• Room 02.017 - Riddel Hall Block 3

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Information systems for managers Information retrieval Intellectual property Labour in information systems

1988 …2019

Research output per year

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Personal profile


Office 02.17 School of Management

Office hours 12noon-2pm Wednesday


Information systems for managers

Research Statement

Research has anticipated the recent call by Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google to bring art and science back together for understanding of and progress in computational technologies (Mac Taggart lecture, Edinburgh, August 2011), bringing humanities and social science perspectives to the understanding of information and computer related issues, from the early 1990s.

Specific research topics include

  • Forms of mental labor and the possibility of their transfer to technology.
  • Creativity for copyright
  • Understandings of information technology.
  • Information retrieval, approached from the humanities and social sciences but also comprehending more technical material, including information theory and the theory of computability.
  • An ordinary discourse exposition of computability.
  • Historical perspectives on information developments.
  • Research evaluation.

I have published research articles on these topics in information science journals and have succeeded in exporting my research to other scholarly communities and the wider public, through monographic publication. 

Research in progress includes

  • A series of articles on the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Feist v. Rural (1991), specifically on creativity, on the minimal degree of creativity required for copyrightability, and on originality.  The articles have the potential to be significant for information policy, at a global level, and are intended to be combined into a book, for wider dissemination.
  • A theory of text retrieval incorporating labor theory.
  • Semantic and syntactic mental labor.
  • A non-computable semantics
  • The political economy of information retrieval.
  • An ordinary discourse exposition of computability.

A series of papers in information science and information systems journals, followed by books on some of the themes is planned and in progress.




Oxford University. 1984. D.Phil. in the Faculty of English Language and Literature.

University of Sheffield. 1984. MA Librarianship.

University of Newcastle upon Tyne. 1979. MA 20th century English and American literature. 1979.

University of Newcastle upon Tyne. 1977. BA Honours in English language and literature. First class Honours.




Faculty member, Queen’s University Management School, The Queen’s University of Belfast, 1984–continuing.




Visiting Speaker, Information in Society Speaker Series, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 2010.

Visiting Scholar, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University, June – August 2006.

Visiting Scholar, Research Centre for Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh, February – July 2005.

Visiting Scholar, Graduate School of Library and Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, February – September 2000.

Visiting Associate, School of Library and Information Studies, University of California at Berkeley, August 1991 – September 1992.




Teaching has been increasingly research informed and has been evaluated well by students.  Courses bringing humanities and social science perspectives to information issues have been progressively developed.



Specific courses taught include the following

  • Information Systems in Organizations (topics include the development of intellectual property and understanding information technology as a human construction).
  • Information Policy (topics include full text retrieval, with attention to the costs and value of human indexing, and issues in communication).
  • Management Information Systems.
  • Communicating Electronically (topics included information theory, the dynamics of oral, written, and electronic communication, and a semiotic approach to information retrieval).
  • Modelling the diffusion of specialized knowledge, MSc Science Communication.
  • Information Resources.
  • Understanding Information (a semiotic approach to information management).


I am accustomed to teaching students majoring in Management Information Systems, Management, Business Information Technology, Business Economics, and Economics.  The instructional modules developed are innovative and are increasingly represented in journal and monographic publications.  The recent book, Human Information Retrieval, integrates elements from both Information Policy and Communicating Electronically.  Another version of Communicating Electronically was taught as L565 Computer Mediated Communication at Indiana University, June – August 2006.


A selection of student comments on recent courses follows.

Information Systems in Organisations

  • “The relevant examples and the relation to the real world were helpful.”
  • “He wanted to hear our views and encouraged discussions.”

Information Policy

  • “The lecture notes were very informative and the lectures very helpful.”
  • “Gives a great insight into the foundations of information policy.”

Management Information Systems

  • “Insight into information systems.”
  • “Learning the different aspects of management information systems.”
  • “It highlights areas that we think we understand, but examines them closely and can actually show many other meanings to the most simple of areas associated with information in business.”
  • “Clear what we were studying, good real life examples.”

