Thomas Haigh is one of those rare individuals who speak elegantly, and write brilliantly interesting stories that superimpose very uninteresting topics in a thoughtful, academic manner. Not a librarian or LIS practitioner by trade, Haigh is actually a(n) historian by training and have taught an eclectic collection of subjects over the years. But now he teaches at the University of Wisconsin's School of Information Studies program. Haigh's panel challenges the historiography of information science, arguing that much is lacking due to the fact that information science poorly focuses on the training and engagement of historical topics. He argues, convincingly in my opinion, that the history of information science is actually written more succinctly and richly by those outside of the field itself.
On Day 2 of the The American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) in Vancouver, BC (Thriving on Diversity - Information Opportunities in a Pluralistic World),I attended the panel, New Directions in Information History which included Haigh, Geoffrey Bowker, William Aspray, and Robert Williams. Haigh caught my attention the most as he challenged (often to an uncomfortable audience of LIS practitioners) thesocial and philosophical issues around technology, and in the relationship between the world of code and world of people. Haigh was trained in the History and Sociology of Science department at the University of Pennsylvania where he eventually became an historian specializing in 20th Century America, in the history of technology and in the social history of work and business.
Haigh is currently delving into the social history of the personal computer, where he argues that despite the shelves of books on the history of the PC, there has been "no serious historical study" of how people used their computers or why they brought them. In my session, Haigh was confronted heatedly about his argument that the history of information science is often weak and incomplete as information technology experts and scientists fail to capture the historical, social, and cultural contexts of proper history writing. Haigh touches on this briefly in his article, Sources for ACM History: What, Where, Why. It was very interesting seeing the giants of LIS such as Michael Buckland and Marcia Bates in the room debating with Haigh's externalist vision for historical inquiry of information science -- and is perhaps a microcosm of the state of the field today. Alas, the debate rages on.