25 thoughts on “David Bade’s paper, redux

  1. It’s on my list, probably for later this week, but probably as a post (at least initially), not an article. And possibly with a different emphasis than you’re interested in: That is, I’m acutely aware of reasons why people who don’t have tenure, independent wealth, or secure public positions may be a little nervous about taking on some forms of disagreement. (I pulled a page from the current C&I, and I’m still not sure whether it was a cowardly thing to do).

    But your problems here are pointing out another, third, aspect: That is, it’s tough to carry on honest disagreement at times. That’s a topic I’ve touched on elsewhere, badly.

    So, yes (geez, this is too long for a comment, but your post isn’t a two-paragraph drive-by either!), I do need to think about a proper essay. But maybe not today. Meanwhile, now I have to go look at Bade’s comments. (BTW, I may not be a cataloger and may be staying away from this particular set of issues, but I did read Calhoun’s report, front to back, as well as Tom Mann’s take. That’s when I decided that others were better qualified to deal with this.)

  2. Thanks, Walt! And, honestly, I’m interested in any angle you want to give it. Whatever you feel comfortable with is great with me.

    And if I haven’t told you before, you are welcome to write comments of any length; but I do recognize that nagging voice that says ‘This comment is not a comment….”

  3. Ah – but reference work, information behavior, and information seeking literature are all based on communication and information transfer! In my program we did talk Clarke & Brennan and others. All librarians should have to take the basic “information access” (reference course). They should also have taken some sort of intro to information behavior/intro to information science type thingy which should have covered this, too. It’s not *all* of librarianship, maybe, but it’s information organization/information retrieval/catalogers,etc. who are not emphasizing it enough. I can’t really engage with you on cataloging stuff as that is not my specialty. (We did read Shannon, but I hadn’t heard of Lakoff until PhD work, or maybe I blocked it?)

  4. Mark, I feel comfortable with all three angles, but I think the post will be on my specific angle–unless I get ambitious. A later essay would cover more, but it also wouldn’t happen until post-ALA. (There will be another C&I before ALA, most likely, but it will be, ahem, a special issue with special focus, a sequel if you will…)

  5. Hi Christina, hope things are well with you. “Information” and even sometimes “communication” is certainly touched on in our program, and I assume in most. But assuming that you are are at all familiar with the literature you realize that there are a VAST number of conflicting views about what either is.

    And my point is simply about how–at least in most of my LIS exposure to these concepts–they are generally cashed out in theories/metaphors of math, engineering and transportation.

    Considering how much we use these concepts in all of our field, I think there ought to be more emphasis on them. And my concern, specifically, with Bade’s move is that he wants to move from a theory of transportation/engineering to one of communication; but how exactly is that to be cashed out?

    Again, my concern is that most librarians’ view of info/communication has been heavily influenced by these models whether or not they ever read a single theory/model of them. Just look at the words we use to talk about the subject: send, receive, transmit, convey, pass on, ….

    I have no doubt that Bade has an answer; and Grice and Wittgenstein are probably a large part of it. But how many of us are familiar enough with them to make the explicit switch to thinking like that?

    It’s not that I’m saying it isn’t doable; I guess I’m just saying, again, that perhaps this was too much for Bade to bite off in this one presentation.

  6. Walt, whenever is good enough for me. Just knowing that “you are on the job” makes me feel better.

    I’m really struggling with much of this–all the angles, but I know that whatever you come up with will help me. Perhaps only a little, perhaps a lot. Either way it will be fodder for thought.

  7. I’ll add more to these conversations when I have a full time job (forget tenure, I shudder to think of how long that will be!). For whom does the Bell toll? He tolls for me… for I am one of those nice people. I and many others disagree nicely, why even right here on these pages. Yeah, it struck a nerve with me for awhile, but I got over it. I stand behind who I am and how I engage with the profession. Room for growth and evolution, sure.

    Someone out there, and I forget who (was it you Walt?) mentioned something others I have read missed: LIS FACULTY should be openly and actively engaging in these “Ringing” discussions. Ours, like it or not, is a technical degree. Not to say many of us don’t also do research or philosophize, but we are practitioners.

    Last year at my university our School of Informatics (which housed the LIS program) was dissolved by university administration, and I didn’t hear much from anyone anywhere about it, other than from a few libloggers, yours truly included…. Students and a few alums were most vociferous, nothing from faculty. A few meetings, but nothing reaching out to the broader profession. Their silence spoke VOLUMES. OK, I better stop.

