What kind of mature information societies do we want to build? What is our human project for the digital age?
—Luciano Floridi, 2018
I received my PhD in Information Studies from Drexel University's College of Computing & Informatics, and I am gratefully still at Drexel for the current academic year.
I am working toward a future where people can cope better with digital technology—that is, where they can be more attentive, aware, present and wise in the digital age. To me, this is a matter of both ethics and design: Today we are all like sailors steering a ship while it’s still being built.
To that end, my research is rooted in human experience, which brings into focus concepts such as morality, understanding and selfhood. In particular, I study people’s information experiences in personally meaningful activities such as making art. I ask questions such as: How do people use information in these activities? How are the activities informative? And how are they changing in the digital age? My research is predominantly qualitative in nature, using descriptive and interpretative methods to inspire wonder, thoughtfulness and tact in designers and users.
My research bridges several traditional academic fields, including human information behavior, human-centered computing, neo-documentation studies, and information ethics. So my research is rooted in the tradition of information science, but with an eye toward the future. I am a proponent of the iSchools movement, and I am working to bring together the various subfields of the information and computer sciences (including newer, digital-centric fields such as social informatics and human—computer interaction).
As you can tell, my research spans and seeks to bring into conversation a number of traditional academic fields. Beyond those mentioned above, my work also plays with:
- Science and technology studies
- Digital humanities
- Computer-mediated communication
- History and philosophy of science
Before I came to Drexel, I earned a BA in Advertising and Spanish from Marquette University; a graduate certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee; and an MA in Hispanic Linguistic, Literary and Cultural Studies from New York University.
I blog about written language and documents at ScratchTap.
Art, Information and Moral Knowledge
Many authors have argued that art can contribute to moral knowledge and people's self-understanding. In this project, I explore this from an information science perspective and work to design technologies to help people cultivate their own moral knowledge through engagement with art.
Self-Documentation and Society
A characteristic of modern life is our reliance on documents in virtually all sectors of society, and the nature of these documents influences the way we understand reality and ourselves. Among these documents are ones we create about ourselves, as evidence of some aspect of the self, a phenomenon I refer to as self-documentation. We are compelled to write resumes and CVs, we build personal websites and online profiles for socializing, commerce, dating and education, and we snap selfies with abandon. How does the concept of the document lend coherence to all these different forms of information creation? How do we construct and understand the self through documents? What dynamics are at play?
This is some of the conceptual groundwork I did in my dissertation, which I defended in May 2018. For this initial foray, I examined the artistic genre of the self-portrait from conceptual and empirical angles: mainly, how self-portraits are documents, and how artists create self-portraits. The study was centered on the literatures of document theory, human information behavior and the philosophy of information. A number of publications have come out of this project, including direct publications, extensions and spinoffs. At present, I am planning a book project based on this work.
Publications from My Dissertation
- Art and documents: Gorichanaz, T. (2017). Understanding art-making as documentation. Art Documentation, 36(2), 191–203.
- The concept of understanding: Gorichanaz, T. (2017). Applied epistemology and understanding in information studies. Information Research, 22(4), paper 776.
- Documentation in the first-person, illustrated with examples of artistic self-portraiture: Gorichanaz, T. (2019). A first-person theory of documentation. Journal of Documentation, 75(1), 190–212.
- Methodology for studying understanding, with results from the domain of art-making: Gorichanaz, T. (2018). Art and everyday information behavior: Sources of understanding. In L. Freund (Ed.), Proceedings of the 81st annual meeting of ASIS&T (pp. 143–150). Somerset, NJ: Wiley.
- Manuscript under review: What is a self-portrait?
- Manuscript under review: Understanding and information in the work of visual artists
Running and Information Technology
Ultrarunning is a hobby of mine, and it's also become a research object. During ultramarathons, athletes confront many potential problems. As such, participation in such events can put athletes in states of high stress, which may be sustained for many hours. My first paper, "Information on the run: Experiencing information during an ultramarathon" explored some of the information processes at play in endurance running. I have conducted some further research on how ultrarunners make sense of the sport, which you can read about in the papers:
- There's no shortcut: Building understanding from information in ultrarunning
- The information of story: The genre and information activities of ultrarunning race reports
- Understanding and Information Constellations in Ultrarunning
- Beautiful and sublime: The aesthetics of running in a commodified world
What is a document? When is a document? How is a document? Since Michael Buckland's famous 1991 article "Information As Thing," research in document theory has flourished. I situate some of my work in this current, and I contribute to the theoretical aspects of documents through phenomenological exploration. That is, the study of how documents reveal themselves to us. I have written on how documents are part-human, how documents come to be authoritative by their fixity, and how documents unfold as time. My paper co-authored with K. F. Latham proposes a framework for discussing the phenomenological aspects of documental being and becoming.