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Information retrieval (IR) and the paradox of change: An analysis using the philosophy of Parmenides

Thornley, CV; (2012) Information retrieval (IR) and the paradox of change: An analysis using the philosophy of Parmenides. Journal of Documentation , 68 (3) 402 - 422. 10.1108/00220411211225601. Green open access

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Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to explore whether philosophical insights from Plato's dialogue “Parmenides” on the complex and often paradoxical nature of change can illuminate the nature of information retrieval (IR). IR is modelled as a dialectic process involving mutually dependent yet conflicting forces between the subjective and the objective. These forces operate to produce change in the subjective experience of users (becoming informed) through facilitating a relationship with objective documents. Accurately modelling, predicting and enabling this process remains a persistent problem for IR and this paper seeks to examine the extent to which this is because of the nature of change. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is a conceptual analysis and literature review. Findings – The problem of change (what it is, how it happens and how we can know it has happened) is essential to our understanding of information as information normally implies some kind of change in knowledge state. Any process of change, however, on examination of its qualities, appears to necessitate the combination of irreconcilable and conflicting forces. The apparent contradictions within the existence of change as discussed in “Parmenides” also exist in IR on both a theoretical and a technical level. Research limitations/implications – Change is a central concept for information in general and IR in particular. A deeper understanding of the paradoxical nature of change can provide new insights into IR theory and practice. Originality/value – The paper presents a new historical philosophical perspective on the nature of change and applies it to current IR problems.

Type: Article
Title: Information retrieval (IR) and the paradox of change: An analysis using the philosophy of Parmenides
Location: UK
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1108/00220411211225601
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00220411211225601
Language: English
Keywords: Philosophy, Information Retrieval, Dialectic, Library and Information Science, Change
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Information Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1346479
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