  8. Hey! I laughed at Diane’s comments, but I took your misunderstanding to heart because it matters to me that someone who takes my remarks seriously should understand rather than misunderstand me. So let us continue the engagement, tea or no.

    You wrote: “And my concern, specifically, with Bade’s move is that he wants to move from a theory of transportation/engineering to one of communication; but how exactly is that to be cashed out?”
    Since reading Barbara Dervin’s 1982(?) paper I have been thinking about this, but Dervin never went anywhere interesting (sorry Barbara). Then about 5 years ago I began reading the works of the philosopher/linguist Roy Harris. Very few readers of Harris grasp the implications of the radical break with Western philosophy of language and communication which he has made, but I count myself as one of them. Over the course of the last 30 years and as many books he has marshalled the evidence and made the arguments for a philosophy of language grounded in a theory of communication which is not anything like a theory of transportation. I cannot reprise that work here nor in a book length treatment. But if you are serious about a non-engineering theory of communication, then forget my writings: you really ought to be reading Roy Harris.

    Perhaps the best place to begin is the place where I began: “Saying Nothing”, the epilogue to his The Language Machine (Cornell, 1987). This is one of, if not the most brilliant essay in the history of linguistics and the philosophy of language. It is a gas. It is a riot. It is magnificent. And when you finish that, read everything else he has written. Beyond his work, there actually is a large and growing body of scholars working in many disciplines who have been reoriented like I have by his unsettling of western philosophy. It is worth looking into.

  9. Hi, David. Glad to hear you laughed those off’ not sure I could/would as easily.

    I am particularly pleased to see that you took my comment as intended; not that there are not any theories of communication that can do the job, just that they aren’t prevalent in our field or, perhaps even, in Western scholarship. If they are growing as you say, that is a good thing.

    I see it is sitting on our shelves, so I will go pick it up tomorrow. Thanks!

    I will most certainly start where you suggest (thanks!) and see where that leads me.

  10. As is so often the case, The Improbable Don Quijote got it wrong. It is Brenda Dervin, not Barbara. Sorry to say it but I am certain that guy with the beret sometimes writes from faulty memory rather than checking his sources. Mistakes like that underscore the importance of citations.

  11. Aww come on!

    But for those who suggested I was, where is your engagement? “Great job, David” does not constitute engagement.

    Maybe our talents are best applied elsewhere. In the past couple of weeks I’ve written two book reviews; like every one else, I’ve had deadlines! Sure, I said, “Great job, David.” Then I posted a few comments on the SRRT and PLG listservs (comments of which I’m certain Mr. Bade would approve) that got some attention.

    Please understand that those of us saying, “Great job,” might also be out there saying the same things Mr. Bade is saying, just not as eloquently. Surely that’s a form of “engaging” too.

  12. C’mon, Tracy! You know I’m not talking about you. I’ve know (some of) what you are up to. I know about your book reviews and which books (books that are important), I read your stuff at Library Juice, I know about your engagement in various communities. I’ve seen your comments on listservs.

    Maybe that was a bit generic of a statement for my purposes. And perhaps I was even being cowardly myself. But I got a couple emails from people who (admittedly I know nothing about) who I have never seen post on said listservs (or at least of any real substance), who ONLY said “Way to go!” publicly (a paraphrase), yet wanted to give me crap because I have questions and comments.

    We’ve had our discussions and I have no doubt we can (and will) have more.

    I agree that telling people “Way to go!” serves a very valuable purpose. I sure like to hear it on occasion. But I’d much rather hear, “Way to go! Now what about this this?” “Couldn’t that maybe be extended this way?” Or even, “Dude, you got 95% right, but you are wrong about this, AND here’s why.”

    I’m not talking about getting out in the streets and waving signs. There are also a lot of people saying stuff like, “Way to go! … And we have no voice.” Well, dammit, they do have a voice and I am simply trying (albeit crudely) to remind them of that.

  13. I would like to encourage all the presenters, including David Bade, to make their papers available in E-LIS and/or DList. One way to ease such misunderstandings as this is to ensure that the lengthier, more subtle arguments are easily available for perusal by everyone involved in the discussion.

