Madwomen poets and me

This term I am taking a class called “Madwomen Poets” in which we are reading and discussing Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. It is technically a freshman-level class although I do not think there are any freshmen in it.  There are 9 students so it is about the perfect size.  The professor is Dr. Jeanne Emmons.

These are the books we’re using:
Plath, Sylvia. 2004. Ariel : the restored edition. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Sexton, Anne. 2000. Selected poems of Anne Sexton. Ed. Diane Wood Middlebrook and Diana Hume George. 1st ed. A Mariner Book. Boston  MA: Houghton Mifflin.

We started with Plath and read her poems over four weeks and have now been on Sexton for four weeks with one class left.

Each week we pick two poems from those for the week and answer the following questions about them:

  • What experience or event is the poem talking about? Be specific and detailed.
  • What feelings does the poem express about that experience? Show how you know this.
  • (A and B)  Identify two metaphors from the poem that you found powerful or effective.  Why was each metaphor effective?
  • How is each poem similar to other poems we have read by the same author?  Identify the other poems by title, focus on similarities in imagery, metaphor, idea, feeling.  Be specific.
  • Discuss experiences / feelings/  observations of your own that relate to the experiences / feelings / observations in these poems?  Explain.

We also have to keep an ongoing file of themes from each poet.  What I have ended up doing is more of a cross between and index and a concordance.  It turned into a ridiculous amount of work; particularly since the class is a one credit hour course.  ::shrug::

My ‘index’ allows me to find an answer to question 4 quite easily and to make connections I would miss otherwise.

I have really enjoyed this class and the assignments have helped me immensely in accepting, understanding, and relating to the poetry of these two poets; highly functional as poets but both immensely dysfunctional as individuals.

I am hoping that this small taste of the benefits of actually working at the reading of poetry will stick with me.  Since taking up poetry just a couple of years back I have read a fair bit but I rarely spend any real quality time with it.  I knew I should work harder, spend more time, think about it, reread each poem several times, and so on.  But I mostly don’t.

Thanks to this class I now not only know that that would be a good idea but have actually experienced it to be so.  My concern is that I will treat this much like physical exercise.  Having been a certified fitness trainer (by the American College of Sports Medicine) I have a depth of knowledge about how exercise benefits the individual.  Having actually been in quite good shape a couple of different times I also know firsthand how being in shape benefits me; less aches and pains, far fewer headaches, more energy, better sleep, less colds and other illness, and so on. I even have a decent understanding of sports motivation and psychology. Except I can not make that work on myself. I am out of shape far more often than I have been in shape.

Thus my concern is that I will ignore what I have learned about the rewards of working at poetry. But I have some ideas. I was going to spring one on you right here but after a discussion this morning with my new writing partner (as in writing group) I might try something local first.

As an example of what I did in this class, here is my second poem for last week:

For My Lover, Returning to His Wife

1.  This is a description of how the narrator feels about how she as the other woman must let her lover return to his wife.

2.  False value, as in paste jewelry; cheap and tawdry goods.  Although the narrator is “A luxury” she is also a “momentary” and fleeting, rapidly dissipating one “like smoke from the car window.  One of the guiding images of the poem is of art.  The wife is described with images of “the potter’s wheel,” “Michelangelo” and his monuments and painted chapel ceilings.  “She is solid” and enduring like pottery and marble statues.  In contrast the narrator is “momentary” and like “a watercolor” simply washes off.  Around the time this poem was written do-it-yourself paint-by-numbers watercolors (and otherwise) were all the rage.  Anyone and everyone was encouraged to pick up a brush and fill in the outlines; anyone could be a painter!  As for as art, lasting art, goes, little of value was produced by this fad.

3. A.  “for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse”  I take this to be a metaphor for the desire and lust, the quickened pulse, of the wife that will issue “the curious call” that draws the husband to her for their own lovemaking.

B.  “As for me, I am a watercolor. I wash off.”  Especially situated within the larger image of art this metaphor states that the other woman is ephemeral and is unstable, impermanent, as a watercolor left out in the rain.  Perhaps also that, in effect, she can be simply rinsed away in the shower before the husband goes home to his “solid” and “monument[al]” wife.

