Documentation and Information Science: On some forgotten origins of the French contribution

Widad Mustafa El Hadi
University of Lille 3 – Charles de Gaulle, France

Documentation and Information Science:  On some forgotten origins of the French contribution

In my talk I will be focusing on the authors, theories, and practices that have been neglected, or forgotten by information specialists and try to assess in this retrospective exercise specialist contribution and impact on Information Science and Document theory. This exercise can be carried out according to three temporalities: going back in time, as far as the Enlightenment French philosophers and the Encyclopedists but also the significant contribution to classification theory and the footprint of Gabriel Naudé on knowledge organization. The second temporality fits with relatively recent history, from the nineteenth to the twentieth century with the birth of the francophone document theoreticians: 19th century philosopher Auguste Comte and his Broad System of Ordering, a classification inspired by the sequence of sciences running from mathematics and physics, through chemistry, biology and psychology, all the way to the social and human sciences; later S. Briet’s view of a document as something (potentially anything) made into a document close to the view that the word “document” should be used in a technical sense within information science to denote anything regarded as signifying something.  This view solved the conceptual problem of incorporating museum objects into a coherent view of information studies (Buckland, 1999). The third temporality is the thriving activities of what we call in France the Precursors among whom we can mention Eric de Grolier, Jean-Claude Gardin, Robert Pagès, Robert Escarpit and Jean Meyriat. In my talk I will examine their specific contribution to Information Science with a special focus on knowledge organization.