Question: What competencies do those in information services need in view of emerging technologies?

Answer: Passion, curiosity and energy. 

Reaction: Really? Curiously, passion, and energy? You’ve got to be kidding. What about meta-tagging, or content curation, or digital information governance – ….more technical competencies?

Answer: Nope. I’m serious. Without curiosity, passion and energy – let’s call them the CPE (because if nothing else, those of us in the information sector love acronyms…..), the technical competencies don’t matter. And when I look at the information sector, I see it from its broadest perspective – information services,  information management (IM), archives, libraries, data, records and documents management, knowledge management (KM), etc. For a sector so broad, our CPE is what can – and should – make all the difference “in view of emerging technologies”.

Curiosity:

Those of us in the information management (IM) realm must be curious about:

  • Technologies. What technologies are emerging – and in what sectors? Most importantly,  how are these technologies changing processes, products, media, work, life? Technologies, after all, are based on information.
  • People. How are technologies impacting peoples’ work, life, behaviours, interactions and thinking – as individuals and as a society?

Passion:

Simultaneously, we must be passionate about a particular area or domain of this vast information and technology arena.  What excites us about the information life-cycle? Are we most passionate about how information is created? How to organize it? How people learn about it – and apply it? How it influences society or work processes? What are we curious and passionate about? It can’t be the whole information services life-cycle – our passion needs focus on a specific area.

Because…… to keep current on that area, and to feed our passion, follow our curiosity and develop the requisite competencies demands extraordinary energy.

Energy:

To work in this sector and sustain our competencies, our passion and curiosity, whether in archives, records, documents, digitization, process improvement, or libraries, require enormous energy. 

Most of us work in information services and IM or KM because we are curious, passionate and willing to put the energy into designing and delivering ways in which people, organizations and communities use information to propel themselves forward.

Artificial intelligence(AI) which is the key driver of emerging technologies is based on information. This gives those of us in the information sector a bevy of choices. Be curious about the type of work you’re most passion about – and seize the competencies required.

Realities help narrow our focus.

Think phygital.

While this term originated in the marketing sector (thank you marketers), it is essential for our thinking. We can’t come to grips with new realities if we keep using old terms. The reality in which we’ll use our competencies is phygital: the physical and digital worlds completely merged. Not just integrated. Merged. Blended.  As Michael Edson writes, physical and digital are just “two parts of whole”, and when we “think openly and creatively across the whole, blended spectrum of our digital and physical lives then wonderful, exciting, important things can happen.” (Leiden City of Science References, Part 4: Convenings, Places, Activities; https://bit.ly/3rtIqWV)

Is digitization a part of this? Sure – and, perhaps more importantly, is the skill of helping organizations visual their phygital business processes and building the IM systems through which data, content, voices, and visuals flow. And let’s not forget the evaluation and measurement required phygitally.

Corral and harness data.

Before you roll your eyes, look at how companies such as Instacart and many others rely on their catalogue. That’s right – catalogue, massive catalogues that must be tagged, organized, sorted, cross-referenced…..harnessed.  In e-commerce, the magic happens through databases and catalogues, which rely on taxonomies, meta tagging, and classification.

Sniff out content.

The tsunami of information created every second in images, content, objects, is useless unless curated in ways meaningful for various audiences. Investigative journalists watch for signs that something is brewing…..the sniff out a story. Curation too often occurs after information is created. Let’s watch for signs that something is brewing…..sniff out content that is being created. Let’s think about curation during content creation. Let’s also be the  information architects, the content investigative journalists and the builders of intelligence and decision-making systems, data warehouses and archival repositories.  No lack of jobs there.

Mitigate risk and scary stuff.

The world of machine learning, AI, and phygital reality can take a dark turn. Privacy, ethical information infusion into AI sytems, information governance and security, and building non-compliance measures into databases and information systems. These are all in our wheelhouse. 

Some may read this and feel I’ve neglected people-related realities.  The four realities outlined are all about people. We work in the information realm for people to use information.  These realities frame people’s world – and our work.  It’s our responsibility to hone and apply our competencies to ensure people’s phygital world is safe and rich with information they use for mundane purposes or life-changing experiences.  And our responsibility to view our work through people’s lenses.

The term “user experience” sounds as though we’re designing for a robot. Can we start by reframing user experience design as people-delighting experiences? Asking for a friend.