4.  Sexton became infatuated with breasts in Love Poem; five of the thirteen poems we have from it have breast references: The Breast, The Papa and Mama Dance, Mr. Mine, Song for a Lady, and Eighteen Days Without You (December 18TH).  We also find a breast reference in Rapunzel.

In this poem it is a more tender, although jealous, image as it is referring to her lover returning to his wife; “when you will burrow in arms and breasts … and answer the call, the curious call.”  Rapunzel’s use is also tender, although deviant as it refers to an older aunt loving a young girl, “Old breast against young breast….”  There are several images in The Breast but the most important in relation to this poem is “Later I measured my size against movie stars. I didn’t measure up. Something between my shoulders was there. But never enough.”  Neither does she measure up against her lover’s wife in this poem.  For another tender reference in a, I hope, more equal lesbian relationship, we find “On the day of breasts and small hips … we coupled, so sane and insane” in Song for a Lady [I really hope this is about one of her adult affairs and not about Nana.]

5.  As I stated above, one of the primary feelings engendered by this poem is one of false value.  The narrator knows that she is, at least to her lover, of far less value than the wife.  This feeling, and its reciprocal of being valued far more highly than one should, are ones I felt in a deeply existential way upon reading Pablo Neruda’s Las manos de día / The Hands of Day.  This book, originally published in 1968, is some of his late work.  In it he questions, seriously and deeply, just what value he has been, just what it is that he has given the world.  Unflinching, honest, sometimes scathing, he asks of what value his life and his poems have been?  He has never made a broom, a chair, in fact, none of the objects he touched throughout his life; someone else made them all.  His disappointment and shame for not engaging with the world more is clearly evident.  As the translator, William O’Daly, says in his introduction:

“… don Pablo’s hands integrate experience, intellect, intuition, and feeling into a poetry that unites peoples of different languages and cultures by giving voice to his longing and to theirs, to what we struggle against or become, what we must embrace or eventually betray” (xi).

I read this book in October of 2008.  It was a very difficult time for me, as I had not gotten back to my thesis and, despite wonderful things—mainly Sara—entering my life, many others had gone wrong.  Sara was of two disparate minds about our relationship still, I had learned a fundamental lesson about my communication skills in a particularly harsh way, and I was again suicidal.  Reading these poems of Neruda’s was both uplifting and almost soul destroying, often at the same time.  Just what had I given the world?  Of what use had I been?  Of what use could I still be?

Sexton seems to see to be aware of the same sense of false value in being the other woman.  She knows that she has betrayed her lover, his wife, and even herself.  There are no questions in this poem, only statements.  She is stating that she knows she has truly given neither the world, nor her lover, anything of value through this relationship.

Lost, I navigate
in the solitude they left me.
And because I made nothing,
I stare in the darkness toward so many absences
that have slowly turned me into shadow.

Ending of XI The Absent Ones – Pablo Neruda The Hands of Day 2008 Copper Canyon Press

“Technology,” definition, history, and multiple uses of a term

In Fall 2005 I took a class with Prof. Chip Bruce on Pragmatic Technology. One of our assignments was to:

Produce an analysis of one keyword of your choice (see Raymond Williams, Keywords A vocabulary of culture and society. Revised edition. New York: Oxford University Press) for examples. This keyword is not just an index term as in the bibliography, but a core concept for the field. The analysis is a short essay (1-2 pp.) on the definition, history, and multiple uses of a term, which is central to understanding a text or a field of study.

I chose “technology.” This assignment represented 10% of our grade.

I found this little piece the other day while poking around my hard drive and decided I was going to put it here for assorted reasons, if only primarily for myself so I might find it easier in the future.

LIS590PT Fall 2005  Keywords Assignment  Mark Lindner  14 Sep 2005
“Technology,” definition, history, and multiple uses of a term

Plato distinguished Techne (art) from empiriae (knack) as having a logos, a rationale which “necessarily includes a reference to the good served by the art” while knack consists of “rules of thumb based on experience but without any underlying rationale” (Feenberg).

Feenberg argues that we moderns have lost the connection between techne and the good.  “We can still relate to Plato’s emphasis on the need for a rationale, a logos, but we’re not so sure it includes an idea of the good. In fact, we tend to think of technologies as normless, as serving subjective purposes very much as did Plato’s knacks” (Feenberg).

