Friday, September 22, 2006

Questions for Monday's Discussion

Information As Thing
Here are some things to think about. Please feel free to comment on any or all of these questions.
1. On page 354 of Information as Thing, Buckland refers to Wersig's view of information as coming from three sources, two of which Buckland says correspond to information-as-thing.1) Information is derived by sheer perception of phenomena; and 2) information is acquired by communication. Can you think of any other ways information-as-thing could be described? What are some examples of the phenomena of perceiving information, and how do we as individuals process that phenomena and form information?
2. On page 353, Buckland states that "...it is reasonable to viewinformation-as-thing as evidence...", and that,"If something cannot beviewed as having the characteristics of evidence, then it is difficult to see how it could be regarded as information." Do you agree that"evidence" is a good way to describe "information as thing?" Can youthink of a better possibility for a synonym?
3. What are the wider implications of Buckland's ideas, if any?
4. I would, I guess, be in the campof those theorists whom Buckland states "have dismissed the attributive use of 'information' to refer to things that are informative." Even the author seems to have trouble justifying his "careful examination" of "information-as-thing," stating onceagain in his summary that "Being 'informative' is situational and it would be rash to state of any thing that it might not be informative, hence information, in some conceivable situation." If anyone in our class could make sense of this, I would love to hear their opinions.

Scan This Book
1. In Scan this Book! Pg. 5, Kelly writes that the universal library becomes the �world�s only book. Are there dangers to this approach? Do you think all this scanning will be worth it in the long run, or will it just be a flop like e-books?
2. In his article "Scan this book!" Kevin Kelly exposes himself as an obvious technophile and clearly identifies with taking advantage of technology to build this 'universal library' of all works of human product known to the world. Besides the copyright battle between Google and publishers, what are some other pros/cons of establishing a library that Kelly calls "truly democratic, offering every book to every person" (p.1)? In the end, which side will win: compiling all these works and building such a library from the technology of today or not?
3. Is Kelly creating a false dichotomy here? Are we really at war with technology, or are there, as Nardi and O'Day suggest, many ways to compromise?
4. If/when we have the universal library,will access to actual books still be available? There are someinstances when the actual book will be more appropriate than a scan. "It is these underbooked-students in Mali, scientists in Kazakhstan,elderly people in Peru-whose lives will be transformed when even thesimplest unadorned version of the universal library is placed in theirhands" (3 of 14). Where will the elderly in Peru be having access to theuniversal library? And from what I know about the elderly, then aren'treally too keyed up to be hopping on the Internet to find information. Especially if the universal library turns into one giganticWikepedia-type hyper-linked source.

The Power to Name

1. In her article "The Power to Name..." Hope A. Olson makes frequent use of a standard dictionary's definitions to reanalyze Charles Cutter's philosophies. Did you find this change in perspective helpful, harmful, or no different? Did it affect how you interpreted his statements, especially the one on p. 642, private/public library access?
2. Olson points out many faults of today's classification systems, butdoes anyone think that this problem could ever be completely fixed? Sure, improvements can be made, but with so many different users, eachwith a unique way of thinking, and so much information with differentinterpretations, will we ever develop a classification system thatserves everyone's needs?
3. By organizing and classifying information, are we changing the meaning of words? Are we changing how people think about certain words or certain information?i.e. In my home library catalog I type in the general keyword "Latino" and I get 207 hits, and I am told to See Also: Hispanic-Americans. When I do a general keyword for "Hispanic" I get 488 hits.The word Hispanic refers to people whose culture and heritage have ties to Spain, excluding indigenous people in Latin America who do not ansestrey linked back to the Spaniards. Latin America is a geographic location. People from Latin America are all Latinos but not all are Hispanics. So why does the library catalog give privilege to the term Hispanic? What does this imply?Another way to phrase the question: Does the cataloger (striving for universal language) affect public concept of words, or is the cataloger truly just an extension of the public viewpoint?
4. What implications exist when thinking about a search engine that would truely mix free text and controlled vocabulary searches? (Kind of a dumb question, but I'm interested to know.) If this technology already exists, why are we not using it?
5. Many students still attending school on a regular basis lack basic reading skills necessary for survival in the adult world. Ms. Olson's focus on the issue of fair representation in library catalogs would appear to be a low priority in the "real" world. Any comments?
6. The patriarchy in the classificationsystems really was brought to light in this piece. Although it isfrustrating to those of us who are classified in stereotypical ways,Olson does not have much in the way of a solution. While it isimportant to acknowledge classification systems need an overhaul, isn'tin futile to show it's failures without a way to fix it? Granted, itwill be hard perhaps impossible. Would it be better to have everythingclassified completely accurately? That would mean bazillions ofcategories for everything (especially if used in the context of theuniversal library).

