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Dissertation Information for David C. Blair

- David C. Blair

- Ph.D.

- Library and Information Science

- University of California, Berkeley (USA) (1981)

- Patrick Wilson

- [Indecipherable1]
- M. E. Maron

MPACT Status: Complete - Except Indecipherables


Abstract: This study describes an analysis of inquiry, where inquiry is taken to mean the purposeful search for information known or believed to already exist. Because the conduct of inquiry is so heavily dependant on the use and understanding of natural language, any theory of inquiry must presuppose a theory of meaning in language. While a theory of linguistic meaning is applicable in general to an understanding of inquiry, it is particularly important for understanding what the contextual and subject description of written texts mean. Current theories of meaning advanced by linguistics and semiotics are examined. Referential, ideational, and behavioral theories of language are rejected in favor of a pragmatic theory of language as developed in Wittgenstein's later work. The importance of the pragmatic theory of language for inquiry is demonstrated by an analysis which shows that even such straightforward examples of textual descriptions such as authors' names or citations are, in reality, very complex linguistic phenomena. Such complexity can only be explained by an activity-based pragmatic theory of language.

Having developed a theory of language in the first part of this analysis, and demonstrated its explanatory power in the second part, the third section is directed towards providing a general, descriptive theory of inquiry based on the pragmatic view of language. This pragmatic theory of inquiry shows two things: what does the inquirer have when he begins his inquiry; and, what general procedure does the inquirer tend to follow when he conducts his inquiry. At the beginning of inquiry the inquirer may be said to possess a certain amount of more or less specifiable background knowledge. This background knowledge consists not only of knowledge that certain things are the case, but, more importantly, it also comprises knowledge of how certain kinds of activities are carried out. Both kinds of background knowledge are important for inquiry. In addition to background knowledge, the inquirer may be said to have a motivation to pursue an activity or activities which inquiry supports in some way. Thus, inquiry is not typically an end in itself, but is ancillary to some broader activity which it assists either regularly or intermittently. The goal of inquiry is not information, per se, but the solution of a problem which has prevented the inquirer from beginning or continuing an activity he is motivated to pursue. This means that what the inquirer "has in mind" during the course of his inquiry is not some desired information, but a problem to be solved. This problem forms the basis for the pragmatic criteria of inquiry. Since the goal of inquiry is the solution of a problem, the inquirer is not, in the final analysis, usually looking for information on a topic. Thus, the subject description of a text can only be a heuristic which supplements a more fundamental skill--the ability to make judgements of similarity.

This study concludes with a discussion of the major consequences of the pragmatic theory of inquiry. These are: the role of the pragmatic theory of language in inquiry; the effect of unlimited semiosis on description; the significance of the Zipfian distribution in indexing vocabularies; the importance of similarity judgements for the design of information systems; and, an analysis of the trial-and-error nature of inquiry.

MPACT Scores for David C. Blair

A = 0
C = 1
A+C = 1
T = 0
G = 0
W = 0
TD = 0
TA = 0
calculated 2008-05-21 09:34:29

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Students under David C. Blair

- None

- Murilo Bastos da Cunha - University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1982)