Sunday, September 17, 2006

Class discussion ideas: Information Ecologies

(Since I'm leading class discussion this week, it's my job to post some reactions to the reading here on the class weblog at least 24 hours before our class meeting. The rest of you should be posting your own brief reactions, questions, critiques, and/or comments on the reading to your own critical response weblogs. If you like, you may also post a reaction to what I lay out here by clicking on the "comments" link below.)

Although Nardi and O'Day's book _Information Ecologies_ only had one chapter specfically about "librarians" (and a very particular subset of librarianship at that, corporate reference librarians) it seems to me that many of the social processes at work in the other chapters -- effectively using information systems in the workplace, training children on information tools and literacy, and representing identities and places online -- are wrapped up in librarianship as well. Are there lessons we might learn from the other "information ecologies" presented in the book?

Nardi and O'Day spend a good amount of time explaining why metaphors are useful tools for thought, and why they constructed their "information ecology" metaphor. But metaphors are both useful and deceptive. They call to mind certain factors, associations, and "affordances" (to use a Nardi and O'Day term) but they mask and minimize others. What other metaphors besides an "information ecology" might we use for a library (or for various types of libraries, such as public, academic/research, school, and archive)? In what ways are libraries themselves used as metaphors for wider social phenomena (like the idea that the World Wide Web is a "global library")?

Nardi and O'Day talk about the "heart" by making explicit reference to the need for shared "values" in a healthy information ecology. But they only show one case of a "dysfunctional" information ecology where those values are disputed and contested. In fact, in general, notions of power and conflict seem to be absent from their analysis. Are values so easily discovered and agreed upon? Are information ecologies only "healthy" if they exhibit single-minded agreement on mission, purpose, and ideals of what is good? What "core values" do (or should) libraries and librarians share, and what values may be argued about or fought over without tearing apart the information ecology of the library?

Comments on any of these ideas are welcome (just click on the link below). Otherwise, hope we can talk about them tomorrow in class.


At 1:22 PM, Blogger aangela1010 said...

"What other metaphors besides an "information ecology" might we use for a library (or for various types of libraries, such as public, academic/research, school, and archive)?"
I think other metaphors that could be used to for libraries of any type could be: bubbles, villages, classrooms, live action internets.
I also noticed that Nardi and O'Day seem to have a sunshine and flowers view of information ecologies. That would have changed the point of the book, certainly. Perhaps they wanted to show the strenghts of information ecologies. The "dysfuctional" ecology was the one where certain technology was just implemented w/o having all involved discuss what was going on. In schools one has to go through the "right" channels to implement technology or new classes; that does not seem to be the case in the operating room. Communities and schools aren't going to just dump a bunch of money into new technology w/o voting and meeting and planning and designing and discussing and weighing good vs. bad. By the time the new system is set up most of the "bugs" have been talked about already and there is a "plan" (or something resembling a plan) that people have agreed upon.
After reading this book and setting up my own blog my opinions on the changing technology and einformation ecologies has definitely changed. Before, I would shudder slightly with discomfort at having to learn "new" instead of reverting the the old. The blog was my last Mental Hurddle before deciding new does not = bad.

At 6:47 AM, Blogger Andy G said...

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At 7:03 AM, Blogger Andy G said...

There were nice connections with librarianship in the non-librarian case studies. They struck me less as "these examples reflect on librarianship", and more as "information professionals could help in so many situations." I'd guess that a good number of people with LIS degrees ultimately work in settings other than libraries and archives. We/they will fill "keystone" roles, whether or not the roles are connected with librarianship in any obvious way. Technology isn't the future, information is. Technology's just a way to get there.

Some in-between examples would have been helpful -- contentious ecologies that thrived, or harmonious ones that flamed out -- but I guess that doesn't bother me. I can imagine the ecological model accommodating disagreement. For example, I'll bet not everyone agreed with the Pueblo experiment, and I assume we've just been spared those earlier debates.

At 6:37 PM, Blogger Ginny said...

I liked the case studies that were given. They gave pie -in-the-sky ideas that one could use technolgy as a vehocle to further children's lives that otherwise would not have had the opportunity. Though I am not sure how realistic in an average school environment that these examples would work.

It was interesting the metaphor of using "gardeners." If that is the case we need more in the field. We have lots of workers, but could use more direction in terms of long range planning. What path will the field of librarianship take in the future?

At 6:04 AM, Blogger casey t. said...

Nardi and O'Day said the hospital case study was a "dysfunctional" ecology. This may be true, but this happens all too often in natural biological ecologies as well with invasive species. The invasive species make the existing members of the ecology adapt, and if they can't they disappear from that particular ecosystem. Whether it's for better or for worse is the question. In the hospital setting, it was much better for the neurophysiologists to be able to tend to more surgeries. I would think then it would also be better for patients because more patients could get the treatment they need sooner. As far as the privacy of the nurses and everyone else in the room, I can see their point, BUT why are they so worried about malpractice cases! There may have been some people unhappy about this new "invasive" technology, but it seems the pros out weigh the cons in this particular situation.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger mibrunelle said...

Hello Fellow Classmates,

I just wanted to let you know that my weblog
address is Feeback-450, as I'm still having trouble
linking it to the main weblog. Thanks.


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