Keynote : Transition to the Infosphere: A New Paradigm for Library & Information Science. Vilnius, 14th June 2018

Honored to be invited to speak at Vilnius University Faculty of Communication on June 14th 2018:


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International Research Conference 2018

Communication and Information Sciences in Networked Society: Experience and Insights

Main event organiser: Vilnius University Faculty of Communication.Conference date and venue: June 14th-15th, 2018, National Open Access Scholarly Communication and Information Center,  Saulėtekio av. 5, and Faculty of Communication, Saulėtekio av. 9, Vilnius.

Vilnius University Faculty of Communication brings together researchers and pedagogues engaged in a wide spectrum communication and information research. Since 2011 Faculty of Communication has been organizing the biennial international research conference “Communication and Information Sciences in Networked Society: Experience and Insights”. Three international conferences have already attracted speakers and participants from the USA, Scandinavian, Baltic and other European countries.

Communication and information research helps to understand changes that happens when societies use digital technologies; to study how individuals, communities and organisations construct their identity, share ideas, make decisions and create new knowledge; to see opportunities and challenges in these and other communication and information processes. The goal of the conference is to bring together foreign and Lithuanian communication and information scholars and professionals for a discussion of socially significant communication and information issues and solutions in the networked society that have been identified by research and to increase student’s motivation and engagement in communication and information field.

Faculty of Communication kindly invites communication and information researchers, pedagogues, students, businesses, public institutions (e.g. archives, museums, libraries etc.) and professional associations, creative industries, governmental agencies responsible for cultural and information policies to submit presentations and take part in the conference.

Main communication and information research fields are going to be discussed at the conference: development trends and innovation in memory institutions (archives, libraries and museums), creative industries; cultural heritage communication, cultural and information services, scholarly and science communication, corporate communication, information and knowledge management, media and publishing, journalism and political communication.

Horizontal discussion themes:

  • The influence of social networking and social media (e.g., participatory culture, sharing economy, social media impact on journalism and etc.) on various fields of communication and information.
  • Identity, values and ethics, social and economic well-being in networked society (e. g., sustainable development, social responsibility, communication of immovable heritage, digital heritage repatriation etc.).
  • Changes in information and communication processes management in the digital environment (e.g., trends in information systems development and management, big data management and use in decision-making, )
  • Reflections and research on the development, processes and phenomena of communication and information sciences and studies.

Conference organisers invite to suggest topics that are significant for celebrating Centennial of the Restoration of the State of Lithuania (1918-02-16) and other important dates of restoration of the Baltic States.


CityLIS Onlife

*** In this post, I describe how we have established, and continue to develop, a digital identity for CityLIS, the collective tag for activities within the Department of Library & Information Science at City, University of London.

I feel this post is timely, as we have recently set up a group on Humanities Commons, to enhance and extend our digital identity, to explore new ways in which we can engage with contemporary scholarly communication processes, and to increase our sense of community and belonging.

Whilst our real world interactions continue to be important, our digital outputs and engagements increasingly reflect our values and achievements. As the boundary between online and offline activities becomes blurred, we need to ensure cohesion and balance between our physical and digital actions and processes. We need to address the concept of onlife. ***


CityLIS on HComms


This term I have been thinking about how to further develop our digital identity at CityLIS, in the light of ever changing technologies and scholarly communication processes.

Many of us now live in a society where the distinction between online and offline activity is blurred. Luciano Floridi calls this ‘onlife’, and a corollary is that our individual and collective online profiles have meaning to everyone with whom we engage. Of course, we would like this meaning to be positive, and consequently we should, perhaps, pause for reflection on what constitutes an online profile, and indeed what we understand to be a ‘positive’ online profile.

These are questions that doubtless will have different answers for different people. I think online profiles and digital identities can be regarded as essentially the same concept. For expediency, I suggest they are a confluence of how we describe and represent ourselves, and how we engage with others. Our identity should be authentic; indeed, the definition of digital identity is increasingly used to refer to a mechanism of authentication for financial and other transactions. I also support the idea that it is more holistic if our online personas do not stray too far from our offline counterparts, and that planned development is important for both individual identities, and the collective identities which represent groups of people, such departments, projects, organisations and institutions. This is not a novel concept, and often enacted within a ‘social media strategy’. Our social media profiles are not, however, the only mechanisms via which our digital identities are formed. It is important to consider that all of our online engagement contributes our reputation, and that the latter should not be considered as divorced from our real world existence.