Communicating Electronically

  • “It provided me with a lot of insight into information retrieval, electronic, written and oral communication, and the theory behind the transmission of messages and information.”
  • “Most interesting module taken.”


Dissertation supervision


A range of Masters and PhD dissertations have been supervised, as first and second supervisor.





Influence on government policies


Journal articles have been cited in policy discussions in the United States and the United Kingdom.




The articles on the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Feist v. Rural (1991), have the potential to be significant for information policy, at a global level, as they give a simple, compelling, and practically implementable interpretation of a highly significant copyright judgment. 


Some potential impact on policy is already discernible.


Perhaps more useful to the American western classical music community may be an understanding of what does not constitute creative choice in a court of law. In his analysis of Feist, Warner concludes that ‘[t]he absence of creativity is manifested in a routine selection, coordination, and arrangement produced by an automatic mechanical procedure.’ If this understanding of the Feist ruling were to become legal trend in the United States, the filling in of missing bass figures would be less likely to qualify as creative work in an American court. Yi Hong Sim. Copyrighting critical editions: the law versus the musical public. M.A. in Music History: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2011, pp.50-51.


Information society or cash nexus? A study of the United States as a copyright haven. Journal of the American Society for Information Science. 50, 5, 1999, 461-470.         


The change over time in U.S. attitudes toward the IP laws of other countries is widely ascribed to the change in U.S. status in the 20th century to a major producer of IP content (Warner, 1999). Committee on Intellectual Property Rights and the Emerging Information Infrastructure. The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age. National Academy Press: Washington, D.C., 2000.


Research evaluation


A critical review of the application of citation studies to the Research Assessment Exercises. Journal of Information Science.26, 6, 2000, pp.453-460.


The conclusions of this article uniquely anticipated the central recommendation of the Roberts review of research assessment.  The article concluded that, ‘citation analysis can … be employed as one element used to inform judgment of research quality, with judgment underdetermined by any single element.’ The first recommendation of the Roberts report insisted, ‘Any system of research assessment designed to identify the best research must be based upon the judgement of experts, who may, if they choose, employ performance indicators to inform their judgement.’ Review of Research Assessment. Report by Sir Gareth Roberts to the UK funding bodies. Issued for consultation May 2003.  The perspective has been increasingly embodied in subsequent research evaluation practice.


Scholarly impact


Labor in information systems


An article in an information systems journal, A. Greenhill, G. Fletcher. Laboring online: are there ‘new’ labor processes within virtual game worlds? Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 14, 11, 2013, pp.672-693, adopts the distinction of semantic from syntactic labour, as its theoretical basis.  Citation in an information systems journal constitutes extra-disciplinary diffusion of research.


Labor in information systems. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. 39, 2005, pp.551-573.


The standard use of ARIST, keeping up with one’s specialty, is occasionally transcended by a chapter so illuminating that anyone could benefit by reading it.  …  In volume 39, Julian Warner’s analysis of information systems in terms of labor notes that technology is the product of the ‘dead labor’ of inventors and machine makers. He also makes and elaborates a distinction between semantic labor (mainly concerned with meaning) and syntactic labor (mainly procedures, often algorithmic and more easily delegated to machines).  It is not clear where this analysis will lead, but it illuminates the whole field in a new way. Michael Buckland. Review of Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. Journal of Documentation. 62, 1, 2006, pp.154-156 (pp.155-156).


Information retrieval


Human Information Retrieval. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010. viii, 189p.


Warner's (2010) differentiation between IR [information retrieval] as query transformation versus KO [knowledge organization] as providing ‘selection power’ seems important and is taken as the point of departure … in both this and a following article. … Warner's two approaches (query transformation and selection power) may be useful as fundamental precepts on which to base an understanding of the role of KO in the electronic world.  Birger Hjørland. Classical databases and knowledge organization: a case for boolean retrieval and human decision-making during searches. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. Article first published online: 4 June  2014 | DOI: 10.1002/asi.23250. At http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)2330-1643/earlyview.


