i often refer to myself half-jokingly as a
web plumber, because that is what describes many of the things i am thinking about pretty accurately. on the other hand, it does not sound like a respectable thing to do as an academic, and it also has lost a bit of appeal since joe the plumber has tarnished the plumbing profession.
more generally, i am often asking myself what i am interested in in comparison to well-established academic fields with large departments associated with their names, most importantly
computer science. it occurred to me that there seem to be two axes to this, one being
information, and the other being
engineering. and since one of my main interests is what i usually refer to as
web architecture, let's throw in some
web and some
architecture for good measure. so what do we end up with?
|Science||Computer Science||Information Science||Web Science|
|Engineering||Computer Engineering||Information Engineering||Web Engineering|
|Architecture||Computer Architecture||Information Architecture||Web Architecture|
out of these combinations,
computer science (the general field),
information science (often associated with the library context),
computer engineering (building computer systems),
web engineering (building web-facing applications),
computer architecture (design considerations for building computer systems), and maybe
web architecture (how the web is designed as a system) may have some reasonably well-defined boundaries and are more or less well-established fields. this leaves
information engineering, and
information architecture as not-so-well-defined fields.
- web science: the recently started Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) has captured this term, but given it an extremely broad scope (our students half-jokingly nominated the graphical depiction of web science as the worst venn diagram ever). from most discussions i have heard so far, it seems that almost everything is included in the scope of web science, which makes its existence as a well-defined field problematic.
- information engineering: there is little to find about this term. it seems it was used as a name for some very specific method in software engineering, and for little else. i am intrigued by this term, because it is not exclusively focusing on the web, but still focuses on engineering as a term describing constraint-based design.
- information architecture: to me, it appears that this field has many different competing definitions. in many cases, my issues with these definitions is that they primarily focus on the surface of how to define and design information structures and interfaces, and that there is little focus on how this information can be most easily shared, transmitted, or transformed.
from this little survey, it appears that the term information engineering is up for grabs. and i really like it, because it shifts the focus away from the web (which should just be one well-established system for providing and consuming loosely coupled services), and focuses on the central issue of the services we look at: supporting cooperation in information-centric scenarios. i also really like the term
engineering, because it is less theoretical than
science, and less vague than
architecture. for me, the most important facet of engineering is that it always describes design based on constraints, and not in some idealized vacuum.
so from now on i'll try to promote the term
information engineering for a number of the things i am doing. it has a reasonably safe distance to anything with
computer in it and thus allows to simply view computers as tools for getting information from producers to consumers. the
engineering part makes clear that this is done in a way which clearly focuses on constraint-based design considerations and decisions. as a grand plan, i would hope to see information engineering to emerge as a discipline separate from computer science, one which looks at computers and computer networks as tools, focuses on information-centric scenarios, and is mainly concerned with the question of how to design and implement information-centric systems that work well in constrained environments.