Whilst it seems everyone is living onlife, I notice that many students, colleagues and whole academic departments have limited or no digital identity. Despite the overheads required in time and ability, I think the moment has come for all those of us in the academy to have a digital presence. There are many reasons for this, and plenty of work exists which advocates, for example, the increased attention, (altmetrics), enhanced recruitment, and wider professional engagement that can result from extending our analogue lives into the digital realm. However, they are not discussed further here, as my intention is to write about what we are doing at CityLIS from the standpoint that we already believe it is not only worthwhile, but essential. Digital scholarly communication has developed rapidly in the last 5 years, fundamentally challenging and changing the ways in which knowledge is created, shared, organised and developed. Anyone who wishes to be part of this activity has to inhabit the digital as well as physical environment, and to engage with its methods and processes. Within the academic realm, the processes of digital scholarly communication are leading the transition to onlife.

Onlife at CityLIS

Within the context of our work at CityLIS, we encourage all our members to establish an individual digital presence. We encourage engagement and activity that is consistently professional, relevant and/or interesting to colleagues and/or friends. This does, and should, allow for warmth, personality and the occasional surprise, but the fine line between the personal and the professional is hard to tread for some. Whilst I understand this, the need for everyone in the modern library & information services profession to embrace digital communication is critical, and there is really no excuse at all for students and academics not to have a learning and/or research blog. In some cases, the personal and professional cannot be reconciled, and multiple electronic profiles may be the only solution for those with greater personality spectrums than others.

In addition to a profile on our longstanding, institutional, electronic communication systems, (email and VLE forums), CityLIS has had an active online presence since 2009, when a couple of individual staff members took faltering steps into the, as then, unexplored realms of Tweeting and blogging. Initially the collective digital persona of CityLIS was enacted through posts on our individual blogs, and via Twitter updates tagged with #CityLIS. The twitter tag allowed others to contribute to the CityLIS collective persona, as searching for the tag returned a feed composed of posts from multiple authors.

Eight years later, we have established a standalone digital identity for CityLIS, via our account @CityLIS on Twitter and our CityLIS News blog. Both accounts take input from our members, and so portray a collective, online profile.

From September 2017, individual Twitter accounts, and a personal, professional blog will be mandatory for all new CityLIS members. We recognise that communication skills beyond the academic assignment are essential. Employers tell us that communication skills, and social-media ‘savvy’ are key among the abilities which are sought after in today’s workplace. Some of our cohort already engage with onlife at a broader level; media sharing is perhaps the most significant activity, and it is clear that our resource sharing and recommendations already include books, articles, images, videos, podcasts; the digital genie is not going back into its virtual bottle. We have thought about an Instagram account, as images feeds are undoubtably significant, but each additional facet to our digital identity, however popular or helpful, requires additonal time, and this is one of the main challenges to establishing and maintaining online presence.

The concept of onlife, however, does not exclude the material world that we inhabit, and it is important for our physical and emotional wellbeing, and professional success to blend and connect our digital personas with our analogue existence.

To this end, I would like to outline some of the innovative approaches we are taking at CityLIS to encourage knowledge creation, understanding, and sharing, alongside relationship building, with each other, with academic and professional colleagues and with the wider community. These approaches are designed to enhance both our individual and collective, digital and analogue identities.

For the past 5 years, all CityLIS members have been encouraged to set-up a Twitter account, which they can use to follow our well-known course and departmental hashtag #CityLIS. This tag has proved so popular, that other LIS departments have set up their own, for example #ucllis and #aberlis.

Students and staff are strongly encouraged to tweet, but this is not assessed in any way. Those who choose not to share resources and conversation via Twitter are asked to connect by checking what others are posting. The Tweet feed serves as an excellent way to communicate amongst our masters students, and it has proved to be a way to keep in contact with our alumni, and the wider community. Although other social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Facebook are used by some students, these tend to be used by partial cohorts, a particular student year for example, and have not been as successful in gathering everyone together as Twitter. As mentioned above, we now also have a collective @CityLIS Twitter account, run by the course team. We monitor Tweets tagged with #CityLIS and retweet them from our account, alongside original announcements and resources. This provides a wide-ranging and varied feed, reflecting the wider interests of our students, staff, researchers, friends and alumni. The Twitter feed is useful for potential students, in that they can join in the conversation before they arrive at enrolment.

