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).