This theoretical, scholarly, and inspiring work that balances practical and theoretical aspects of human IR [information retrieval] ... its depth, value, and originality should not be neglected ... a useful contribution to the IR literature. Alireza Isfandyari-Moghaddam. Library Resources & Technical Services. 56, 2012, p.215


The approach is marvellously materialist. ...  [the book] offers examples which illustrate searching on words and phrases using the theoretical model – and what examples!  The use of an example drawn from ‘Horse Feathers’ as illustration is to be highly commended!  ...  This is an extremely interesting book. Truly scholarly and theoretical, it draws from a range of disciplines, including information science, philosophy, linguistics and communication science. Warner draws all these seemingly disparate strands into an elegant and coherent whole, demonstrating that there are similarities, analogies, things to be learned from delving wide. There are many other treasures in this book, which is a valuable theoretical contribution to the literature of information retrieval. Pauline Rafferty. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. 43, 2011, pp.60-61.


Human Information Retrieval presents its readers with an interesting perspective on IR that well repays study.  ...  the labor-theoretic approach ... is structurally elegant and has the potential to be a very useful model for ‘macroscopic’ thinking about the design and evaluation of IR systems. ... a genuinely illuminating account of IR as a human phenomenon. Thomas M.  Dousa. College & Research Libraries. 71, 5, 2010, pp.496-498.


This book … presents a very clear theoretical approach to the subject … The high level abstractions and theory are exemplified by actual examples from the library and information practice and internet, mostly information retrieval applications for full-text.  This closeness to the real world and examples taken not only from the modern information retrieval systems but also from earlier means of accessing information stored in various ways (including human brain) is an exceptionally attractive feature of the proposed approach. …  I would recommend the book to be acquired by all information science departments as a good theoretical introduction, not only to information retrieval as such, but also as a more general approach to an explanation of one of the most significant components of several information professions: description and search labour.  Elena Maceviciute. Information Research. 15(3), 2010, review no. R383, 2010.


Julian Warner makes a hitting yet poignant and thought-provoking remark right at the onset of his book … academics and other professionals have given more attention to the practical understanding of information retrieval than to a full theoretical account.  … The book is straightforward … simple and illustrative. …  the book combines Warner’s excellent grasp of the information technology and web search along with his ability to humanise and personalise web content.  Warner emphasises that information is not just about information technology and indexing and computation but also about people, mental labour and literature. Archana Venkatraman.  Information World Review. 20 Apr 2010.


This lucid book … This is a difficult but well written and extremely relevant book, which contains a thorough academic treatment of HIR [human information retrieval] from the perspective of a labor theoretic approach.  There are many historical analogies used within the text, which help to explain the origins of the study of human information retrieval.  It manages to bridge the gap between practical and theoretical aspects of HIR in a coherent and meaningful fashion. …  Researchers in HIR will find this an invaluable and thought provoking resource. Advanced undergraduate students and postgraduate students pursuing modules or a course in information resources management will also find much of relevance to their study. Stuart Fitz-Gerald. International Journal of Information Management. 30, 2, 2010, pp.180-181.


Historical perspectives on information technologies


Humanizing Information Technology. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004.


Julian Warner, whose often unique approach to issues involving information science is colored by the palette of the field of economics … presents eight insightful essays providing a humanistic, essentially Marxian perspective on today’s information technology … the time taken for careful review and examination of these essays will be rewarded with some exceptional insights. Vicki L. Gregory. Library Resources and Technical Services. 49, 1, 2005, pp.59-60.


Information and redundancy in the legend of Theseus. Journal of Documentation. 59, 5, 2003, pp.540-557.


Warner’s (2003) eccentric but inventive article juxtaposed the Greek legend of Theseus (an ancient, mythical hero), and the modem information theory by Shannon and Weaver. … Despite the unlikely combination, a ‘high degree of correspondence between the two independent formulations’ was detected. J. Kari and J. Hartel. Information and higher things in life: addressing the pleasurable and the profound in information science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 58, 2007, pp.1131-1147.


Information, Knowledge, Text. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001. 168p.


