Tunneling for rabbits

How far down the rabbit holes can I fall, and can I then tunnel between them whilst still falling?

Do I deserve my “little ducklings” or would I be better served by spectators at my self-immolation?

I offer the ducklings/spectators the option of deciding for themselves and changing their minds as they see fit, just as I reserve the right to change what I think I’m doing here.

I’m not sure that I’m really ready for this (the announcement, not the work) but I have decided on the topic for my CAS project, which since it came “soon enough” in the semester has changed my topic for my bibliography in Bibliography class this semester.

For Bibliography I had decided, and significantly begun, on the (primary) English-language publications of Dr. Birger Hjørland. Based on my wide-ranging interests and readings of the last several months I had been attracted to more and more of his articles and ideas. He also has a fairly representative list of publications available on his website, though it is not complete. A few A&I searches, luck, and ensuring that the “right people” know of my interest and I quickly have a pretty close to exhaustive list. Much of it is available electronically and much more will be as soon as Knowledge Organization gets online. I now have almost everything printed or photocopied and in 2 large binders (except for his book which remains pristinely non-hole punched).

I was really looking forward to (and had begun) reading this substantial amount of material chronologically. How many of us have ever had the opportunity to do such a thing and literally observe (as much as possible via published output) someone’s views develop over time?

But a choice of CAS project topic forced a shift. As I said previously (and even earlier in other venues), one of the possible things to address during Bibliography was “compiling my working bibliography for my CAS project.” But as the semester began I still had no idea what I was going to do for my project.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I “knew” my topic. But it has taken several weeks and multiple conversations to go from the idea that my topic could only be addressed as a dissertation, to it being doable if I take the “long route” to finishing my CAS by getting a job first, to “Suck it up, dude! You can do this in a semester” to “Yes, I have it and damn it, I’m excited about it!”

So what is my topic? Well, I actually did a better job giving it away the other day than I feel up to at the moment. But simply put, I am going to attempt to apply Integrationism to the field of LIS [see both links for more details.]

What does this mean for my immersion in Dr. Hjørland’s work? At least two points come immediately to mind. First, of the major epistemological viewpoints or “paradigms” in LIS, I see his approach “(the ‘sociological-epistemological paradigm’ or the ‘domain analytic approach’)” (Hjørland, 1998, 611) as the only one (currently) capable of embracing an integrationist perspective. Second, it is a handful of his articles which have seriously allowed me to see (or perhaps crystallize for me ) some of the overarching themes, stances, viewpoints, paradigms, and so on in our field. Thus, much of his work remains critically important to my further work and, in particular, to my CAS project topic.

For instance, I took myself out for dinner and drinks this evening and read the intro chapter to his book (1997) and took notes. There are several places where his language practically screams Integrationism.

As for my bibliography itself, it has gone from being boldly reaching in quantity but well defined and bounded to highly amorphous and about as vaguely defined as possible. But I absolutely adore Dr. Krummel for allowing me to take this route. I have not completely shifted to Harris (and/or Integrationism) as that is a much bigger topic for a bibliography. What I am theoretically focusing on at the moment are the points of contact between Harris and Hjørland. Depth and not quantity is the operative word now. Quality was always the operative word and still is.

Dr. Krummel said he is completely unconcerned about the number of entries that are in the final bibliography and that my focus is on the direct points of contact while including and defining the grey areas to either side as best as I can. That leeway and trust seriously frees me up to do some important exploratory work. I can read the things I was reading anyway, albeit in a different light, and include the things I consider important without having to worry about reading pretty much a whole body of work.

Have I leapt in over my head? Again? Probably. But I am fired up about this whole project! Hell, I even seem to be turning into a proper researcher and doing well thought out searches, considering what kind of sources I need for each aspect of my project, talking to subject librarians, and so on.

I have been making so many book purchases lately that the credit union contacted me to make sure someone hadn’t stolen my debit card info. I have mostly been buying Harris books, but I ordered 2 proceedings last night with papers by Hjørland in them. In most cases I have library copies available and even in my possession. But I want and/or need these for myself.

Today I had another productive conversation with Kathryn because she is my advisor and because Dr. Krummel insisted that I keep in touch with her about all of this. What an easy demand to meet! :) As my ideas have been coalescing to morphing to coalescing again I have been wavering about whether I was going/needed to meet with Dr. Hjørland one-on-one when he comes to visit soon. Today I scheduled this meeting.

Now I have an ambitious list of things to address in preparation for making this a productive meeting for both of us. I need to read some of and re-read some others of Dr. Hjørland’s publications, same for Harris, hopefully have a productive talk with The Improbable Don Quixote, make some short overview sketches, and try to have a short overview document of “the issues” as I see them for Dr. Hjørland’s convenience a day or two in advance.

Yeah.” Anyone got a match?

Seriously though. I am absolutely stoked! Perhaps I’m just too stupid to be more than a itty-bitty bit concerned about what I’m getting myself into. Perhaps I expect too much of myself. But I want this.

I do not expect to revolutionize the world or even LIS. I certainly do not expect to solve anything. Even if I managed the first I wouldn’t accomplish the second. But I can do a good job of laying out what I see as a major problem area in our field. I can point to some overlap and points of contact between two major theoreticians.

Best of all possible outcomes? Who knows?