20 Comments:

At 7:28 AM, Blogger casey t. said...

In regards to Information-as-Thing:
I think Buckland is saying that anything and everything is information depending on the context. You can gain knowledge from anything around you, but realistically you probably wouldn't want to because there is just too much stuff out there, brain overload! That is why there are specialists and scientists and forensic experts and so on who study every single "thing" out there from atoms and dirt and pollen to any other endless possibility. The way I see it if you can learn from it, it is information.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Regarding the Universal Book:

Having many texts, which are searchable and interlinked, would be valuable not only for researchers, but also lay people. To be able to click from a book to a definition of an unknown word or from an article with a section of interest to related information in moments certainly is valuable.

The problem is getting from scans to searchable text. Right now, the technology that reads the images and translates to text is far from perfect. Do we have the means and manpower to edit its results? If there are a large number of errors in the searchable text, how valuable is the search tool?

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger lisab said...

Regarding the Power to Name:

I agree that raising the point of fair representation in library catalogs seems to be a bit of a nonissue when taking into consideration the number of people who are struggling to read at an adult level. For some people knowing exactly where to find a book with multiple subdivisions would be very helpful, but the typical person looking for such a specific book would most likely be educated enough to be able to find said book without the exhaustive cataloging. While I think that such extensive cataloging would be very helpful university or special libraries I also believe that the public library should be working towards educating its community rather than making things more difficult to understand.

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Von Burkhardt said...

With Kelly's article SCAN THIS BOOK I think it may be important to look at the implications of the universal library from Nardi and O'Day's standpoint. We should be asking critical questions starting with "Why?" The question "why?" gives us great information. It gives us the motivation behind some action, and it allows us to step back and be in control. Universal libraries or any technologies don't simply just appear; technology is not inevitable. Humans are the ones designing and implementing technology. "Why" let's us realize that we are in control of our own destiny.

 
At 9:41 PM, Blogger Hannah Gray said...

Scan This Book! question #1 response:
I often feel like a sentimentalist in regards to my personal fondness for paper copies of books. Despite my bias, I can see why others are so enthusiastic about such an ambitious project. In the long run, however, I am not convinced that scanning books will be a success for Google. I agree with Hannah's comment that e-books have been a flop and I think because of these obvious similarities, the scanning of books onto the Internet will not be a success in relation to the recreational reader. I can see the usefullness of this technology in relation to research, however, and I think Google's efforts may well be well received and appreciated by both students and academics doing research.

 
At 10:00 PM, Blogger Jill PD said...

re: Scan this Book
Kevin Kelley makes some huge assumptions about why and how the "universal library" will evolve.
Universality of information does not guarantee universal access to that information, especially in those "bookless developing world"(3) he writes about. If there are "billions of people worldwide who are underserved by ordinary paper books" (3), how will a digital library, requiring advanced technology serve them better? If these billions are bookless, are they not also to a great extent computerless as well? What about electricity?

 
At 6:53 AM, Blogger mijobrunelle said...

Regarding Scan This Book- if individual
paragraphs and sections of previously published works
could be republished in virtual libraries, as Kelly
suggests, could this lead to a relaxation and/or
rethinking of existing copyright laws, so that these
works could be taken out of context and modified
slightly? If so, would authors have to rely once again
on patronage, as they did in pre industrial times?

 
At 7:26 AM, Blogger mijobrunelle said...

Regarding Point 4 of Greg's Information as Thing post-

By widening ths scope of what could be considered to be information, it seems as though Buckland is pointing the way towards the need for new ways of
classifying this information for retrieval. His use of the term "situational" suggets a more relative, nuanced
way of processing information that could prevent these
new classification systems froms becoming too
unweildy.

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger mijobrunelle said...

Hannah,

I apologize. In my Information as Thing response
post, I accidently attributed the post to Greg and
not you. Sorry!

 
At 7:31 AM, Blogger Jarrod Bogucki said...

Power to Name, Question #3...

Short of changing the dictionary, the cataloger's prerogative is probably doing more to change the accepted meaning of words than any other individual field. The hispanic/latino example shows this perfectly; organizing information is essentially steering people's research in a particular direction. So while the literal definition may not have changed, people’s perceptions of what the word means are altered by the guidance given by what is considered an authoritative source.

