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Chapter 2. A personal space of informati... > 2.4 The information item and its for... - Pg. 36

CHAPTER TWO: A PERSONAL SPACE OF INFORMATION kind of personal information--information directed toward "me." Considerations surrounding the fourth sense of personal information--information sent or posted or otherwise provided by "me" are discussed especially in Chapter 10's coverage of email and Chapter 13's coverage of web- based PIM. The fifth sense of personal information--information experienced by "me" (to which we might like to return)--and the sixth sense of personal information--information that is relevant or useful to "me"--are discussed as part of Chapter 4's coverage of finding and re-finding and in Chapter 11's coverage of search. Note that distinctions between the different senses of personal information can quickly blur. For example, a session of web browsing can be recorded by a history facility in the person's web browser so that this record becomes a part of the information kept by (for) the person. The person may also, knowingly or unknowingly, provide identifying information to a visited web site which can then go into a record about the person (his or her web site visits) that is maintained by others (e.g., the webmaster of the web site or the employer's IT department). 2.4 The information item and its form When Buckland wrote of "information-as-thing," one thing he spoke of first and that likely comes first to our minds too is the document. However, the word "document" has resisted easy definition. Levy provides an introductory meditation, in his book Scrolling Forward (2001), on an ordinary cash receipt as a document. He observes that the receipt, in its use of letters, numerals, punctuation, and layout, reflects a shared convention that is the result of centuries of development and innovation. Levy concludes that "there is something remarkable about the receipt's ability to preserve or freeze some aspect of the world" (p. 19). Buckland notes that a document need not be either textual or paper-based: A printed book is a document. A page of hand-writing is a document. A diagram is a document. A map is a document. If a map is a document, why should not a three- dimensional contour map also be a document? Why should not a globe also be consid- ered a document since it is, after all, a physical description of something? (1991, p. 354) In a subsequent article, Buckland (1997) further explores the issues that arise when trying to answer the question, What is a document? Briet (1951), for example, considers an animal in a zoo--she gives the example of an antelope--to be a document. An animal in captivity (but not in the wild) has been selected (captured) to represent something beyond its physical self. A captured antelope represents a whole species of antelope, for example, as well as a specific ecosystem in Africa. Otlet (1934) asserts that any object can be considered a document, pro- vided we are informed by observing it. By this expansive definition, it would seem that anything could serve as a document. A tree stump as document tells us, by its number of rings, how old the tree was when cut. For that matter, a standing tree is a document telling us how tall it is by the shadow it casts. These definitions are too inclusive for our purposes, but at the same time the conventional sense of "document" makes its use feel awkward when applied in reference to common objects of PIM such as email messages, web bookmarks, and downloaded music. We return, 36 Keeping Found Things Found The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management