We also make use of Twitter Lists, as a way of curating and sharing LIS-related collections of accounts.

All members of CityLIS are asked to set up their own blog, suitable for professional, reflective writing and for some modules, formative assessment. Apart from posts set for assessment, frequency of blogging is at the discretion of the individual. We all benefit from reading each other’s thoughts and ideas, and from experiencing different styles and levels of writing.

Personal blogs also serve as portfolios for students to take away with them once they have left the course, and in some cases the written reflections and essays can help in providing evidence of skills for job applications.

A selection of student posts is chosen for cross-posting to our collective CityLIS News blog. These can be found catagorized under ‘Student Perspectives’. They serve as an historic record of our students’ thoughts and work, and also as a window into the activities and interests of our masters students, which is useful for potential course members, and for anyone interested in contemporary writing in library & information science (LIS).

In January 2017, we introduced a new category on the CityLIS blog; CityLISWrites. In this category we publish some of the best, or most interesting student essays, which were submitted as assignments in the previous term. Much of the high quality work completed for assignments by our students lies forgotten once it has been graded. Our innovative approach encourages students to develop their essays once feedback has been received, and to share and comment on each other’s writing. This broadens understanding of essay topics, and experience of writing styles and approaches. A glance at our blog statistics shows the essay posts attract a lot of views. We are confident that sharing our work at this level enhances our digital identity.

Use of Creative Commons licences, and the existence of the Turnitin system make plagiarism from the essays unlikely, whilst citation of and engagement with student work becomes more likely. We will see what happens in time. The essays are published as stand-alone blog posts, with the permission of the authors. Grading and comments are not included. Essays to be published are chosen by the course team, from those with a grade of 60% or above. This approach works well for items of unique work, and it is accepted that not all modules or courses would produce assignment work suitable for sharing.

The face-to-face
CityLIS has a strong focus on face-to-face teaching and social interaction. Students need to attend the scheduled classes in order to gain the maximum benefit from the course, as not everything can be rendered as a digital document to be shared on our e-learning system.

In addition to our scheduled classes, we arrange a variety of optional, professional visits for our students, and we run a series of discussions around professional issues that are open to everyone, whether associated with the univesity or not. This latter series of events is  referred to as ‘AfterHours’.

We run three Open Evenings each year, at which potential masters students can find out about LIS as a discipline, what it is like to study with us, and what sort of careers the course could lead to. These popular events are attended by staff, current students and alumni, and we often have guests from the univeristy library, mentoring service, from recruitment specialists, and our professional body CILIP.

Potential CityLIS students are also welcome to attend a scheduled class of interest, if they would like to find out what attending a university course might be like, before committing to studying.

Details of all CityLIS events, and selected scheduled classes can be found on the  Events listing on our blog. Events are also promoted using Twitter. We successfully use our digital profile to enhance our physical identity.

Open Access Repository: Humanities Commons
Our newest venture goes beyond collecting and sharing our student blog posts and essays, and aims to facilitate sharing of our significant research papers, data, dissertations, theses and presentations. Whilst staff and research students are able to use the City Repository, the Humanities Commons network provides us with the opportunity to create a core collection of our combined intellectual output, including that from masters students, alumni and affiliated colleagues. The Humanities Commons offers an open access repository, and as such makes it easy for documents of all kinds to be shared. The concept of open access is a key factor for change in scholarly communication processes, with the aim of making research findings and review free to access at the point of use, and to use or develop, via the internet. The non-profit Humanities Commons network is open to all, and anyone can register in order to establish a profile, upload their work, join groups and engage in further professional communication activities. All outputs uploaded to the repository are given a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), that serves as ‘a permalink, citation source, and assertion of authorship all in one’.

We have established a group, CityLIS, on the Humanities Commons, which any student, staff member, alumni or honorary members can join, once they have registered with Humanities Commons. Members can associate their uploaded files, with the CityLIS group, so that their work is included in our collection. The collection is visible to everyone, whether a member of our group or not. The group function also allows us to communicate with each other via a discussion forum, to schedule events, to link to a website and to work collaboratively on documents.