What is the history of technology in between, and is Feenberg correct?  The OED lists several senses of technology that are of relevance to us:

1. a. A discourse or treatise on an art or arts; the scientific study of the practical or industrial arts. (1615 BUCK Third Univ. Eng. xlviii)

b. transf. Practical arts collectively. (1859 R. F. BURTON Centr. Afr. in Jrnl. Geog. Soc. XXIX. 437)

c. With a and pl. A particular practical or industrial art. (1957 Technology Apr. 56/1)

2. The terminology of a particular art or subject; technical nomenclature. (1658 SIR T. BROWNE Gard. Cyrus v.)

Oxford American lists the etymology of technology as from the Greek, tekhnologia systematic treatment, from tekhnê art.

Thus, as far as standard English usage goes technology was earliest applied to language about, or the language of, the practical or industrial arts.  Over time this meaning shifted to the practical arts collectively, and then finally as a referent to any of the individual practical arts.

It seems to me that in American usage that technology has come to shift meaning over the last half-century or so from referring primarily to technoscience or applied science to the machines produced and used by such to primarily refer to the electronic gadgetry of everyday life; personal computers, iPods, DVD players, etc.  Most “normal” Americans think of technology as normless, as Feenberg said.  Atomic bombs, depleted uranium shells, land mines—it all depends on what you do with them.  Their development and existence is morally neutral according to this view.

Philosophers of technology use technology differently than in standard usage, but even there the meaning has shifted over the last sixty or so years.  Classical philosophers of technology (Ellul, Mumford, Heidegger; et al.) thought that technology “…must not be thought of as applied natural science, that is less an instrument than a form of life, and that it must be understood as a “system” (in Ellul’s word) or as a “megamachine” (Mumford)” (Achterhuis, 3).  Ellul uses the French word technique specifically due to the narrower connotation of technology with machines.  For Ellul, “technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity” (xxv).

Newer philosophers of technology (Noble, Hughes, Scwartz and Thompson; et. Al.) have pointed out the intertwining of technology and society as “technosociety,” “technoculture,” “network of technological affairs,” and as a “social process that is extraordinarily inaccessible to us because we are so much a part of it” (Achterhuis, 6-7).

Pacey points out in Meaning in Technology that technology has both social and individual meanings.  He also points to the difference between the “political economy” of the use and development of technology and its wider role in society and, the “social construction” of technology through a “variety of “actors” responding to a complex of social pressures” (4).  Pacey’s point about the shift from the “political economy” of technology to its “social construction” is similar to the shift from the early focus on the material and historical conditions for the rise of Technology as a system to the more recent focus on technologies that impact society while being influenced by the same society.  Pacey’s book is an attempt to redirect some of the focus back onto the meaning of technology created by the individual’s experience of technology, not just of society’s experience.

Sources Cited

Achterhuis, Hans, ed. American Philosophy of Technology: The Empirical Turn. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001.

Ellul, Jacques. The Technological Society. New York: Vintage Books, 1964.

Feenberg, Andrew. “Can Technology Incorporate Values? Marcuse’s Answer to the Question of the Age.” Paper presented at the conference on The Legacy of Herbert Marcuse, University of California, Berkeley, November 7, 1998.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. online, 1999.

Pacey, Arnold. Meaning in Technology. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

“Technology.” Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Follow-up of iPad use at ILA conference

This a followup to my Iowa Library Association Conference post from last week, which was written on an iPad (at home), about the use of the iPad at the conference.

All in all, it worked great. Thankfully, there was fairly reliable wifi in both the hotel proper and the conference center portion of the Coralville Marriott (which, by the way, is wholly owned by the city of Coralville. Nice!).

I never did figure out how to make a link in the WordPress app but then I never tried again either.

I primarily used the iPad to take notes and to check email, RSS feeds, twitter and facebook. The iPad came configured with lots of apps on it from the Briar Cliff University (BCU) Library, most of which I had no interest in or needed to use.

I used Safari to log into GMail, an app called Reeder for logging into GReader, Twittelator for twitter, and friendly for facebook. For note taking I used Plain Text. The beauty of Plain Text, besides being free, is that it syncs with DropBox automagically. Thus, no worries about what device I am on or if I forgot to get my notes off of the iPad before returning it the library where it was completely wiped and reset to the default setup when I returned it.