 
At 7:36 AM, Blogger Carling said...

In regards to "Scan this book" I think it can be dangerous to rely only on scanned documents. What if our scanning system fails and we have no paper copies to back it up? To me it is also not logical to say that third world countries would benefit from the scans because if they cannot afford a book, they certainly cannot afford a computer (agreeing with Jill)

 
At 7:55 AM, Blogger lkbronstad said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger lkbronstad said...

In response to the last question about Information-as-Thing: What I take from Buckland's argument is that all things and phenomena have informational potential. The "information" we get from these things and phenomena we may not even be conscious of, we may not have words for, but they transmit information. Light, then, is information-as-thing, as are particles that we're not even aware of but that change or form somehow our surroundings. Maybe they only become information when we are aware or at least affected by them? Is this too broad? I think Buckland is opening up a path for a more organic conception of informational retrieval systems, one that recognizes that "information" does not begin and end with traditional conceptions of texts and documents, or even with humans.

 
At 9:26 AM, Blogger Cynthia said...

I too was struck by the passage in "Scan this Book!" that touted the benefits of online texts to the "under-booked" of the world. How in the world will a book on the internet reach an elderly man in a small Peruvian village when conventional bound books currently don't reach him? It was a fairly outrageous claim that the author simply laid out and then dropped without a word of evidence or explanation.

Secondly, while the idea of hyperlinked text that would allow jumping titles does appeal to me, I have my reservations. There are times when the integrity of a book as a whole is more beneficial than what could be gathered from linking across several different books. I fear that the deep understanding that comes from reading a title beginning to end may erode if most library users are skimming parts of books as they link from one to another.

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Cynthia said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger Jill O said...

In regard to Scan This Book-
It struck me as well that the idea that people who do not have access to printed books would somehow have access to the Internet to read scanned books was flawed. The author seems to believe the Internet is so universal that this argument makes sense.

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Jamey said...

In regards to information-as-thing, I agree that Buckland is saying everything and anything can be information. What I think is most important to consider is the individual involved. The information once receives from a "thing" to me almost completely depends on the person's background and their state of mind at the time. So it would seem the indvidual would decide what is and is not information.

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger Huiying said...

Regarding Scan This Book
Most discussions are concentrated in this book. It's a really disputed one. No matter Google initial motivation, I still think to scan those orphaned books is valuable.But I must to say, the value dosen't rest in scanning itself. I aggree with Kristin's comments, If we can click from a book or a article to related information in moments,it is certanily valuable. That's easy way to grap all the information we really need.

Even someone mention some older poeple who do not use internet or billions of people worldwide who are underserved by ordinary paper books, making all the books searchable on internet will help the devlopment in technologies and human being.

 
At 12:08 PM, Blogger ekbromley said...

Regarding The Power to Name (discussion point #2)
I doubt that we could ever come up with a classification system that excludes no one and includes every perspective. But that should not stop us from trying (always trying) to improve on our current systems. Because of this article, I am newly interested in classification schemes. It will be interesting to see how our systems develop.
Another interesting point here is that, as I've heard in one of my other classes, librarianship not the most diversely populated field. It will benefit everyone when more librarians come from diverse backgrounds. One way this will improve the profession is that when more people from varying backgrounds are doing the classifying, the classification systems will include diverse perspectives and frames of reference. Thus, the systems will become easier to use for everyone.
I'm looking forward to our discussion today. Good luck, group 1!

 
At 11:09 PM, Blogger Belle And Sebastian said...

Responding to Von Burkhardt : I think that some people feel they cannot ask that critical question of "why"? for fear of being labeled as "behind the times" or being seen as someone who cannot keep up with technology - when in actuality they can keep up with technology, it is just that they are questioning the technology they want to keep with them.

Some people feel disempowered because they do not have access to the technology, others I think feel disempowered because they have had this technology forced on them when in fact they were more comfortable doing things the old way. Just this year we tried to do my parents taxes online. It was very frustrating, as my mom is very comfortable with trying new technology and experimenting with it, and my father has a cooler reception to technology especially around issues of finances. I think if technology is going to be accepted, people need to be able to accept it on their own terms. In that moment, the issue wasn't the computer but rathr my father's lack of control over the sudden change in the tradition of how he did his taxes and the lack of control he had over the process.

For some, I think what technology replaces are rituals which it cannot duplicate because the new ritual around the techology are entirely different - more digital, less analogue. I think it was also for this loss that my father struggled.

 

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