This initiative, for us, is a work in progress, and we are encouraging our cohort to both sign up to Humanities Commons, and to join our group. We are especially keen for our alumni to share dissertations that were awarded a mark of 60% or above, and for our PhD students to upload their completed theses. In time we hope to add other significant publications, so that the collection extends and enhances our digital identity and reputation.

The success of this new facet to our CityLIS digital identity, one of a collective repository, remains to be seen. It will depend on how willing our cohort is to share their work, and to spend some time understanding how the network functions, and exploring ways in which it can be used. At the time of writing, March 2017, we have 9 members and 5 shared documents.

New communication technologies and services appear almost daily, and it is inevitable that our current solutions and practices in respect of our CityLIS digital identity will have to evolve with hardware, software, social and professional trends. There is a need to be constantly aware of how onlife works, and to understand which are the most effective and sustainable pathways through the infosphere. This takes time and resources.

Our digital identity utilizes services external to the university. This is risky, in that we have no control over the future of the services, nor even over whether they continue to exist, or not. Nonetheless, we believe establishing our digital profile in the wider networked environment is essential, if we are to be present in the spaces where knowledge creation, sharing, organisation and development takes place. Onlife diffuses the borders between our personal and professional activities, and whilst this requires diligence in navigation, we cannot be left out of the conversation.

Digital engagement requires understanding of coding, file formats, backup procedures, citation styles, copyright, attribution and permissions, and design, all of which can be complex to learn and to practice. Digital identities require a high level of digital literacy, and are consequently demanding of time and effort in addition to that required for learning, teaching and research. In academia, the responsibility for collective digital identity is often added in to individual workloads, without recognition or additional resources.

Finally, the blurring of boundaries in the infosphere allows for anti-social behaviour that is difficult to control. Keeping our digital identities safe from hacking or other abuse is yet another concern. As in real life, identities on the internet are not always trustworthy.

Measuring Success
The possibilities offered by digital scholarly communication are exciting and liberating, offering innovative ways to work which we believe will be more efficient, effective, enlightening and enjoyable. The combined activities described above allow us to extend the reach of our course beyond the classroom, and to create a greater sense of involvement and belonging. The need to create a community of learning, achievement, support and enjoyment around our course is vital in today’s world, where personal goals and relationships are all too easily ignored in favour of organisational quantification and metrics. Virtual communities can, and should, have meaning in real life.

The transition to onlife, advancing our reputation and identity by blending our online and offline personas is essential. Measuring the success of this move is difficult to do precisely however.

Twitter, blogging and repository platforms will readily provide basic descriptive statistics and analytics which can show digital engagement over time, in terms of members, followers, views, downloads, comments, citations and retweets. Correlating these measurements with organisational aims and objectives is harder, and this is something which we have yet to explore. Furthermore, it is also difficult to measure  whether we are increasing our sense of belonging and feeling of community. To undertake these measurements with any coherence requires resources.

Onlife does not provide us with a blueprint for success, and much is still uncertain. What is certain is that the activities which I have described here are a work in progress, and comments and suggestions are welcome.

Another certainty is that time only goes in one direction. Forwards then.


@CityLIS on Twitter.
CityLIS News
CityLIS on Humanities Commons

New Academic Year 16/17 at CityLIS London Library School


Image by @ludiprice cc-by

Thoughts around my talk planned for Induction this year. For reference, as I most likely won’t stick to the script.


Library & Information Science

I am delighted to welcome our new and returning students to the #citylis London Library School, as we start the academic year for 16/17. This year we are celebrating joining the University of London to become City, University of London. This new association will bring many benefits, including access to new resources, wider perspectives, and a higher profile for the work we do, and for our students and alumni.

Library and information science (LIS) addresses the questions arising from documentation of the human record. We explain this by saying that LIS research and practice focuses on the categories of activity comprising the information communication chain, shown below:


Information Communication Chain – @lynrobinson cc-by

The processes of the information communication chain are often associated with information literacy, and information professionals practice, share and promote the skills and abilities which facilitate information literacy, and more recently, digital literacies.

Another way to consider the goals of library and information science is from the perspective of scholarly communication. That is, the examination of the ways in which knowledge is created, accessed, developed, communicated, validated, preserved and re-used. The processes of scholarly communication are related to those of the broader information communication chain, and our course content will highlight issues (e.g. scholarly publishing and open access) drawn from these related perspectives.