Now this setup—in some cases there were alternate apps available—worked for me as I just had to log into these assorted apps with my account info and I was ready to go.

On the other side of the usability and convenience fence, there were two things I did not like or didn’t work well.  The minor one is that in friendly (facebook) there was no F.B. Purity. I swear by F.B. Purity. Facebook still sucks somewhat with it (it is facebook after all) but I despise trying to find the value in facebook without F.B. Purity installed and up-to-date.

The more major issue was that 750words just did not want to act right on the iPad. To even begin to use it at all we used Atomic Browser (paid version)—which is more useful on the iPad than on my Touch—and told it to report itself as desktop Safari. Leaving it set as a mobile browser meant it wasn’t going to work. Even with setting it to spoof as a desktop version of Safari it still had issues.

What I was attempting to do, and was ultimately successful at doing with some heartache, was to copy and paste my notes from that day’s sessions/sightseeing into 750words. It did not like that at all. It would only show a small portion of what had been pasted in, there was no way to force a save, and eventually it would show you all of the text pasted in but the word count stayed at what you had written by hand, if any. You had to leave and come back and then maybe nothing was there or perhaps it had updated but you had to log in again because it wasn’t remembering that you had just been there. In the end it worked but it was a pain in the rear.

In summary, I have several online accounts for which there are multiple apps available that only require one to log in and be on your way. The iPad as set up by the BCU Library worked great for me at this conference, but my needs were reasonably light.

The Role of Research in the Development of a Profession or a Discipline – some comments

Biggs, M. (1991). The Role of Research in the Development of a Profession or a Discipline. In C. McClure & P. Hernon (Eds.), Library and information science research : perspectives and strategies for improvement, Information management, policy, and services (pp. 72-84). Norwood  N.J.: Ablex Pub. Corp.

Read 19 October 2010

Argues that “Librarianship is neither a discipline nor a profession as traditionally defined, and it has no real prospects of becoming one” (72). This, though, is only to set the stage for what kind of research we should be doing and how it should be done.

This was an interesting article that I would like to see more widely discussed. Much in it could be debated. But most interesting would be the implications for the field if, in general, we ended up agreeing with the author’s major conclusions.



I imagine that her comments under the section THE ROLE OF RESEARCH IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF LIBRARIANSHIP could really start some flame wars if not read with an open mind and a deferred judgment, at least, until she gets to these lines: “This is not to say that they represent work that is trivial or easy or takes no training. But neither need they be the exclusive province of a particular “profession”" (78).

Another area that might start some “healthy” discussion is that she seemingly defends “how we do it good” articles (79).

The author’s claim is that, after some argument to get here, “Librarianship is neither a discipline nor a profession, but rather an occupation grounded in techniques and personal “arts” (79). This claim is what grounds the kind of research she argues for.

Citing an article of hers then in press, she states that she has “argued that we should discard the notion of library “science” as itself a cohesive research field and instead draw to us experts from appropriate disciplines and work with them to explore the problems of technology, communication, economics, politics, sociology, and cognition that affect libraries and information transfer generally” (80). The author then lists three possible ways to accomplish that (80-81). These also would stir some healthy debate; especially amongst those in or valuing the doctoral degree in LIS.

The bottom line is a call for researchers to partner with practitioners (81-82). She also calls for a greatly expanded grant-based support of this type of research (82).

The author then suggests three possible ways in which the divide between research and practice in the field might be overcome (82):

  • Require and strengthen empirical research methods in the Master’s education.
  • Create “more formal means of mingling practitioners and scholars, as equals, expressly to discuss research” (82).
  • “Library and library school directors must provide time for their people to explore common interests together” (82). This, of course, would require a change in academic reward structures.

I’m betting a few of my friends would find the bit about “a faculty shortage in this field” perversely funny. Perhaps there was back when this was written. Then again, all of us have been hearing this siren call of impending jobs for too long of a time. Nonetheless, this was just an aside and is highly temporally contextual to a time now past. Still, I wanted to mention it as it is the kind of thing some people will write off an entire article for. Don’t do that in this case is all I’m saying.

