet studies has not been realised yet because the sector is still considered in its infancy, there is no general academic acceptance of it outside some rare special departments or research centres (like the OII), and “battles for the dominance” of its commercial, legal and governance routes are still going on.

    Search the subject “internet” in most of the library catalogs (including http://searchbeta.bl.uk/, http://copac.ac.uk/, http://library.ox.ac.uk/ just to name examples of three diverse generations of library management systems) and you recall thousands of books, journals, conference papers. Without any possibility of further categorisation of this impressive quantity of materials it is very hard and time consuming to select and access new resources, make comparisons, find new ideas and theories and perform very basic operations that prelude to any serious advance in studying the field. It seems to me that the interdisciplinary nature of the internet has not been shaped and defined in more manageable chunks, for now, since I started to study this cross-domain sector in the early 1990s.

    An interesting exception comes from (still rare) catalogs that facilitate resource discovery in that they apply to traditional bibliographic records new data mining technologies to produce “faceted views” of the results.
    For instance, searching for internet as subject (or ) in http://ncsu.worldcat.org/ gives you about 330,620 items narrowed by 31 diverse “topics”. That means the results are automatically aggregated on the ground of disciplinary divisions. Browse them and you may better define a more complex set of multiple words that can represent the specificity of what you are looking for. Besides, these subdivisions of the subject “internet” testify that internet studies represents a truly new cross-domain field that should require novel attention by cataloguers, taxonomists and indexers.

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  3. Sorry I was so slow to approve your comment:

    Your points are quite reasonable and useful, but they do raise the question of why those involved in Internet Studies have not worried more about this category issue. It is nice that a category is being considered, and implemented, but search today – on the Internet – does not hinge on such categories, but on search terms and references from social networking sites.

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  4. Thank you very much for having published my comment. Hope others will answer this very interesting question about why the categorisation of internet studies is so underrated. And please note that I reposted previous comment not at all to hurry you but because of little grammar and lexical changes I wanted to make in the text – unfortunately comment posted on WordPress as well as on other blogging platforms cannot be edited. Therefore re-posting them is the only way to make changes – these are fascinating information interaction design details that have strong influence on mind reading habits, by the way, I am sure you are amused to note 😉

    As far as I am concerned, your question has first of all a political meaning that I am pleased to underline here as I am convinced that internet is an indispensable utility (like water, energy and the telephone) facing the challenge of unacceptable levels of cybercrime activities and lack of proper global governance.

    As a new field of academic studies, Internet is exposed to conflicts for public funding among diverse academic disciplines while the regulators and the media moguls are fighting about the definition, the boundaries and even the nature of the internet advertising market, essentially from an antitrust perspective.

    I myself started considering internet as a new medium in the 1990s because online advertising seemed to be the main source of revenue for many internet companies and the most relevant business model. But that, from a classification point of view, was a typical mistake known as “classification by attraction”.
    Nomen est omen, one could say 😉 As soon as you try to get deeply into the internet taxonomy business you notice that it is simply impossible to contain internet studies within the media sector.

    Furthermore, today we see that internet is an indispensable utility (like water, energy and the telephone) and not at all just a new medium. It contains and delivers at the same time several media and technologies of communication, social spaces, regulatory domains and styles of interaction, learning and relationships, including grey economies areas that cannot stay unregulated any longer if we want to prevent social risks and the expansion of cybercrime activities.

    All the diverse “facets” of the Internet diamond must inevitably coexist.

    Hence the political importance of having a shared cross-domain taxonomy, as you pointed out, that it is an enabling tool for research, governance and policies, an authoritative point of reference for search engines and social networking sites and last but not least an essential strategic instrument to speed up effectiveness and progress of internet studies.

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