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IMS5048: Information Continuum -- Lecture 3

Topic 4: Examples of Parts of the Information Continuum Model

9 August 2005.


1.The Information Continuum Model: structuration, time and space.

2.Exploring the 4 Dimensions of the Information Continuum.

Dimensions Case Studies -- The ‘Sports Rorts' Affair, Encyclopedia of Melbourne , Vicnet.



Digitised readings

Giddens, A. (1987), ‘Time and social organisation', in: Giddens, A. (1987), Social theory and modern sociology , Stanford University Press, pp. 140-165.

Gregory, D. (1986), Time-geography, in: Johnston, R. J., Gregory, D. and Smith, D. M. (eds) (1986), The dictionary of human geography, Blackwell Reference, Oxford, pp. 485-487.

Recommended Gregory, D. (1986), Time-space distanciation, in: Johnston, R. J., Gregory, D. and Smith, D. M. (eds) (1986), The dictionary of human geography, Blackwell Reference, Oxford, pp. 489-492.

Blaikie, N. (1993), Structuration theory, in: Blaikie, N. (1993), Approaches to social enquiry, Polity Press in association with Blackwell, Cambridge, pp. 118-124.

1.The Information Continuum Model: Time and Space in social systems:

and their contrasting ideas -- chaos, ephemeral experience, formlessness, and non-identity -- create common concerns for many sociologists.

1.1.Giddens makes a number of general statements of relevance to the ICM, and its functions:

Social structures are not bound by time and space, but exist in them at identifiable moments. Social systems are different, being bound up in the daily human interactions that occur all the time.

Systems reproduce themselves (by transformation and mediation) using structural principles.

Social practice recurs time and time again, giving rise to continuity, reproduced systems, which amount as a group to formation of structure. (This idea Giddens labels as ‘the duality of structure', asserting that overall structure is the medium and outcome of smaller systems).

During social interactions, humans have purposes, reasons and motives for acting. Some of these are conscious, some unconscious.

The seeds of construction or destruction are always active in systems. Systems are functional, structures are non-functional.

Construction or its opposite (destruction) are never inevitable. Reproduction of systems is contingent and historical, subject to chance and timing. Systems never aim to explain reproduction, just to describe its path. Actors can never be fully aware of all conditions in which they act. Actions are not all predictable; they have many unintended consequences.

1. immediacy surrounding a social act; 2. the life cycle of the actor; and 3. the long-term sustainability of social institutions surrounding the actor. Transferred knowledge is one essential part of action which shapes human strategy in coherent ways. Another is the longevity of social institutions (and associated practices) themselves.

Power is more important than the social meaning of acts, and of the normative content of them. Power relations provide resources for action. Structural properties allow for domination.

‘Cohesion' and ‘consensus' are inadequate to describe the required reciprocity of social practices.

Tensions within the structure are the universal norm.

1.2.The Information Continuum Model uses these ideas, and highlights characteristics common to all forms of recorded and unrecorded information, with aim of helping unravel the complexities of the details of all types of communicative transactions. It can help inform and order enquiries into:

The Information Continuum Model highlights the critical significance of managing metadata, deploying technologies, and negotiating the interrelationship between action and the social and organisational structures in which it occurs, and links these activities to the construction and reconstruction of memory in our society.

2.Exploring the Dimensions of the Information Continuum, using examples.

In this section, we present an example of an ‘information situations', based around the ‘Sports Rorts' affair, the Encyclopedia of Melbourne , and Vicnet. The ‘Sports Rorts' example ultimately caused the resignation of a federal cabinet minister, Ros Kelly.

The Information Continuum Model has been developed in conjunction with a tripartite typology of information -- which refers to accountability, knowledge and information/entertainment purposes. The ‘Sports Rorts' example deals more with the accountability aspects of an undocumented situation.

2.1.The ‘Sports Rorts' affair.

The ‘Sports Rorts' affair was a classic case study in accountability, where the alleged offence (commonplace political pork-barrelling) was overshadowed by the revelation of incompetent and incomplete recordkeeping practices. The Australian Minister involved (Ros Kelly) painted herself into a corner from which the media were not going to let her escape. James McKinnon gives a full treatment of the political and media issues. Newspaper records provide another perspective on the affair.


