[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of term "information silo"?

Janet Abbate abbate at vt.edu
Fri Aug 2 12:10:59 PDT 2013

Does anyone know the origin of the term "information silos"? It's commonly used as a criticism of groups that don't share information for either organizational or technical reasons. 

This has always struck me as an odd metaphor. After all, in real life it's a good thing that grain is isolated in a silo; there is no physical-world benefit to connecting or "busting" silos, so how did this become a metaphor for good information management? And why would slowly fermenting fodder be a good metaphor for information?

I'm assuming here that the term refers to farming and not to missile silos... which would be equally odd. 


Dr. Janet Abbate
Associate Professor 
Science & Technology in Society
Virginia Tech

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