There is much of value in this article; much that can be questioned, discussed or debated; and perhaps a little to make one roll one’s eyes. I’m keeping my cards close to my chest as to which is which for me. The most that I’m saying is that in the larger scheme of her paper I agree.

Iowa Library Association Conference

Tomorrow morning we head halfway across the state for the ILA conference in Coralville, next to Iowa City. We are looking forward to it for assorted reasons, but a little networking is near the top of my list. What is at the top, though, for both of us, is checking out Iowa City. We got a ton of great suggestions from three friends. Thanks E, Mikki and Julia.

I am writing this on an iPad that I have checked out from the Briar Cliff University Bishop Mueller Library. Yep, my library has loaned me an iPad for the conference. See Sara’s post for more info on the BCU Library iPad loan program:

In penance for missing my poetry class I have to do 2x the work for this week. Thankfully it is almost done though, and I got a start (barely) for next week’s.

We found out Greg Brown is playing in a benefit concert in Iowa City Friday night so we decided to stay an extra night. Woohoo. This will give us more time to see Iowa City on Sat. AM also. And thankfully Iowa is playing in Michigan this weekend so no football traffic/crowds to deal with.

So far writing this blog post in the WordPress app is pretty straightforward, except I cannot figure out how to make a link. That is why that URL sits sadly naked and exposed above. I can certainly state that I would not want to write a normal blog post in this app but for shorter ones with little or no linking it works OK.

I have no plans to get an iPad any time soon, for assorted reasons, but perhaps I’ll have more to say about the experience of using the iPad in general, and also for conferencing. I am leaving the laptop at home. I am taking my Touch in case I need a backup for some reason and since my music is on it.

COinS. Screw ‘em!


I’m just giving up. There will be no more in my posts; at least for the citations I include.

I’m tired of all the work I have to do to get the citations out of Zotero as HTML, open the source of the generated web page, copy the div with the COinS, paste it into HTML view in WordPress, and then still freaking pray that it works.

I guess I’ll leave the supposed COinS generator plugin that I have that generates COinS for the blog posts themselves activated. Sometimes it fails too.  I had some back and forth with tech support a long while ago and it “failed” for stupid reasons back then. Seems it is still failing for asinine reasons. Really, anyone want to tell me what the offending character is in this post title? The Profession’s Models of Information – some comments

Not only are the COinS for the two citations I used missing but so is the one for the post itself.

This post has all of the COinS displaying that it should, one for the post and four for the four books.

Other recent posts (since I started blogging again in Aug) have varying degrees of what they should as far as the COinS are concerned.

If anyone besides me was actually making use of the COinS I was embedding then I sincerely apologize. The work involved to only get screwed over repeatedly is simply not worth it.

It may be “the future(tm)” but our tools still suck!

The Profession’s Models of Information – some comments

Green, R. (1991). The Profession’s Models of Information: A Cognitive Linguistic Analysis. Journal of Documentation, 47(2), 130-148.

I read this at the coffee shop one morning a couple of weeks ago and, as usual, was quite impressed. She shows that a model of communication is mandatory for information science but that one of information seeking is optional. She also critiques the overuse of ‘information’ and makes the “radical suggestion” that we need a whole new language for library and information science (143). Yes, yes, and yes! [Was cited by Dick 1995; see below for citation. Or this blog post: 2 articles by Archie Dick]

Based on a linguistic analysis of phrases including the word ‘information,’ randomly sampled across a 20-year period from Library & Information Science Abstracts (LISA: 1969-Sep 1989), “establishes three predominant cognitive models of information and the information transfer process” (130, abstract).

Outline of article:

  • Introduction
  • Related Cognitive Models
  • Method
  • Results
  • Analysis
    • Focus of models
    • Compatibility of models
    • Direct communication model
    • Indirect communication model
    • Information-seeking model
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Appendix A
    • A. Direct communication (DC) model
    • B. Indirect communication (IC) model
    • C. Information-seeking (IS) model
  • Appendix B. Syntagms evoking general frames
  • References


In trying to determine the cognitive models within the field the author made two basic assumptions: “(1) the literature of a field incorporates the cognitive models common to the discipline; and (2) linguistic analysis can be used to ferret out what those models are” (131).

