SILS Ph.D. Candidate Wins ASIS&T Dissertation Proposal Award

September 1, 2011

Amber CushingAmber Cushing, doctoral candidate at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has received the 2011 Thomson Reuters Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Award. Awarded annually by the American Society of Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) to “foster research in information science by encouraging and assisting doctoral students in the field with their dissertation research,” the scholarship consists of $1,500 donated by the Institute for Scientific Information. Additionally, Thomson Reuters furnishes a $500 travel grant to enable the student to attend the ASIS&T annual meeting. This year’s meeting will be held from October 9-12, 2011 in New Orleans.
Cushing’s primary area of interest is in personal recordkeeping in digital environments. Her dissertation research focuses on possession and self-extension – the idea that individual possessions act as a reinforcement of personal identity and a way of displaying identity to others – in digital environments, and the subsequent implications for maintaining personal information.

According to her proposal, her research is expected to make a valuable contribution to information science by “providing one of the few empirical investigations of an individual’s understanding of a digital possession, offering a definition of a digital possession and by applying the concept of self-extension to an information science issue.” Cushing’s research is methodologically innovative in that it applies Q method, a way of studying human subjectivity used in psychology, business and marketing, to an information science project.

“The contributions of Amber's work are twofold,” said Dr. Deborah Barreau, Frances Carroll McColl term professor and Cushing’s dissertation advisor. “Her work will extend our knowledge of how people relate to their digital files that may ultimately inform programs and polices related to the curation of those files, and she will apply methods that have been widely used in business and marketing studies but rarely used in information and library science that may provide a model for others.”

Cushing is the latest in a proud tradition of people associated with SILS winning the Thomson Reuters Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Award. SILS alumna Meng Yang (Ph.D. ‘05) won the award in 2004. Other noted SILS recipients include faculty members Drs. Stephanie W. Haas, professor, who received the award in 1988 and Barbara Wildemuth, associate dean for Academic Affairs, who won the award in 1987, and former faculty member Diane H. Sonnewald who received the award in 1991. 

“I’m very pleased that my proposal was recognized by the awards committee, especially since my study utilizes Q method, which is not commonly used in Information Science,” said Cushing. “I am excited to be able to share this method with other researchers in the field.”