Friday, September 22, 2006

On Nardi & O'Day's "Information Ecologies"

Initially, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I studied Anthropology as an undergraduate (it's my first academic "love") so the language was familiar, and I could better understand their argument than I might have had it been written from a different perspective. I also thought it was kind of nifty to discover an entire section devoted to the underpinings of the library world by persons other than library scholars--not something you find every day. Throughout the book, they made a number of interesting and thought-provoking statements that really got me thinking about the role of technology in both our personal and professional lives.

As I continued to read, however, I started to feel as though their was something overly simplistic in their position (and the "We believe..." statements sort of started to grate on my nerves); it became a little preachy. The fact that the 2 studies that they conducted were at Apple and HP was interesting given that they are both (1) technological libraries and (2) the very type of institution in which Nardi and O'Day had been employed; I find it hard to believe that the studies they were conducting weren't influenced by an additional layer of outside influence given the situation. And, there was nothing really earth-shattering about their ultimate conclusions regarding effective and humanistic information ecologies--to be mindful of working from core values, to pay attention & vocalize your opinion, and remembering to always ask questions--seem fairly obvious--but creating technology with heart so to speak, no doubt takes much more than that; it's simply far too complex of an issue.

Last, but not least, I found it a little weird that they raised "the whole issue of values with some trepidation" (61) because that appeared to be one of their primary themes/concerns. Moreover, I was uncomfortable with their discussion of Postman's argument that the "information glut" is rapidly diminishing cultural values and instititions. While perhaps true on some level, a case could also be made for the idea that it serves to enhance them--or, at least the institions. It's also important to recognize that it's not technology per say that's to blame for the problems that arise as a result of its existence, but rather the people behind it whose inaction is in fact a decision; thus, any inaction by we the people as professionals, citizens, family members, what have you, is a form of action in and of itself.


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