OP-ED: Friend Who Studies Info Sci Thinks I Know What That Means

ITHACA—It was a lovely Tuesday afternoon as I was strolling through Collegetown, with a $6 CTB latte in hand and beams of sunlight cascading onto the skin of vitamin-D deficient Cornellians. It was a good day. Or so I thought, until I ran into my friend Jim. 

One might think: “Running into your friend? How could that ruin your day?” which isn’t an unfair question. Our initial greeting was warm, but things quickly took a turn for the worse when a brief discussion of banalities such as the weather, the pandemic, and the best flavor of Cacti led to the topic of coursework. “Been grinding for your classes lately?” I asked Jim. “You know how it is,” he responded to my utter horror, “just the usual Info Sci workload.” My palms instantly grew clammy. I don’t know “how” it is. In fact, I don’t even know what “Information Science” is.

I’m not the most potent strain in the dispensary and won’t pretend to have an intimate understanding of all academic disciplines, but I do usually have a vague idea of what subjects are about. Plant Science? The science of plants. Astronomy? Means I’ve probably lied to you about what time I was born. Comp Sci? Easy–computers and talking over women. But for the life of me, I cannot figure out what Info Sci actually is. Is it the science of information? Isn’t all science based on information? Is it a special type of information? Even worse than the ambiguity surrounding what Info Sci means, is that apparently now there are MULTIPLE kinds of Info Sci? How is there an Info Sci program in CALS and another one in Arts and Sciences? Is the information somehow different? 

As soon as the words left Jim’s mouth, I realized I had a choice: I could either swallow my pride, making myself vulnerable with a trusted person, and ask him what exactly his studies entail. Or, I could deflect and try to move on, remaining ignorant for yet another day. Naturally, I took a deep breath, looked Jim right in his eyes, and lied. “Ah of course! That’s prelim season for you!”

I may not know what Info Sci is or what people who study it do, but there is one thing I know. I’m in way too deep to start asking now. 

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