Some things read lately, or, new shit has come to light

This blog used to have a “feature” entitled “Some Things Read This Week” but I ended it before my blogging dropped completely from sight. With no promises one way or the other I’d like to start blogging again about some of the things I read.

As I said a couple of posts back:

I am ramping back up the work on my CAS thesis via several angles of attack. I am working on the paper proper and I am also working on a journal article, which will be highly related (as in with a little reworking can become a chapter), and I am thinking about trying to come up with a presentation for a conference in early December. The conference is “Semantics for Robots: Utopian and Dystopian Visions in the Age of the ‘Language Machine’. ‘The Language Machine’ is one of Roy Harris’ early books, of course.

Thus, I am reading and taking notes again. Along with trying to “reconstruct” work I have done previously, I am also continuing to pursue these interests further, along with pursuing other interests. In these areas I am also reading and taking notes. Having not written much of anything in quite a while I need to get assorted writing chops back in order, be it annotated bibliographic entries, blog posts, general and specialized note taking, summarizing, journal article(s), or CAS thesis.

So I am going to jump in again. Any feedback is appreciated whether on style, further reading suggestions, etc.

The first article I want to discuss is:

Dill, E. A., & Janke, K. L. (2010). “New shit has come to light”: Information seeking behavior in The Big Lebowski. Retrieved from [pre-peer reviewed version of a forthcoming article in The Journal of Popular Culture.]

No doubt, many of you saw references to the Dill & Janke article over the last two weeks. Many people, understandably, could not help themselves in mentioning it in one venue or the other. “New shit has come to light” as the title of an academic paper is worth mentioning in its own right, but assuming you get the reference to The Big Lebowski then you doubly could not help yourself. I can appreciate that. And do. So a quick shout out to the two folks I first saw reference it, Dorothea Salo and Christina Pikas [although probably saw the 1st references in twitter].

The first, and perhaps most important, thing I want to say about this article is that I am glad this is going into The Journal of Popular Culture. It is about time some of the research from our field shows up in other places besides our own stodgy journals. Now, I’d much prefer that other LIS research made its way where it is needed and that it was actually being cited and used in other fields. This, though, is a small start. If no one in another field is aware of our work then they cannot and will not use it. And to my knowledge JPC is pretty interdisciplinary.

This article, as noted above, is a preprint of the prior-to-peer-review paper. It will be interesting to see what changes have been made once it is in print. I am looking forward to reading it again for that reason alone.

The paper uses four characters from The Big Lebowski to highlight some differences in information seeking behavior, going from least effective to most. Along the way the authors use assorted LIS literature on information seeking behavior to support their analysis of these characters styles and methods. Or as they say, “This paper analyzes the information seeking behaviors of Donny Kerabatsos, Walter Sobchak, The Dude, and Maude Lebowski through the lenses of a variety of information seeking theories and models” (pp. 2-3).

Their claim is that “The film’s most important contribution to the study of information seeking behavior is its illustration of how a highly complex information search is not about finding the “answer,” but rather is about an individual’s ability to make sense of and create meaning from the process of information seeking (Dervin par. 8)” (p. 2). This I certainly agree with, both the author’s claim and Dervin’s. “Answers” frequently come along for the ride but then an answer is whatever one is willing to (currently) accept as an answer. This is true whether the one is an individual or a social group of any size.

Some of the assorted theories, models, and researchers used to illustrate the characters information seeking behaviors are the following [for the record, some of these are borrowed from outside LIS]:

  • Selection of dubious information sources : Elfreda Chatman studied the working poor, women, prisoners and retirees.
  • People prefer informal sources for spur of the moment info needs : Kirsty Williamson, older adults
  • Information sharing within groups (ostracism/exclusion) :  Eric Jones, et. al.
  • User’s perspective : Carol Kuhlthau
  • Beliefs : Donald Case on J.D. Johnson’s model
  • Personal construct theory : George Kelly
  • Preference for attitudinally consistent info amongst those with strongly held beliefs : Laura Brannon, Michael Tagler and Alice Eagly
  • Competency theory : Justin Kruger and David Dunning
  • Overconfidence as indicator of incompetence : Melissa Gross
  • Invitational attitude (as in “new shit”) [vs. indicative attitude] : Kelly’s personal construct theory
  • Positive attitude : Kuhlthau; and, Eva Jonas, Verena Graupmann and Dieter Frey (dissonance reduction)
  • Openness to experience : Jannica Heinström

If you are interested in any of these ideas and how they affect info seeking behavior, or you are a library-type and fan of TBL then you ought to have a look at either this preprint or the published article [Sure wish I could tell you when that is].

