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Documentarity: Evidence, Ontology, and Inscritption (2019)

In this book, Ronald Day offers a historical-conceptual account of how something becomes evident. Crossing philosophical ontology with documentary ontology, Day investigates the different genres, technologies, modes of inscription, and innate powers of expression by which something comes into presence and makes itself evident. He calls this philosophy of evidence documentarity, and it is through this theoretical lens that he examines documentary evidence (and documentation) within the tradition of Western philosophy, largely understood as representational in its epistemology, ontology, aesthetics, and politics.

Day discusses the expression of beings or entities as evidence of what exists through a range of categories and modes, from Plato's notion that ideas are universal types expressed in evidential particulars to the representation of powerful particulars in social media and machine learning algorithms. He considers, among other topics, the contrast between positivist and anthropological documentation traditions; the ontological and epistemological importance of the documentary index; the nineteenth-century French novel's documentary realism and the avant-garde's critique of representation; performative literary genres; expression as a form of self evidence; and the “post-documentation” technologies of social media and machine learning, described as a posteriori, real-time technologies of documentation. Ultimately, the representational means are not only information and knowledge technologies but technologies of judgment, judging entities both descriptively and prescriptively.

Best Information Science Book of the Year Award 2015

The Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Indexing It All: The Subjects in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data (2014)

In this book, Ronald Day offers a critical history of the modern tradition of documentation. Focusing on the documentary index (understood as a mode of social positioning), and drawing on the work of the French documentalist Suzanne Briet, Day explores the understanding and uses of indexicality. He examines the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data.

Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, "the father of European documentation" (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media's use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robots to embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social "big data" as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.

The Modern Invention of Information: Discourse, History, and Power (2001)

This book investigates the conceptual and rhetorical underpinnings of three "information ages" in Europe and the U.S. through the 20th century in order to understand the relation between information, rhetoric, politics, and culture during that period and into our own. The book engages the texts of figures in information science and social theory such as Paul Otlet, Suzanne Briet, Norbert Wiener, Warren Weaver, Pierre Levy, Martin Heidegger, and Walter Benjamin. The book's main theme is about how a common conception and rhetoric of "information" has leveraged modern history, culture, and society toward being an "information" age, culture, and society.

Link to PowerPoint Summary

What is Documentation?: English Translation of the Classic French Text (2006)

Below are links to Briet’s book (translated by Ronald E. Day (Indiana University) and Laurent Martinet (Paris), with Hermina Anghelescu (Wayne State University) and to the preface and commentary on that text, as well as to Michael Buckland’s biography of Briet and his selected bibliography of her works.

Link to Preface in PDF
Brief biography of Suzanne Briet
Suzanne Briet, What is Documentation?
Selected bibliography of the works of Suzanne Briet

Rethinking Knowledge Management: From Knowledge Artifacts to Knowledge Processes. (2007)

Link to Preface in PDF