Success? Spark a few interests and start a conversation. That is what I am aiming for. Well, and a tad bit of learning for mself along the way. ;)

The upside for the moment is that it keeps me out of the biblioblogosphere for a while. Perhaps a very good thing? Cause some of you folks … yeah, I got some things to say and they may not be exactly endearing. But some of you really need to come down off your high horses. Sure, you’ve got some valid points but it simply is not the case that we all learn the same nor is it always the case that trying to take a middle road or questioning is meant to be obstructionist. The place has become mighty fractious (and worse) again. Disagreement I like. Veiled name-calling, belittling, “just get on board,” and “my way is the right way” are not disagreement and they are certainly not discussion. They are condescending, they are threatening, and they are wrong. OK, done.

See what I mean? Probably best I have no time to get into all this at the moment.

Hjørland, Birger. “Theory and Metatheory of Information Science: A New Interpretation.” Journal of Documentation. 54.5 (1998): 606-621.

Hjørland, Birger. Information Seeking and Subject Representation: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Information Science. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

9 thoughts on “Tunneling for rabbits

  1. Mark,

    I am thrilled with the project you have chosen as well. I first read a paper of Hjørland’s some years ago when I first started my MLIS degree and like him right away (I am attracted to people who seem to know what all the “sides” are saying, and then still are willing to say “this is what I think is the most reasonable way to look at it… move forward, etc. – he seems like this kind of guy). I think looking for points of connection between him and Harris a a great idea – and look forward to what your inqury will produce.

    I’m sure the improbable Don Quixote will be a great guide as well. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him a bit too via email (FYI, the books he’s written look pretty interesting too and might be worth a look).

    If you ever want a guy to bounce big ideas off of, I’d be honored to be one of those guys. Keep up the good work on your blog. I loved the way you closed this post. Amen!

  2. Darn you. I looked at the wiki entry for Roy Harris yesterday which got me into thinking about General Semantics again and then I read this today and I realized that I a) don’t have the background and b) don’t have the time. However, I am fascinated.

    (We talked briefly at M. Norman’s brown bag. Maybe we can go for coffee and talk some time in the future.)

  3. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for the very positive response! Hjørland’s willingness to look at and discuss all viewpoints is both appealing and also quite useful to my purposes for setting up “the environment,” if you will.

    The IDQ will be a wonderful guide and I’ve already had to start thinking of how (to wittily) acknowledge him in the final paper. ;) We actually live fairly close to each other (30-ish minutes). I agree on his books, too.

    I have a copy of The Theory and Practice of Bibliographic Failure, or … and need to get back to it. Taking a quick glance through the TOC there should be some things of use to this endeavor.

    I also have our library’s copy of The Creation and Persistence of Misinformation in Shared Library Catalogs. I read it quickly a few months back and need to re-read it. No idea how soon but it will be available online in the near future as our institutional repository IDEALS is putting up the GSLIS Occasional Papers series along with some other really wonderful and useful things. If you haven’t seen the Winter 2004 issue of Library Trends v. 52(3) on The Philosophy of Information it is available already. You can get individual articles or the whole 304-page issue as a pdf. all of the old Allerton Park conference proceedings are up, too.
    http://www.ideals.uiuc.edu/

    He also has a book coming out soon from Rory Litwin’s Library Juice Press.
    http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=315

    No need to feel honored but thanks for the offer of discussion. “Ducklings” or no, I get little of it here (UIUC). I will be happy to try and correspond via email, although I must tell you that I don’t to well with discussing big ideas in that medium.

    I will be posting things here and there on the blog, asking questions, trying to elicit citations and/or suggestions, probably dropping some “overviews” or pieces of sections of the paper as it develops. Please feel extremely free to chime in.

    And if it turns out that we really need to work through something I can always just call you. I never use all my phone minutes.

    As for the post closer, thanks! But my hand was kind of forced too since I just need to spend my time on more important things at the moment; no matter how tempted I might be to do otherwise.

    Take care and we’ll be chatting I’m sure.

  4. Kirsten, thanks for the good wishes. I certainly hope I stay excited and energized all the way through, too! :)

    Best of luck with the upcoming job search! Looks like we’ll probably be in the same “job search cohort.”

  5. Hi barbara! Why “Darn me?” Thinking is good for you! :)

    And as for not having the background, do you think I’m going to let that stop me? Not a chance!
    Do I have the time? Well, perhaps more of it than some people, but not really as I am being overly ambitious (as usual). But reading this sort of stuff is what I do (for now).

    Coffee and talking is a fine idea. I much prefer communicating face-to-face.

    And as for The IDQ, well, I’ll leave it for him to show up. He’s lots of places and nowhere all at the same time. You don’t get a moniker like that by hanging out on any old street corner. ;)

    OK, OK, I’m being coy. He can generally be found on AUTOCAT under his real name and here on occasion as The IDQ [well, he uses the full version and I'm just being lazy as the full version sounds much better] and I certainly [unintentionally] dropped quite a few hints as to his identity in my reply to Nathan above.

    I’m being coy as it really isn’t my place to “out” anyone who chooses to use a nom de blog commenter to comment here. A little searching around here though and it would be apparent very quickly. So there’s no NSA-level cryptography going on but, again, it’s not my place….

    By the way, here’s a link to the presentation that I gave that I mentioned:
    http://marklindner.info/presentations/Blogs_ASIST.html

    I have no doubt my list would be different now than it was back in Feb. 2007. And while it was fairly general it was still pitched to the supposedly more techie crowd of our ASIS&T student group.

    I’m in cataloging (Content Access Management) 5 days a week and you clearly know how to find me here. Coffee is good.

    Thanks for the comments!

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