McKinnon, J. (1994). The 'Sports Rorts' affair: A case study in recordkeeping, accountability and media reporting. New Zealand Archivist , 5 (4), 1-5.

Tasmanian sources on the affair and principles of Freedom of Information, at http://www.foi.law.utas.edu.au/active/abstracts/abstracts/1994Tas73PPL.html .

Comparable behaviours by more recent ministers, cited in the Sydney Morning Herald , at http://old.smh.com.au/news/0002/04/national/national16.html .

A conference paper by the N.S.W. Auditor General in May 2002, at http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/agspeech/IIR-2-5-02.pdf .

A full account of the recordkeeping consequences by Professor Sue McKemmish, Head of SIMS, and a colleague, at a 1999 conference paper, at http://www.archivists.org.au/events/conf99/mckemmish_acland.html .

From an academic legal perspective the case has provided useful discussion, at http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/pics/oz/flemming.pdf .

Very clearly, the ‘Sports Rorts' affair points to recordkeeping failures. Ros Kelly, in her role as Minister for Sports, a role associated with particular authorities and responsibilities, undertook action in relation to granting public funding to sporting bodies. When put to the test of accounting for her actions she was

unable to do so. No adequate records had been kept -- whether because they had never been created and captured in the first place, or because they had been destroyed in a cover up (the more sinister explanation), was never clear. The affair was investigated by both Parliament and the Auditor-General, generating a series of reports. It was also the subject of extensive media coverage, a cause celebre.

There have been recent repetitions of this scenario: see: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.smh.com.au/ffximage/2004/05/04/th_johnanderson60.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.smh.com.au/am/2004/11/26/%3Ffrom%3Dlhsnav&h=40&w=60&sz=1&tbnid=tgO1v0xAURQJ:&tbnh=40&tbnw=60&hl=en&start=1&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dsports%2Brorts%2Bsite:au%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26sa%3DG.

From an accountability perspective, the key issues in this case are:

A schematic summary of the accountability aspects of the above political dilemma is outlined here, taken from http://www.archivists.org.au/events/conf99/mckemmish_acland.html :

Macro Level Failures in Recordkeeping Accountability:

•  Piecemeal recordkeeping regimes.

•  Inadequate recordkeeping law.

•  Weak or non-existent links with other accountability players & mechanisms.

•  Archival authorities not ‘equipped with powers adequate to their purposes' or with outdated or distorted mandates.

•  Lack of professional standards and benchmarks for recordkeeping best practice.

Micro Level Failures in Recordkeeping Accountability:

•  Failure of Cabinets, senior ministers, public servants, police officers, boards of directors, CEOs and businessmen and women to make records in the first place or to ‘keep them faithfully' once made.

•  Deliberate cases of illegal destruction.

•  Inadequate or non-compliant corporate recordkeeping systems in both the public and private sector.

Organisational Risks of Recordkeeping Accountability Failures:

Societal Risks of Recordkeeping Accountability Failures:

As a useful exercise, test the ICM against the ‘Sports Rorts' affair. Look at all genres of information (with reference to the evidence, knowledge and infotainment typology of purposes).

Try answering these questions.

Q.1 In terms of the factors operating in the Create dimension of the Model:

Q.2 In terms of the factors operating in the Capture dimension of the Model during and after the affair:

Q.3 In terms of the factors operating in the Organise and Pluralise dimensions of the Model:

Q.4 What kind of interaction was occurring between/among the dimensions?

Q.5 How has the ‘Sports Rorts' affair come to form part of our collective or societal memory and what is its status as memory?


The Information Continuum Model places into a single framework, common problems which information specialisations face in relation to data storing and archiving, the management of recorded information through time, and the management of documents and knowledge of all kinds. Those common problems include how systems can be given duration through time, what is the role of metadata, how is memory managed, and how does all this relate to social actions and structures? The Model particularly draws attention to information management theory and practices in relation to:

2.2.The Encyclopedia of Melbourne project.