A friend of mine wrote on her blog (private, no link) that she was watching TBL as she was inspired by hearing about this article.  I told her that I enjoyed the article even if some times some of this research is fairly questionable. She responded that she was glad that “our profession has people like you who can quickly identify questionable research.” To which this was my response:

As for quickly recognizing … well, that’s the problem. It isn’t quick. It takes a weirdo like me who actually checks (and then reads) the things people cite. Are the methods appropriate to that kind of study? Can it be generalized? Or does it only apply to upper middle class, white kids, in private schools from the Midwest, and so on? (Like in many disciplines), most are too lazy to check that stuff so even if an author says explicitly not to generalize from their study and gives excellent reasons why not other people will. Some of our most beloved truisms in LIS come from this sort of thing. (Same in other disciplines, too.) Much of it is fairly intuitive, “Oh, you say depressed people have shoddy info behaviors? They give up easily and tend not to trust themselves? Blah. Blah.” Anyway, I wish it were easier so perhaps others would do more of it.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the article and am glad others might see some of this research. I just hope they do their jobs if they want to make use of it and read the actual studies themselves.

I should clarify that I am not saying that any of the research cited in this article is shoddy.  Nor am I saying that it is generally so in info behavior research. The biggest problem as I see it is that someone does a study and for assorted reasons—only one method used where more are appropriate, small sample size, etc.—they clearly state in the section(s) on further research, limitations of their study, and/or conclusions to not generalize, and give excellent reasons not to do so, and the next thing you know the article is cited over and over again as showing “such-and-such behavior” in general, or in a completely different group of people than studied. This happens far more than one would hope. And while I can imagine multiple reasons for it occurring none of them are good.

I have one particular article in mind which we read in our introductory course, LIS501, which studied a very limited and demographically narrow group of fifth-graders (sample size 10, computer-savvy, bright, middle class+, well-funded school district, etc.). The author clearly stated this was an exploratory study and could not be generalized. According to ISI Web of Knowledge this article has been cited 71 times. I have read some of those articles and I noticed their citations to the one I am thinking of. And believe me, their use of this as article as supporting evidence for their claims is in no way appropriate. I imagine many of the uses are appropriate but of the several I have seen none of them are.

I see this repeatedly. But the “ability” to see this sort of thing does not come easy. One must pay attention as one reads. One must look at the citations an author uses, especially if used as support for their argument. And one must often go and read those sources cited.  You certainly do not have to read everything everyone cites but by looking at what is being cited, particularly around an area of your personal interest, you will begin to notice the things being repeatedly cited. At that point, you ought to definitely read those.

None of that is easy. Nor is it quick. It may even increase the amount of crap you read. [Yes, crap gets repeatedly cited.] I imagine that it qualifies as one form of slow reading; at least, I would argue that it does.

Anyway, I am hoping that this article does not get eviscerated before seeing print. Eviscerated? C’mon. You are familiar with The Big Lebowski, aren’t you?

Long time gone

[This post title is, for me, multi-meta in that it refers to several things.]

It has been a long time since I’ve been here. Part of me is sad about this fact and part of me thinks that is just fine.

A lot has happened since I last wrote here:

I quit my job as a serials cataloger at the University of Illinois so I could concentrate on (then) upcoming weddings and our move.

Sara and I were married in late May in a small but wonderful ceremony amongst family and friends in a cabin on the banks of the Sangamon River.

At the very beginning of June I started prepping for our move to Sioux City, Iowa.

A couple of weeks later, my daughter got married in Oberlin, Ohio in an even simpler, but absolutely lovely and moving, ceremony to a wonderful young man that I couldn’t be prouder to be related to.

On the evening of 3 July we left Urbana, IL and headed for Sioux City. As of 4 July we are residents of Sioux City. This is a vastly different place  than Urbana-Champaign, in so many ways. We are still getting it sorted out but we will.

We had a good week and a half before Sara had to start her job and we made good use of it. Sara worked for 3 days and then we took a vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota to spend some time in a couple of cabins with some friends of Sara’s from high school and their respective significant others and children. On the way home we drove through the Badlands. I have a couple of pictures up but I have 100s more to be tagged, labeled, decided upon and uploaded. Suffice it to say that it was beautiful! And being the against much of pop culture fiend that I am, we skipped Wall Drug (unfortunately not the signs though), Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

Once back Sara got back to work and is enjoying learning the ropes of this vastly different, and vastly smaller, university. I got back to work on organizing the house, merging two large book collections, much of which was in storage, along with merging two large CD collections, of which all of hers were in storage. There is still a bit to do on all the house organizing fronts but it is definitely getting there.

Shortly after we got here we bought ourselves a 32″ LG HDTV with built-in netflix streaming so we’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and some other things.

