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CIRSS Seminar - What are databases, really?


Friday, January 25, 2019
4pm - 5pm

126 IS

Event Details

Session leaders: Karen Wickett (Assistant Professor, iSchool at Illinois) and Andrea Thomer (Assistant Professor, University of Michigan School of Information)
Description: Though databases have been well-defined and amply discussed in the computer science literature, the actual users of databases often have varying -- and sometimes, conflicting -- conceptions and expectations of this essential infrastructure. Varied beliefs about the capacities, functionalities, and purpose of databases can lead to issues in the development and implementation of database systems, as well as problems for data curators tasked with the care, management, and feeding of these systems over the long term.

In this talk, we present in-progress work that asks: what do we talk about when we talk about databases? More specifically, where do stakeholders’ views of databases conflict, and what are the implications of this mismatch? We review prior critical analyses of databases and their effects; present examples of database definitions from across domains; and discuss implications of these varying definitions for both research and practice.


* Biosketches:

Karen M. Wickett is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois. Her research areas include the conceptual and logical foundations of information organization systems and artifacts. She is most interested in the analysis of common concepts in information systems, such as documents, datasets, databases, digital objects, metadata records, and collections. Before joining the faculty at the iSchool at Illinois, Wickett was on the faculty of the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, where she taught courses and conducted research on information modeling and conceptual modeling in data curation. Prior to her faculty appointment at UT Austin, Wickett was a postdoctoral research associate for the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS) at the iSchool.

Andrea Thomer is an assistant professor of digital curation at the University of Michigan School of Information. She earned her doctorate at the School of Information at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign in 2017. She conducts research in the areas of digital curation, museum informatics, earth science informatics, information organization, and computer supported cooperative work. She is particularly interested in the long-term usability of digital collections and their infrastructures. She has prior work experience in natural history museum curation and paleontology, which she she continues to draw on in her research.

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