Misc: Member in spotlight: Shaked Spier

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This is the first post in a new series where we put a member of our society in the spotlight, and allow them to introduce themselves on the basis of a short interview. Throughout this series, we will give the word to senior as well as to junior members, and try to reveal the diverse background in our membership.

Interview with Shaked Spier

Q: The philosophy of information is a diverse field, and attracts people with very different backgrounds. Could you tell us a bit more about your academic background, and your current research?
A: My name is Shaked Spier, I recently graduated my Masters Degree in Library and Information Science at the Humboldt University, Berlin.
During my studies, Information Ethics and Politics became one of my main subjects of interest and research – sadly enough, these were underrepresented in the curricula at the Humboldt University. Combined with many seminars/lectures I took in Gender-Studies, sociology, and cultural studies, my interest for philosophy and hermeneutic research methods grew significantly.

My most current research is my thesis on the subject of Information Overload:
“(De)constructing the Flood: An Interdisciplinary Approach for Understanding the Phenomenon of Information Overload”
It consisted, amongst others, of a broad hermeneutical part. Starting with an attempt to develop an understanding of “what is information” in the context of information overload and differentiating between various understandings of this issue in different works on the subject – a point that, surprisingly enough, almost never receives (explicit) attention in existing literature.
The work also broadly handled IO's social and political aspects/effects as well as the stakeholders that profit from it.

Q: How did you learn about the philosophy of information? How does your research fit in, and what is the impact of PI on your research.
A: I learned of PI as an own subject/discipline after being exposed to works of scholars such as Rafael Cappuro and Luciano Floridi.
I believe that the best way to describe PI's connection to or influence on my work is that I try to bring more philosophy, hermeneutics, and critique into (scholar, professional, and political) discourses in Information Science – both in theory and in the information practice (e.g. in Knowledge Management, my field of work outside the academy, or in the library community in general). Thus, I also try to illuminate some dogmas that are in many cases widely used.

Q: How do you envisage the future of PI within philosophy, within your own field, and as part of the information society?
A: As to my own field, I am not very optimistic about the future role of PI in it. This however, is something I tried to influence through various engagements in my time as a student at the Humboldt University and intend in continuing doing so in future research.
In times where we witness the penetration of neoliberal patterns of thinking into librarian discourse –patrons addressed as “customers”; voices calling to regard the library as a firm (let's say, Google) and manage it as one; etc.– I see great importance for PI to affect such discourses, amongst others by including ethics and fundamental understanding –maybe even critique– of information-institutions (such as libraries) into those discourses.

On a broader scale, I argue since several years for more political and social engagement from the “information community” – i.e. not only libraries!
It might count as being ideological, but I believe that the information professions carry a responsibility in terms of social progress and political/ethical issues regarding information, communication, and media (to name just a few examples: communication data retention, IP/copyrights in the digital age, NSA / PRISM, privacy online as well as offline etc.).
This is a point, where I see growing importance for PI in the future. Amongst others by influencing and widening the discourse on such issues outside “philosophical circles”.

Regarding my personal and professional future, I'm currently looking for opportunities for my PhD. The subject is still shaping, but the general idea is (currently) the role of media and information in our perception and it's effect of social and political discourses.
E.g. how media bring distant “realities” closer but at the same time produces distance; or working with concepts such as infopolitics (on the basis of Foucault's Biopolitics).