We’ve been taking an online class on HTML5 via SitePoint and in a few weeks will take one on CSS3. They were $9.95 each! So the last 2 weeks that is what we’ve been doing in the evenings when Sara gets home from work. (And, yes, I know the CSS3 course says it is $14.95 but by signing up for both at the same time we got a $5 discount!) I think that for the price they are quite good. As with any class it is (mostly) about what you put in to it.

Speaking of courses, Briar Cliff University has a 100% tuition remission policy for spouses so I’ll be taking a 1 credit class this fall called Madwomen Poets. About all I know about it is that it includes Sexton and Plath. But who cares what, if anything, else it might be? Who could ignore a class entitled Madwomen poets?

I know. I know. I’m supposed to be doing other things, “more important” things. And I am. But it is 50 minutes, 1 day/week. I figure it’ll help keep my mental chops in order. And at this point I still don’t know if I’ll be taking it for a grade or auditing.

As to that more  important stuff … I am ramping back up the work on my CAS thesis via several angles of attack. I am working on the paper proper and I am also working on a journal article, which will be highly related (as in with a little reworking can become a chapter), and I am thinking about trying to come up with a presentation for a conference in early December. The conference is “Semantics for Robots: Utopian and Dystopian Visions in the Age of the ‘Language Machine’. ‘The Language Machine’ is one of Roy Harris’ early books, of course.

As for conferences, I am really sad that I will not be able to attend ASIS&T in Pittsburgh this year. But seeing as we gave up about $40k in income with me not working there is little means of justifying the expense of travel and lodging. And, honestly, the registration cost is plain crazy for an unemployed non-student, non-retiree.

Sara and I decided that the Integrationist conference in Chicago in December, along with being far cheaper, is really more where I need to be right now. I need exposure to more Integrationists and Integrational thinking and I will get far more out of a small conference (as I always do) than a bigger one. Whether or not I can get something submitted (and possibly accepted) I am highly looking forward to it. Nonetheless, this will be the 1st ASIS&T I’ve missed since I started going in 2006.

And if any of my Chicago friends are reading this, I’d adore an invite to stay with you for a couple days in early December (2nd-4th, or so), especially if you are near the Univ. of Chicago.

Tomorrow night we are, thanks to a surprise from Sara, going to see Jackson Browne and David Lindley and the historic Orpheum Theatre here in Sioux City. I have been listening to (early) Jackson Browne for close to 40 years now. I haven’t really kept up with anything since the mid-80s or so but, nonetheless, I am stoked to finally get to see him live for the first time.

We also have a Super Secret Date night scheduled for Sunday night. Sara had that lined up well before we left Urbana. She offered me the chance to find out what it’ll be last night but I passed. I like the surprises! She’s done so well every time in the past. And it also makes me aware that it is past time for me to step up in the Super Secret Date Night scheduling department.

And in case anyone who cares isn’t aware of it yet, my son is in Afghanistan for his 3rd war zone tour. He left just days after we moved. Grrrr.

I guess I best end this for now. It is getting long and the simple shock of seeing a post from me is probably enough already. With any hope I won’t be gone as long before the next time.

Is the iPad a consumption only device?

Yesterday I finished reading Walt Crawford’s “Zeitgeist: hypePad” article in the newest Cites & Insights.

Walt did a fine job of summarizing a lot of blowhards and a few sane persons. But. The further along I got the stronger my apprehension got. Was Walt going to notice something I was noticing or was he buying into a certain rhetoric and, if so, why?

Here’s the thing. Many people, people on both ends of the iPad hype spectrum, are claiming that it is purely a content consumption device and not a content creation device. And that, my friends, is pure horseshit.

While there are some serious issues with how proprietary the device is, the limits of the iTunes/app store model for acquiring software you need/want, and the rampant DRM, and these certainly deserve some critical ink spent on them, this in no way makes the device a “consumption only” platform.

I am not sure what constitutes content creation for the technophiles and Wired editors and the likes but I believe that Walt knows better. Almost no one is producing fancy, professional-quality, full-color glossy Web magazines. We are writing blog posts, interacting in Facebook, conversing in friendfeed, posting pictures to Flickr and other image sites, writing documents and reports that end up on the Web, and so on.

The iPad will not only allow but enable one to do the vast majority of these things! Sure, you won’t be able to run Dreamweaver or QuarkExpress or … but these are NOT the only things that generate “content” [By the way, let me go on record here as to how much I dislike this usage of “content.”].

According to the iPad features page it includes Safari, Mail, Notes, Keynote, Pages and Numbers, along with, of course, access to the App Store. While most of us probably do more consuming with our web browsers we also do creative work. This critique may be minor and it may not be very creative but I am not consuming it and I am creating it in a browser. I could have written this on my Touch.