    It also cuts down on email! 🙂

  14. Very good point, Dorothea!

    While I was calling for LC to do something in this specific case AND I still believe that they should, your point is something that is actually doable in the immediate present. No waiting on LC to do the right thing….

  15. Aw, come oooonnnnn! 😉

    Ok, I see what you’re saying. And I kinda sorta thought you were talking about me, but I certainly wasn’t insulted or anything. I just wanted to join in the conversation!

    We’ve had our discussions and I have no doubt we can (and will) have more.

    If I’m lucky.

  16. I did, in fact, grab Harris’ The Language Machine and three other books by him.

    I read the epilogue, “Saying Nothing” yesterday afternoon and it is as David said, “It is a gas. It is a riot.” It certainly has me hooked! I will begin at the beginning of this book and then see what I can do with the others amongst the many other things I need to do.

    Highly recommended.

  17. Ok, back to this: “And my point is simply about how–at least in most of my LIS exposure to these concepts–they are generally cashed out in theories/metaphors of math, engineering and transportation.”
    I respectfully disagree! Well I can’t disagree about your experience, but I can say that you shouldn’t generalize to the whole field. Yes we hit Shannon, but I have my 601 binder right next to me, and in it we have Dervin, Rogers & Kincaid, Pao (convergence model of communication)… and lots of reference interview stuff there and in my basic reference course that’s strongly based in communication research and cognitive science. Look at all the research on question asking/answering for heaven’s sake — that is communication, humanistic, user-oriented. Like I said, I can’t talk about what an information structure person would read in a LIS program, but we reference types hit this stuff hard and often.

  18. Hi, Christina. I now feel properly (but respectfully) chastised. 😉

    I do realize that there are other models, admittedly I am lacking in the what goes on in most reference classes (altho I have had reference and broadcast a few specialized ref courses), and I have not spent a lot of time with many of these sources.

    You make a very important point and I gratefully back off my claim; some. While my statement needed some moderating, and your points help do that, I also have some concerns about how much mitigation they are actually capable of.

    I don’t imagine that this is something we can easily discuss electronically, or me anyway. Some of my concerns are: you’re in PhD classes (and most ref librarians never got near a PhD seminar), how much time is actually spent on theories of communication in ref classes, to what depth are they compared and contrasted, question asking/answering is a subset (critically important to us!, but how much to my point?) of communication, and so on.

    Honestly, I do not even remember the famous “reference interview” being discussed in my ref class, and I was looking for it. Friends who were in it with me swear we did. Perhaps we did, but if so, it was at most 5 minutes and to no real depth. As in much of LIS (MS-level anyway), it was designed only to provide an acquaintance with the topic.

    And while it is often necessary that this happens–due to limited time, resources, etc.–mere acquaintance with a topic is (generally) not enough to change one’s actual views on something; especially something so fundamental to our lives and so embodied.

    Theory alone cannot change how we interact with the world on a topic of this nature. It can start (some of us) down the road to thinking and studying more on our own. But as I look around at (most of) my fellow students (yes, I know this is purely anecdotal), I do not see a lot of further individual study and learning.

    Some of us have an addiction, though, it seems. For instance, I am now 2/3ds of the way through one of the books David recommended. I can probably find Dervin easy enough as I should have something here in the house by her from one of my 2 required courses.

    Could you shoot me a citation or 2 for Rogers & Kincaid, Pao and maybe something on question asking/answering? I prefer the more coherent, concise, but (reasonably) complete pieces, or maybe a good lit review article. I can always find my own way into the literature once I have a decent starting point.

    Thanks for your disagreement, and I hope you know that I always welcome it. 🙂 I just wish many of us were closer so we could sit around over coffee, tea, beers, or whatever and discuss more of this face-to-face.

  19. Yes, we did use Bopp & Smith, and I have no doubt that it has nothing to do with the fact that the wonderful Dr. Smith is ours….

    I have since seen some stuff on the reference interview and maybe our “discussion” of it in my ref class was to read the textbook. I’m just saying that I don’t remember any “real” discussion in class, which seems rather odd since the ref interview has always sort of struck me as the heart of reference work.

    I also know that there’s been a ton of stuff written about it. At some point I’ll probably need to turn to it as it might be very valuable in designing interactive IR systems. Not that that’s where I’ll end up; just saying’.

    But I still wonder as to it’s value overall, instead of as a subset of communication. But, then, the only way to answer my ?s is to have a look, isn’t it? 🙂

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