Warner has written a very thoughtful and well-informed book that definitely deserves attention. His historical exposition of writing and the computer, and the connection between these, as information technologies that shape human activities is enlightening. Warner has an ability to show that the most congealed tools for communication have a history that is worth exploring, and that this can shed light on some common understandings of information technology. Thus, Warner succeeds in offering a reflexive response to developments in information technology. Jack Andersen. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 53, 8, pp.690-691.


Few authors are as able or as eager to draw on the classics of literature, philosophy, theology, and science as Warner does here, refreshingly and entertainingly. …  [the] detailed historical account, culminating in an analysis of recent legal classifications of computer programs as literary works, is a tour de force … a timely compilation of the work of one of the field’s more interesting theorists. Jonathan Furner. The Library Quarterly.  72, 4, 2002, pp.507-509.


His approach is thorough, academic, credible … the chapters do provide a coherent collection.  Students of information science should be enlightened and intrigued. Tom Schneiter. College and Research Libraries.  64, 2, 2003, pp.168-169.


From Writing to Computers. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. xi, 159p.                          


An overarching consideration of the relation between writing and computers in a synthesis which is both intellectually stimulating and original.  …  An excellent addition to any collection on computing, communication, library or information studies, and a recommended read for anyone with even the most general interest in semiotics, computing, writing or intelligence. David Ellis. Program. 29, 1, 1995, pp.104-105.


Julian Warner eloquently encapsulates the aim of this book in his concluding chapter when he states ‘This book has been concerned with relating the new to the more familiar, particularly with connecting computers to documents.’  ...  Realizing the possible complexity of the subject he is tackling, Warner is at pains constantly to introduce and summarize his materials.  The overall effect is of a successful steering through a possible minefield of unexplained theories and abstract hypotheses.  ... Warner’s explanations are sound and can be readily understood.  …  On the whole, an extremely useful and thought-provoking book. Stuart Lee. Computers & Texts. 8, December 1994, p.16.


this intriguing book by Julian Warner ... what is presented here provides an interestingly offbeat view of one aspect of computing. P. Willett. Computer Journal. 39, 3, 1996, p.253.


Warner has written a concise, densely written, thought-provoking study of the relationship between writing and computers.  ...  the broad and clear analysis of writing and language, and of automata theory, [and] formal logic … is well worth reading. H.D. Warner. Choice. 32, 6, February 1995, p.968.


Impact as a whole


Articles and books are being incorporated, increasingly rapidly, into university reading lists.


Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Julian Warner is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

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Research Output

Creativity for Feist

Warner, J., Jun 2013, In : Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 64, 6, p. 1173-1192 20 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • 1 Citation (Scopus)
    314 Downloads (Pure)

    So mechanical or routine: The not original in Feist

    Warner, J., Apr 2010, In : Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 61, 4, p. 820-834 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    2 Citations (Scopus)
    179 Downloads (Pure)

    Human information retrieval

    Warner, J., 03 Nov 2009, 1st ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 200 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

  • Labor in Information Systems

    Warner, J., Jan 2005, In : Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. 39, 1, p. 551-573 23 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    12 Citations (Scopus)
    660 Downloads (Pure)



    Warner, Julian (Recipient), 2002

    Prize: Fellowship awarded competitively


    Education for Information (External organisation)

    Julian Warner (Advisor)

    2017 → …

    Activity: Membership typesMembership of board

    Education for Information (Journal)

    Julian Warner (Peer reviewer)

    2017 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

    Association for Information Science and Technology, Annual Meeting, October 2016

    Julian Warner (Speaker)

    14 Oct 201619 Oct 2016

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    LIBER Quarterly (Journal)

    Julian Warner (Peer reviewer)

    2014 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

    Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology

    Julian Warner (Participant)

    31 Oct 201405 Nov 2014

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference



    Julian Warner (Participant)

    Impact: Societial Impact

    Information retrieval

    Julian Warner (Participant)

    Impact: Cultural Impact

    Research assessment

    Julian Warner (Participant)

    Impact: Public Policy Impact