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SilsSupplEssay

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 2 months ago

My interest in pursuing an information science degree is both professional and personal.

 

Communicating ideas to other people has been the theme of all my professional jobs, starting as a small-town newspaper reporter to, for the last 15+ years, working as a technical writer in Research Triangle Park. In all of these cases, I was a conduit for information flowing from the source—-be it developer or government official—-to a consumer—-such as a taxpayer or computer user.

 

While my work has involved shaping information and making it palatable to others who need to know it, I have always felt several steps removed from the source. On occasion, I'd be called in to help design a user interface or test an application, but by that time, my contributions arrived too late to alter the course of a project. Technical writers have an in-joke of “fixing the app in the documentation”; that is, using the online help or manual to explain to the user any awkwardnesses in the program's UI or execution. I always thought I could have added more benefit had I worked closer to the processes where the initial information needs were discovered, conceptualized, and coded.

 

Therefore, my interest in information science lies in my desire to move closer to the source of the problems that need to be solved, engage more in the discovery process as a project is defined, and play a bigger role in bringing a solution to the surface.

 

In the end, my career interest again revolves around communicating information, in a clear and understandable way, to someone who needs it. But in this case, I want that communication to be embedded in the design, architecture, and execution of a product that meets a user's information needs. My belief about technical writing has always been that, if the product was well-designed, then documentation wouldn't be necessary. The application would be its own documentation and would communicate its functionality and benefit clearly to the user. I think that the training, knowledge, and education I would receive from the MSIS program would move me closer to achieving this ideal.

 

Quite apart from my professional interest in shaping and communicating information is a personal interest: either as a personality quirk or a side-effect of my jobs, I am an information packrat.

 

For any workgroup I'm in, I'm typically seen as the team's historian/librarian, and so organizing wads of scattered notes, files, emails, or images into a coherent, searchable, comprehensible whole has come to be a part of my worklife. It's a knack that's always fascinated me in my private life as well, as I've picked up and put down more PIM packages than I'd like to talk about, as I maintain a commonplace book of quotes, as I prune and refile clippings that might have meaning someday. For me, the idea is still dazzling of the perfect information system that can store my personal information, categorize it, and retrieve it effortlessly.

 

These professional and personal questions are at the core of what fascinates me in my work and my personal life, and I look forward to exploring them in more depth as a SILS graduate student.

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