Whilst we often use the term ‘scholarly’ in LIS discussion, our focus on understanding (see recent work by Bawden and Robinson) is intended to be inclusive, that is, of relevance to anyone from any sector of society, not solely those associated with the academy.

Changes and developments in the processes of the communication chain and in scholarly communication occur as a result of several factors. These are referred to as drivers or agents for change. The principle change agent is technology. The move within scholarly communication to digital processes has had a significant impact on the work of the LIS sector, especially in higher education and the research lifecycle, but technological changes also impact information processes within the wider community.

Whilst many definitions of LIS refer to keeping the record of humanity, it may be that we now need to expand our model, to consider documentation of the machine record, in light of contemporary developments in technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, resulting in an autonomous ability to create text, art, music etc.

Our core module DITA (Digital Information Technologies and Architecture)* sets out and explores the technological landscape as it relates to LIS. We are, however, mindful that in technology perhaps more than other subjects, today’s news is tomorrow’s recycled notepaper. Our learning ambitions look towards sustainability; we seek the ‘i’ in ‘data’, rather than the latest device. Although #citylis students have the option to take more specific computing modules as their elective, if this is of interest, our core computing content is carefully weighted towards the use of technology in helping us to answer the globally significant questions of documentation, which include:

  • how to understand the nature of documents
  • how to record and organise documents
  • how to facilitate and promote access to information
  • how to ensure equality in access to information
  • how to preserve documents
  • how to choose what to preserve
  • the ethics of documentation, including preservation, access and use
  • how to analyse documents to create new knowledge
  • how to use what we know to promote understanding

Google search for peace, love, understanding. Screenshot by @lynrobinson on 18/09/16 cc-by

Technology is often compelling, but other drivers for change must be appreciated, including politics, economics and social trends. We shall consider all of these factors as we progress through our course material.

Additionally, we will examine the role philosophy plays in providing a framework of guidance for LIS research and practice. We will look specifically at the philosophy of information as authored by Luciano Floridi, but the work of other philosophers and theorists in relation to information, documentation and communication will be introduced.

A related thread, running across the whole course, is ethics. Library and information professionals have long been engaged with ethical behaviour, in respect of issues of censurship, privacy, and equality of access. Our contemporary society, within which we cannot help but leave a digital footprint, requires us to re-examine what is meant by privacy, and to establish and understand the consequences for what we give away, perhaps unknowingly, when we use digital network services.

Manifestations of ‘ethics in action’ then, include questions posed to the scholarly community by open access, open data, and open educational resources, but also societal questions posed by access to network services, use of the internet and social media, and the impact of big data. Library and information professionals have a responsibility not only to promote ethical information behaviour, but to contribute to its definition and evolution.

Whilst core LIS material including information history, information resources, retrieval, management and use, is still very much prevalent and emphasized within our syllabus, I would like to introduce more of our new content. LIS is a broad discipline, and there is always more material than we can cover within the timescale of our masters programme. Course content is selected primarily according to the expertise, interests and understanding of our #citylis teaching team, benefiting further from the significant input of external colleagues, practitioners, alumni and current students.

One of the most noticeable areas rising to prominence for the LIS professional is data management. Within the academic and research sector, this is often written and talked about in respect of research data management, but the wider phrase, ‘data curation’, invites a broader audience from LIS workers within the social, cultural and heritage sectors to consider issues of documentation (Robinson 2016). Alongside data management, where we can envisage a data file as a document, there is the need for data metadata, i.e. data about the data. Standards in this area are just starting to emerge, as are repositories for data, directories of data repositories, data papers, and journals about data.

The increasing availability of APIs allows datasets to be searched, analysed, re-used, remixed and reimagined. APIs govern the data we can access from the massive collections accrued by social media, scientific, commercial and government bodies. Of course data collectors may not share willingly, and the contrast within our society between the increasingly visible open access/data movement, and closed data capture systems is striking. Knowledge is power, and keeping closed datasets has potential benefits for some, yet disadvantages for others.

We will also consider analysis of data. Analytics, counting things, affects us all. We have witnessed recently a striking duality in LIS, between qualitiative, informational analysis, and the contrasting quantitative approach.