Another example is a project from 2000-2001 at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University, and the History Department at the University of Melbourne, is the Encyclopedia of Melbourne . It is planned that the Encyclopedia to be published soon, ‘will emphasise the contribution made by the metropolis of Melbourne to national history and identity'. The Encyclopedia will include some 1,500 entries and more than 1,000 illustrations. In addition to the substantial print version of the Encyclopedia , a multimedia version is

planned (see: http://www.emelbourne.net.au/).


In terms of the IC Model, the societal event of the centenary of federation presented an opportunity for a great milestone project. A formal project structure was established at corporate level, based at Monash University,

to carry out the project.


A stimulus for choosing this particular project is the past individual and collaborative experience and writings of key participants. The main editor is Andrew May-Brown.

The Chair of the Encyclopedia 's Committee of Management is Professor Graeme Davison (1979), author of The rise and fall of marvellous Melbourne , and other histories. It will in turn contribute to corporate and collective stores of memory.


Fundamental to the meaning of the project is the overall categorisation needed to marshal and present a vast body of information. The quest for appropriate Metadata/Categorisation begins with the convening of thematic collaborative Working Groups to ‘compile a list of headwords for the Encyclopedia'. The Working Groups include:

Their work will eventually lead to a corporately agreed classification scheme for the Encyclopedia which links to globally accepted ways of categorising knowledge.


The ways in which the project opportunity is perceived; past experience is interpreted; and the metadata categories built up, are all influenced by an awareness of the state of technology. For such a project, at the present time, a

print edition is seen to be essential both for contemporary usefulness and for the fidelity and fixity of the archive.

The first publication was planned for the end of the millenium. There were delays. Now it is planned for release in October 2005 and ‘can be ordered online from Cambridge University Press' (http://www.emelbourne.net.au/#).

Producing six or eight hundred pages of print presents a huge challenge, but the project has clear boundaries. To print and distribute a longer work at an acceptable price is not possible; so the print edition sets its own boundaries, and the task of the compilers is ‘merely' to ensure that scholarship of the best possible quality is packed into the pages, with a categorisation arrangement that offers clarity of arrangement and reliable access to content via one or more indexes.

The requirements for a multimedia version are much less clear. Multimedia offers no easily identifiable physical boundary to the work. A CD-ROM conforming to international standards can hold the equivalent of approximately

300,000 pages of printed text -- more if special data compression techniques are used. This would be more than ample to present the equivalent of the printed version of the encyclopedia, including illustrations, and with greatly

enriched hypertext and full-text searching. On the other hand, if heavy use is made of high quality video in a uniquely multimedia version of the work, a CD-ROM might be a fairly limited vehicle for an encyclopedia (http://www.monash.edu.au/pubs/monmag/issue3-99/item-02.html). A combination of CD-ROM and Website might be used (both standard global, interoperable technologies). Hot links could be established with innumerable other sites to support extended exploration beyond the encyclopedia itself. The Encyclopedia could spawn associated listservers, bulletin boards, or electronic chat room contributions to its constant review and expansion of the encyclopedia - either for a global audience, or customised for informal collaborative groups or for formal corporate bodies such as schools, universities, research institutions or historical societies.

What of the content of the multimedia version of the Encyclopedia ? How far should the potentialities of the technology be used? Instead of just an article or photograph about shopping in Bourke Street in 1850, the Encyclopedia could provide the opportunity to go shopping in virtual reality. More than this, each item in the shopping bag could be used as a gateway to explore the manufacturing and trade relationships of the time, and so on -- passing through one hypertext gateway after another, virtual world upon world. (Media used for such purposes could be non-interoperable and proprietory or generic. The choice made would affect both the Action and Memory Attribute sets, and also carry implications for Metadata/Categorisation). It is easy to become lost in the technological fantasy of what might be possible. The technological potentialities of multimedia, even more than those of print or even cinema, demand that the technological decision makers for the work focus clearly on the other three Attribute Sets of the IC Model, to decide what boundaries -- if any -- to place on the work, since multimedia technology does not of itself provide such boundaries.


