Information without borders

Day-long conference hosted by Dal management students

- February 1, 2012

(From left) IWB Committee co-chair Kate MacDonald, communications and registration chair Heather Buchanan, and co-chair Laura Dukowski. (Kevin Hartford photo)

Copyright protection or greed? Intellectual property or censorship?

“Open Access and Closed Content: The Information Dichotomy” is the theme of this year's Information Without Borders (IWB) Conference, an annual, day-long event led by students from Dal's Faculty of Management.

“There are many issues to be addressed,” says Peter Webster, associate university librarian at SMU's Patrick Power Library. “Keeping an open mind and considering many perspectives is critical.”

Mr. Webster will be one of several participants in a debate on the problems currently facing information professionals. “These are times of exciting and rapid change and it's valuable to me to engage in conversations about the larger issues. I learn a great deal from what others—audience and speakers—have to say.”

Bertrum MacDonald, a professor in Dal's School of Information Management who will be moderating the debate, says, “The themes are relevant to the full campus community and are especially timely given current major developments in the US Congress and elsewhere to control access to information.”

Discussing the issues


There will be two panel discussions at the event. One of them, titled “Information Sharing Across and Within Organizations,” will include Sandra L. Cascadden, a Dal graduate and chief health information officer with the Nova Scotia Department of Health.

Michael Cestnik, a student in Dal's Master of Public Administration program, will be moderating the panel, and says it will focus on "cloud computing, information storage, privacy concerns, and change-resistant culture" issues among universities, hospitals, and government departments. "How well any of these agencies are able to handle these concerns determines how effective and efficient they'll be as an organization."

The other panel discussion, entitled “Intellectual Property Law: Trends and Implications,” will feature Darrell Varga, Canada research chair of contemporary film and media studies at NSCAD, and Marc Belliveau, a Dal graduate who practices intellectual property law with national firm Stewart McKelvey.

“Internet law and intellectual property laws have evolved since the early nineties,” Mr. Belliveau says, “and it seems in the last decade there's a real trend toward closing up content and regulating the internet. I believe intellectual property laws should be reasonable, balanced between users and owners.” Mr. Belliveau says he hopes attendees will walk away from the conference with a desire to help modernize copyright laws to favour users and creators over corporations.

Mark McHale, a student in Dal's Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program, will be moderating the intellectual property panel. He says that having speakers who come from a variety of disparate backgrounds is ideal because “some have a utilitarian view of information, while others are concerned with the principles that affect information flows. This is an opportunity to hear different viewpoints that will challenge attendees to think about information differently.”

International presenters


The IWB Conference will host a number of guests from Canada and the United States.

Conference speakers include Harlan Onsrud, a research scientist and professor of spatial information science and engineering at the University of Maine, and Mark Leggott, university librarian at the University of PEI's Robertson Library. Keynote addresses will be given by Leslie Chan, a senior lecturer at the University of Toronto with a lengthy history of involvement with open access initiatives, and Jeff Shelstad, CEO and co-founder of New York-based Flat World Knowledge, a company that offers free, open-source university-level textbooks and supplemental material.

Mr. Shelstad's experience will “make for an interesting perspective on information in education,” says Kate MacDonald, an MLIS student and co-chair of the IWB committee. “Particularly because of his background in traditional textbook publishing combined with his current endeavours to make educational resources more affordable and accessible.”

Laura Dukowski, an MLIS student and IWB committee co-chair, says she's excited to hear Dr. Chan's address. “He brings a wealth of passion and experience regarding open access distribution of research and the role that information flow plays in international development.” She believes Mr. Shelstad and Mr. Chan “will deliver completely different but equally engaging talks” that will enrich the IWB Conference's programming.

A chance to interact


The issues raised at the annual IWB Conference “are highly pertinent, not only to information managers, but also governments, businesses, and society as a whole,” says Heather Buchanan, MLIS student and IWB communications and registration chair. “The opportunity to interact with students and professionals knowledgeable on these issues would be of great value to anyone.”  

The IWB Conference takes place on February 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the McInnes Room of the Student Union Building and includes a continental breakfast and full lunch. Fees vary for students and professionals. Registration info can be found on the IWB website or by emailing iwb@dal.ca. You can also follow the conference on Twitter at @IWB_Conference


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