Related Cognitive Models

Green discovered three models, two of which take the perspective of the information system and one which takes the perspective of the information user. The first two fall under the critique of

“the traditional paradigm of information transfer criticised by Dervin. In what she refers to as a positivistic or information-theoretic framework, information is perceived as a self-existent and absolute entity, independent of human minds. Information is stored within a variety of types of information systems, which users may approach in order to extract information relevant to their needs” (132).


Pointing out that the phenomena of the information transfer process “is the key event around which library and information science is built,” Green states that

“If the positivistic model of information transfer observed by Dervin is truly representative of the thinking of the profession and if that mode of thinking is as dysfunctional as Dervin suggests (which, no doubt it is), library and information science educators and researchers would have some serious overhauling and restructuring of their cognitive models to accomplish” (132-33/133).

I adore her all over again for that “which, no doubt it is” aside.

There are a couple limitations of the method used that are listed (134). One of them, which is only a possible limitation or less of one than is suspected, would be partially answered if this study were repeated for the period 1990-2010. I would love to see that comparison.


As one can guess from the outline of the article above, the three models found are: Direct communication (DC) model, Indirect communication (IC) model, and the Information-seeking (IS) model (135). I will leave it to the interested reader to delve further into this paper on their own if they are interested in these models and the specific support found for them via Dr. Green’s analysis.


“As noted previously, communication models and information-seeking models are not inherently incompatible. Given that information transfer is the basic phenomenon around which library and information science revolves, the discipline must have a model of communication from information source to information user. Since the information user is often the initiator of the information transfer, we may have (and in general we would like to have) information-seeking models, too. Thus, a model of communication is mandatory; a model of information-seeking, although desirable, is theoretically optional. The upshot of this recognition is that the discipline’s models of communication are more crucial than its model(s) of information-seeking. … Sadly, our models of communication provide little insight as to how information transfer is actually effected” (141, empahsis mine).

While I will leave the concept of “information transfer” stand for now, this idea of a “transfer” is also to be rejected. Nonetheless, whatever fills the role of this so-called “information transfer” will still be “the key event around which library and information science is built” (132-33). Thus, a proper theory of communication is the basis for all that we do in library and information science, whether theory or practice.

Did the information-seeking model that was discovered accomplish its aims? No, it did not. Although ostensibly focused on the user, the IS model still emphasized the information system far too much, along with paying more attention to quantity vs. quality of the information retrieved (recall vs. precision) (141-42).

The issue is that

“the cognitive models of the user are not considered. Moreover, the cognitive models embodied in the information retrieved are also ignored; the relevance of information to a user’s need is defined solely in terms of shared ‘aboutness’, without respect to compatibility of underlying cognitive frameworks. Consequently, matching information retrieved to information needed is perceived mechanistically” (142).

This provides a an exceptional argument for domain analysis and a focus on epistemological relevance and viewpoint. Just because some source is ‘about’ a topic does not mean it will meet the needs of a user; any user much less a specific user.

The next paragraph warmed my heart to no end:

“Unfortunately, such a view of information retrieval, which is in the same vein as the positivistic or information-theoretic framework as criticized by Dervin, is, one may argue, built into our understanding of the word ‘information’. … This leaves us with the question why we have adopted such heavy use of the word ‘information’ throughout our discipline when the cognitive models associated with it are in at least some respects incompatible with what we are trying to accomplish” (142).


“Shortcomings discovered in the analysis … highlight the areas where our focus of research should be: the cognitive structures of texts; and how readers perceive them, re-mould them, and integrate them with the cognitive models they possessed at the outset of the interaction” (142, emphasis mine).

The question of integration is actually the foundation of all of these questions, as it is of the question of communication.

“A second recommendation stems from the observation that the word ‘information’ predisposes us to think of the retrieval process in a mechanistic sense, which goes counter to our modern understanding of how the process should be viewed. (Ironically, the word ‘retrieval’ also carries this bias.) … The recommendation offered here is a radical one: we need to change the basic inventory of words we use to communicate about our field. We should be more concerned with learning and knowledge than with retrieval and information” (142-43).

Change our language? Yes, yes, yes!