These practices are already significant informational activities in disciplines from science to the humanities, and the library and information science community is ideally placed to comment on, facilitate and contribute.

Returning to more familiar territory, we are also introducing a focus on libraries, librarianship and library spaces, in relation to the current socio-political climate, and as considered alongside the historical use of space in the library, and public spaces in general.

On a more conceptual level, we will be pushing the boundaries of our discipline to consider the future of documents, the relevance and meaning of understanding, and the ways in which philosophical insight can contribute to practice within the sector.

Social Media and Communication

In addition to its forward-looking socio-technical focus, #citylis is also known for the promotion of communication and networking skills. These skills are commonly referred to within the mixed bag of ‘soft skills’, which are highly regarded by employers in all sectors. Whilst this umbrella phrase is somewhat unappealing, good communication skills have long-lasting appeal. They work even when the technological systems we use have returned to plastic dust. It will come as no surprise to anyone joining our cohort, that students and staff are encouraged to engage with and beyond their cohort via social media, as well as via more traditional scholarly output mechanisms. Our course actively promotes professional writing skills, and we consider reflective learning, practice and research throughout the year. We realise that not everyone is comfortable posting their own original material to a public forum, but we do everything we can to ensure a supportive environment, and we do require all our students to be aware of the nature, functions and advantages of social media from the LIS perspective.

We use blogs and Twitter to promote and discuss our course material, to share resources, research ideas, practice tips, to start discussions on current issues, highlight events, and to create a community of past, current and future students beyond the physical classroom, and the constraints of the course timescale. Further, we use social media tools to engage with the wider profession, and others who may not have encountered LIS before.

We are also aware of the negative side of social media engagement, and we hope to equip all our students with the skills to identify, be resilient to, and to avoid contributing to social media’s dark side. This includes online obsession, trolling, abusive or passive-aggressive posts, boast-posts, oversharing, and posting whilst drunk, otherwise intoxicated or merely very angry (!).

Whilst for resource reasons we stick to blogs and Twitter, we encourage any of our students to engage with other social media platforms in a professional capacity. Social media applications, especially those handling multimedia, are key communication mediums in the 21st century. They are always evolving however, and before investing large amounts of time and energy in an application, it is always wise to consider the long-term (say, over 5 years) future of the content.

Modus Operandi

Our courses are delivered face-to-face, and although we are a postgraduate school we do ask that everyone attends the taught sessions. All students take 8 modules, 7 core plus one elective. There is then the individual dissertation. Detailed course materials can be found on the Moodle e-learning system for registered students, but public information about indicative content can be found on our course web pages, (LS, IS). Our courses can be studied full-time for 1 year, or part-time for 2 years.

Although some course materials are available on the e-learning system, this is not intended to suggest that attending the face-to-face sessions is unnessessary. Course participants are also encouraged to engage with out-of-hours activities and social media. A greater understanding of the concepts presented throughout the course will be gained from engagement with the course cohort, and wider professional networks.

As the Programmes Office may communicate official news to students via the UK postal system, do please ensure that we have a reliable home address.

Keeping up-to-date is hard, and for many of us the amount of reading and current awareness seems almost overwhelming. It does get a little better with time, as we learn to filter out the signal from the noise, but we live in a society where there is always more to pay attention to than we have time for. We all derive our own coping strategies, which invariably includes selection, and the ability to decide what to pay attention to. This ability is one of the key skills for contemporary society.

We will provide extensive, structured lists of resources during the academic year. We aim to provide students with a fair representation of the literature, but do remember that you do not have to read everything.

We work very hard on the content of, and interconnection between, our modules. However, new ideas, references, practices, organisations and methods arise all the time, and so material encountered during the formal course time will often be superceded fairly quickly. The #citylis teaching team members act as guides through what is undoubtedly a widespread, pervasive, and rapidly changing discipline, in the hope that the frameworks and concepts we communicate will be worthwhile, and that our students will be empowered with skills for life-long learning. Hold tight as we tell the stories, check, challenge and ask questions about everything.

Enjoy the show!



Robinson L (2016). Between the deluge and the dark age; perspectives on data curation. Alexandria, 26(2), 73-76. DOI:

*From 17/18 DITA has been renamed Data, Information, Technologies and Applications