Monday, December 04, 2006

Communications Breakdown

At SUNY Buffalo, they have decided to dismantle their School of Informatics. Why? Well, read the article and tell me if it doesn't sound like nobody involved can explain just what 'Informatics' means. A member of the founding committee tried to describe it in the local newspaper:

"The study of informatics goes beyond the technical aspects of information technology and focuses on human interaction with information and information systems," wrote Jeff Carballada in a July 1, 2006 opinion piece in The Buffalo News. "As these systems become more complex, it is critical that we deepen our understanding of the societal implications of how information is disseminated and utilized."

Um, okay. But, unfortunately the heavy-handed Provost Satish Tripathi didn't understand what that means, and nobody could explain it to him.

"(Tripathi) had repeatedly refused to free up resources, indicating he was not ready to invest more in the school when he felt its focus was unclear," Penniman said. "He consistently rejected arguments regarding the broader definition of informatics that took us beyond the computing domain into a broader perspective of informatics."

It could perhaps be defined by its parts, but that was a problem too.

"The School of Informatics was originally conceived as constituting three departments and one school: Communication, Media Study, Computer Science and Engineering and Library Studies. Subsequently, two of the departments (Media Study and Computer Science and Engineering) declined to merge to establish the school." he said.

Okay, so Communication and Library Studies? They decided at first to "focus on the 'intersection of human communication and information processes'." But, that was apparently too vague, and Tripathi investigated the school, as he describes in managereese:

"As a result of the school's strategic planning process, I gained a broad and comprehensive perspective from the faculty as to the efficacy of the school and the ability of the school to develop intellectual — academic and scholarly — synergies between the (Departments of Communication and Library and Information Studies)."

Uh, okay. Academic synergies. Very important.

Anyway, Tripathi still didn't know what was going on here.

Says another member of the Founding Committee:
"Provost Tripathi was always questioning the program and how it fit in with fields like computer science," he said. "In my opinion, the provost just didn't get it."

Yeah, old man! You just don't understand us! We're the future and you just can't handle it!

Anyway, the Provost claims that he couldn't figure the school out, so he decided to dissolve it, which solves the problem, I guess. But, since nobody is losing a job, they say they will surivive:
"We were strong before the School of Informatics, I believe that we were strong during the School of Informatics, and I think that we'll be strong after the School of Informatics."


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