This article provides me the following:

  • A theory of communication is mandatory for LIS
  • A theory of comm is prior to a theory of information-seeking
  • An argument for domain analysis and epistemological considerations
  • A critique of ‘information’ as the basis for my discipline
  • A call to radically change our language within the field

Dick, A. (1995). Restoring Knowledge as a Theoretical Focus of Library and Information Science. South African Journal of Library & Information Science, 63(3), 99.

Casual-leisure Searching – some comments

Wilson, M. L., & Elsweiler, D. (2010). Casual-leisure Searching: the Exploratory Search scenarios that break our current models. In Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop on Human-Computer Interaction and Information Retrieval, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 22 August 2010. Presented at the HCIR 2010, New Brunswick, N.J. Retrieved from

When clearing out my aggregator a couple weeks back I came across this article in ResourceShelf (29 August 2010). It is a short, 4-page article which I printed and read on casual-leisure searching.

It appears to be a preprint from an ACM journal but the real info is lacking. I did some Google Scholar and Google searching and determined it to have been a presentation from HCIR 2010 last month. Daniel Tunkelang’s blog was most helpful, even including having the presentation embedded and linking to the mentioned Technology Review article, “Searching for Fun.”

Fourth Workshop on Human-Computer Interaction and Information Retrieval 22 August 2010

Update: The entire proceedings are available as a (big) pdf from the HCIR 2010 site: Proceedings [pdf: 18.2 MB]  Hmmm, Zotero linked to the entire proceedings; when/how did that happen? The individual article pdf is linked in the 1st paragraph (the one after the citation).

I also found a copy of the preprint at the first author’s uni site.

Casual-Leisure Searching

It turns out that, in fact, it is not only librarians who like to search. Some folks do it just to do it. The authors work in the realm of “exploratory search” and based on two different studies they have done have noticed that information retrieval (IR,) information seeking (IS), exploratory search (ES), and Sensemaking models are all incomplete.

“ES is defined as trying to resolve an information need when the searcher has limited knowledge of their goal, domain, or search system [13], normally involving some kind of learning or investigating behaviour [9]” (28).

They provide a very quick overview of these models and how they assume an information need, and that searching occurs to find information. They then discuss personal tasks versus the work-based focus of most of the research in these areas. Stebbins work on non-work and leisure activities in brought in, situating these activities as hedonistic. The area of the least research on information behavior, especially information seeking, is in this arena of casual-leisure. Some of this is now occurring and they do point to the work of Jenna Hartel and others.

All of these previous models are information-focused but in their work they are beginning to see searching for its own sake.

They did a study on TV-based casual information behaviors and one on harvesting real search tasks from Twitter. This is preliminary work but it is exciting. In the TV-based study they were able to look at both behavior and motivation. One might, if a hard-headed enough nit-picker, describe the behavior as still “wanting to find” but it is the motivation that shows the behavior is tending towards search without finding. These folks still, to me, wanted to find something. But their criteria was so loose that, perhaps, many different things could satisfy what they were looking for.

To me, it is the 2nd study, of Twitter, that shows the most promise in expanding our views, and theories, of search. One could get in a huff and say this is only browsing, except that under the previous models browsing is still assumed to be goal-directed and that it is browsing for something.

Have you ever found yourself endlessly browsing, or, or just sort of leisurely following hyperlink after hyperlink to suddenly notice that 2 hours have elapsed? That sort of browsing or searching has no real goal except to pass the time and, as they note, this can be either a good thing or a not so good thing. But often we do just do this for the experience of it. And I must say that this is one of the few current uses of “experience” that I can get behind. People do, in fact, sometimes search for the experience of it. There is no goal except to pass the time, hopefully in a reasonably enjoyable and non-frustrating manner. But other than that, what is found is of no consequence.

This is another area of daily, mundane, life that as usual until recently has been neglected in science—social or otherwise. Info seeking research began by studying scientists and then corporate work life. Eventually studies of nurses, children, janitors, etc. came along but they were still generally work task related. Only recently has the personal, casual, leisure angle begun to be explored. Now that it is the lack of coverage of our models is beginning to show. Even the more recent exploratory search aspect of information seeking is limited in the same way.

Those who claim that “it is only librarians who like to search, everyone likes to find” are, and always were, wrong.