As you study the 4 Dimensions on the ICM diagram, reflect on the following: concurrency is relevant to reading the dimensions. In the Create dimension, for example, individuals may be interacting with small collaborating groups, with organisational systems or with collective memory at the same time, or with only one -- but any one. The dimensions with which they are interacting will in turn influence the nature of the communication.

In terms of recording the communications, the pattern is broadly as follows: at the Create dimension, an idea is expressed as an event; in the Capture dimension one starts to get into the preservation of communications in documented form, which is a necessary pre-requisite for groups to build on their communications; in the Organise dimension one begins to organise the information within larger framework; at the Pluralise level, the range of individuals, groups and organisations that draw upon the documentation is multiple, and this must be taken into account within the documentation process.

1D Create.

The dimension in which one or more participants engage in a communicative action, including the materials and systems they use, the way they identify and categorise their action, the structures in place, and the way individual participants draw on, and contribute to, stored memory.

2D Capture.

The dimension in which common controls are developed suitable for storing communicative actions within collaborating groups, including the materials and systems used, the identication and categorisation of stored communicative actions, the structures in place, and the way in which collaborating groups draw from, and contribute to, stored memory.

3D Organise.

The dimension in which captured communicative actions are organised to meet the needs of an organization or information community, including the materials and systems involved, the identification and categorization schemes used, the structures in place, and the way an organisation or information community draws from, and contributes to, stored memory.

4D Pluralise.

The dimension in which captured and organised communicative actions are brought together and shared beyond and among organisations and societies, including the materials and systems involved, the identification and categorisation used, the structures in place, and the way in which organisations and societies draw from, and contribute to, stored memory.

Explore the VICNET website at http://www.vicnet.net.au for better understanding of this example. Also, make sure that you have read Donald Schauder, Graeme Johanson, Larry Stillman (2005), ‘Sustaining and transforming a community network: The information continuum model and the case of VICNET', in Journal of community informatics , v 1, no 2, at: http://ci-journal.net/viewarticle.php?id=82&layout=abstract , in pdf or html.

VICNET, based at the State Library of Victoria, gives all Victorians access to the World Wide Web, and increasingly to other Internet functionalities like e-mail and listservers, via their local public libraries. Equally importantly, it works to promote Victorian content on the World Wide Web. A vast range of Victorian community organisations, professional associations, local and state government departments have sites which are either resident on VICNET's server, or are included in VICNET's menus and indexes.

VICNET encourages individuals and groups to Create information resources suitable for the Web environment. It trains people to recognise those communicative actions that could be effectively conducted via the Web environment. It guides them in drawing on their experience -- their individual, group, corporate and collective memory resulting from previous communicative actions -- to enrich their communications with content and depth. VICNET assists them to categorise in standardised ways their content in ways that enhance clarity of presentation, and equips them to use generic technology (e.g., HTML, VRML) for creation of documents.

With this base of personal knowledge and skills, the Capture Dimension can be realised, with people taking collaborative or corporate action to bring together the information resources needed to offer an effective Website. Collaborative or corporate action is empowered by the bringing together of memory and experience in the development of the service by the group. Consensus is reached on the categories or metadata that are meaningful to the collaborating or corporate group and which they judge would assist their audience. These become a metadata standard within the group. The group's computing equipment is deployed as a system, rather than stand-alone units, to obtain maximum creative synergy in the use of technology.

In the third Organise Dimension the contributed Website becomes incorporated into VICNET's production structure, and must conform with whatever VICNET standards have been set in regard to content, categorisation or technical approach. In other words the service becomes part of VICNET's organisational framework. It also becomes part of VICNET's backup and archiving regime, contributing to VICNET's organisational memory. VICNET-wide categorisation/metadata is applied to all the Websites included in the VICNET the service. Technologically, sites included in VICNET must conform to VICNET's corporate server and telecommunications regime.

To be part of VICNET, a contributed Website must conform to the international technical standards of the Internet (TCP/IP). Thus it automatically has the technical potential to Pluralise, i.e., to be integrated within social or corporate frameworks other than VICNET (e.g. a Victorian bird-watching site, along with similar sites from all over the world, might all be integrated with the site of an international bird-watching association). If such wider involvement is a desired action of the participants, it may be necessary for them to adjust their site's categorisation or metadata regime to allow harmonisation with a diversity of frameworks -- perhaps by using an international thesaurus of terms, or supplementing local Australian metadata with vocabulary or categories that are meaningful within the collective memory of participants in the wider - perhaps global - social group with whom communication is sought. In addition, those wider groups may attach metadata which sits ‘on top' of metadata offered by the Victorian site itself.