Enjoy Every Sandwich – a short grump

Zevon, W. (2004). ‘Enjoy Every Sandwich‘: the Songs of Warren Zevon. New York, NY: Artemis Records,

Several weeks ago, for some reason I can’t remember due to Jackson Browne and David Lindley playing some Warren Zevon songs at the concert, I played some Zevon for Sara. As she started asking me about him we consulted Wikipedia and I came across the above CD.

I checked the Sioux City Public Library catalog and they did not hold it, but checking Iowa SILO I found it was available in the state so I requested it via the ILL form at SCPL.

Finally a couple of days ago I got a notice that it was in and today I picked it up. Turns out they just went ahead and bought it. This is the 2nd item I ordered via ILL that they bought for me. OK, really for their collection, but because I requested it. The other was Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget.

So, mad props to Sioux City Public Library for taking care of patrons. They rock!

My little grump is due to the fact that upon checking it out I was informed I only get it for one week instead of the usual three weeks. It seems it already has a fair few holds against it … so I get a restricted loan period.

Um, it wouldn’t even be available if I hadn’t requested it. It’s not like this is a new CD or something; it’s from 2004.

Anyway, no big deal really. I don’t need it for longer than a week. And, again, SCPL is rocking my ‘info needs’ so far. At least the ones I pass their way.

By the way, on first listen I pretty much agree with the All Music Guide review which you can read at the WorldCat page from the link above. But, so what? I’d rather having a loving tribute to Zevon than no tribute at all!

Anne Carson – Autobiography of Red

Carson, Anne. 1999. Autobiography of Red : a Novel in Verse. 1st ed. New York: Vintage Contemporaries.

This is my 3rd book review for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge.

I had read Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet in August 2009 and quite enjoyed it. Thus, when I came across this one last November in a bookstore for a reasonable price I grabbed it.

This is a retelling of the story of Geryon based on the existing fragments of StesichorosGeryoneis. All I will say about the story is that Geryon and Herakles are lovers.

Honestly, I am unsure what I thought of it. It seems both ancient and postmodern at the same time. I did enjoy the story, though, and it is a quick read. To give some idea of the book here is the TOC:

  • Red Meat: What Difference Did Stesichoros Make?
  • Read Meat: Fragments of Stesichoros
  • Appendix A: Testimonia on the Question of Stesichoros’ Blinding by Helen
  • Appendix B: The Palinode of Stesichoros by Stesichoros (Fragment 192 Poetae Melici Graeci)
  • Appendix C: Clearing Up the Question of Stesichoros’ Blinding by Helen
  • Autobiography of Red: A Romance
  • Interview (Stesichoros)

The 1st section provides some background on Stesichoros, Stesichoros’ influence as a writer, and on his Geryoneis.

This section begins with an epigraph by Gertrude Stein on the feeling of words doing as they want and have to do. Thus, Carson writes,

“Here we come to the core question ‘What difference did Stesichoros make?’ A comparison may be useful. When Gertrude Stein had to sum up Picasso she said, ‘This one was working.” So say of Stesichoros, “This one was making adjectives.’

What is an adjective? Nouns name the world. Verbs activate names. … These small imported mechanisms are in charge of attaching everything in the world to its place in particularity. They are the latches of being” (4).

I love that! The “latches of being;” of particularity.

The 2nd section includes XVI purported fragments of Geryoneis but what portion of the “eighty-four papyrus fragments and a half-dozen citations” (5) are they?

See Wikipedia article on Stesichoros for the relevance of his purported blinding (and restoration of his sight) by Helen.

As I said, I enjoyed this. But I am doubtful how much I would have if it had been, say, twice as long. I absolutely loved Eros the Bittersweet; so much so that I bought a copy as soon as I had finished reading the library copy and am looking forward to rereading it.

Between Sara and I we also have the following two books by Carson:

Carson, Anne. 2002. The Beauty of the Husband : a Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos. 1st ed. New York: Vintage Contemporaries.

Sappho. 2003. If Not, Winter : Fragments of Sappho. Trans. Anne Carson. 1st ed. New York: Vintage Books.

I am looking forward to reading both of these, also, although the Sappho truly is fragments; generally very short fragments.

Carson, Anne, and Center for Hellenic Studies (Washington, D.C.). 1986. Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.