3.Purposes: a typology of information.


Information as evidence of social and organisational activity provides proof of personal, business and cultural activity, enabling people to account for what they do to each other. It helps establish personal and cultural identity; and functions as personal, corporate or collective memory. As an instrument of power and authority, it helps regulate and control business and social relationships between people and organisations. Information as evidence is the focus of recordkeeping and archiving.

In our culture a will is an excellent example:

3.2.Knowledge (awareness).

Information as knowledge perpetuates and conveys bodies and areas of thought, ideas, feelings and opinions. Such information is the focus of educational institutions, libraries (including film and sound libraries) and much publishing.

An excellent example is a dictionary. A comprehensive dictionary performs multiple knowledge transfer functions:

3.3.Infotainment, enjoyment

Information for entertainment and enjoyment is the focus of many novels, movies and multimedia games, popular art and music.

An excellent example is the rules for a board game, such as chess, also playable online now. Entire libraries have been published about chess moves.

The Anderson Chess Collection, http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/collections/chess/ , at the State Library of Victoria, contains over 12,000 items including books, tournament reports, magazines and pamphlets.

It is the third largest collection in the world. This collection was originally donated to the Library in 1956 by Magnus Victor Anderson, a Melbourne accountant and keen chess player. Anderson personally looked after the collection for the next 10 years, purchasing books including a selection of rare early publications, writing out catalogue cards and answering various requests from the general public. By the time he died in 1966, the Anderson Chess Collection had expanded from 1,500 books to over 6,000 volumes. Since then, the Library has continued to acquire a wide range of materials relating to chess. This includes any work that is published in Australia, a range of manuscripts and ephemera, all books in English and major works in other languages, a variety of chess magazines in many languages, and reports of tournaments from every country.


Interpretive -- concerning the meaning of informational situations to participants. Interpretive schemes are shared stocks of knowledge which humans draw upon to interpret actions and behaviour, thus achieving meaningful interaction and communication.

Language is an example.

Facilitative -- concerning the power relationships (including resource allocation) in informational situations. Facilities are the means through which intentions are realised, goals are accomplished and power is exercised. It includes the ability to mobilise and allocate material and human resources.

For Giddens, power originates everywhere and is permanent, being linked to the concept of agency. Power is capacity -- fundamentally, power is the capacity to achieve outcomes. Power is expressed and exercised through resources, where resources are the medium for the actions of the agent. Giddens theorises two sorts of resource: allocative and authoritative. Allocative resources refer to the dominion of human beings over the natural world (e.g., controlling the policy about where mobile phone towers can be located in the landscape); authoritative resources are the possibility of dominion over the social world through the exercise of power over others (e.g., media monopolies).

Image: phone tower at Kinglake.

See: http://www.webstylus.net/talks/struct/ .

Normative -- concerning the beliefs of participant about what is acceptable and appropriate in informational situations. Norms are rules and conventions of appropriate conduct which define legitimate interaction within the moral order of a setting. Human actions are sanctioned by drawing on norms (i.e. what is seen as ‘normal') of behaviour and society.

An example is the law of censorship, or netiquette (forbidding flaming).

For other examples, see: Don Schauder, ‘The Information Continuum and the making of e-culture', in APAN Workshop on E-Culture, Bangkok, 26 January 2005, at: http://www.apan.net/meetings/bangkok2005/presentation/eCulture/APANe-cultureFin-Don.ppt .


Shanks, G. (1997). The challenges of strategic data planning in practice: an interpretive case study. The Journal of Information Systems , 6, 69-90.

Some of these ideas can be viewed at http://www.dis.unimelb.edu.au/staff/graeme/615-645ISMod/Week%2012%20Strat%20Data%20Planning.pdf .

A related study is to be found at .

Graeme Johanson 8 August 2005.