The other programs are even more heavily toward the creation side of this supposed dichotomy. There are also apps for painting and drawing and many other forms of creative activity. Famous artists have even used their iPhones to create and share art.

Walt does say that “the iPad will succeed or fail largely on its own merits. While those merits may not meet my needs—and while I do believe you’re better off thinking of the iPad as an appliance, not another kind of computer, and that the closed model is dangerous—there’s no doubt its merits are real” (p. 30). Yes, I think the appliance label is useful. I certainly do not think of my Touch as a computer except in a generic sense.  I certainly do not confuse it with my MacBook and what it can do.

I am intrigued by the iPad but I highly doubt I will be buying one any time soon. I do my best not to buy 1st generation hardware/software from anyone. And I have serious concerns with the many other issues around the iLine of products—closed systems, DRM, etc. I also do not know where the iPad would fit into my way of being.

Walt finds the closed model dangerous and so do I; especially if it proliferates and closed systems become our only choices. But I also find lots of room for the closed appliance model of computing. There are an awful lot of people who could benefit from a device like this who are simply overwhelmed with a standard computer and all that that entails. Of course, most of the people Walt cited—the pundits anyway—probably cannot begin to relate to that thought.

So while the kinds of content that can be created on an iPad are reduced from what one could do with a full general-purpose computing device and appropriate software and input/output devices, it is not non-existent. To call an iPad—in general, irrespective of any particular use cases—a content consumption only (or primarily) device does more to show us what the commentor thinks they value over the truth of the matter.

For instance, Walt cites Lauren Pressley’s thinking (p. 16) “that things on the web are shifting from mass creation to primarily consumption (that is, “regular folks” are mostly tweeting, not contributing long-form content) with organizations creating more of the content ….” But since about Day 2 of the Internet that has probably been the case with organizations creating most of the (long-form) content.

Also, since when is Twittering not content creation? There seems to be a real discrepancy between what people consider not only “content” but “creation.” Until those nuances are pulled apart it is nonsensical to make such statements and to apply such labels to our devices.

In the end, I do think that devices like the iPad are restrictive in the way of content creation. But then so is my $2000 laptop. My laptop cannot help me paint a picture in oils on a real canvas, nor can it help me build a fancy gingerbread house. Now just hold on! If you want to tell me that I can find all kinds of good info on the web on how to paint, where to buy supplies, etc. that is only consumption towards a creative goal (under the current model). If you tell me I can find designs for gingerbread houses on the web then same thing. And I could do all of those with an iPad.

One thing to notice here is the complex issue of just when and how does consumption lead to/change into creation. There are no acts of immaculate conception in art/creation. It all comes from some influence; an influence that was consumed at some point, whether one knows it or not.

There are also larger issues of just who is doing content creation to share on their computers anyway. And of what we are calling content creation. Sure, precede it with long-form content, if you like. But you cannot separate long-form content until other kinds until you have delineated what content is, period.

In summary, while there are many issues surrounding the closed appliance model of the iPad to call it a primarily content consumption device, all the while ignoring what is or is not consumption vs. creation, ignoring other use cases than ones own, ignoring who is creating vs. primarily consuming, is simply to show ones biases.

In the end, once/if all these ideas are teased apart we might still label the iPad and similar devices as primarily consumption devices. I am perfectly fine with that, because then we will know what we are actually claiming.

Do I expect any of this to happen? At least on a broad-scale? Nope. No hope whatsoever. Academics will pull some of it apart, if they aren’t already, but little will filter down into the mainstream any time soon.

Unfortunately, this is an area that is rife with hype and I do not see it changing any time soon. But I intend to stay alert for this kind of framing—if one can call something framing which lacks much structure—and rhetoric so I can better assess the tools my society makes available.

Disclaimer: I am not an Apple fanboy although I am an Apple user. I have a 30GB photo iPod, a Touch, and a MacBook. I also have a 12″ PowerBook collecting dust until I possibly get around to totally reinstalling the OS and software.

But ask me about my 1st computer purchase years ago only to have Apple kill the Apple II line once they decided everyone had to have a Mac. My next and 3rd and 4th and 5th and … computers were all DOS/Wintel-based, for years after.

I think that, for now, Apple computers offer a good bargain; quality hardware and software for a reasonable price. Is there a premium? Sure there is. But I do not mind paying for quality in my important purchases. But, although far less than when I had Windows machines, I still yet at my computing devices on occasion, just as I frequently curse Steve Jobs and his (peoples’) design decisions that baffle me.

Some things seen around the Internet lately

Drinking with the Troops

From a local blog, Urbanagora, comes “Drinks with a Soldier.” I just love how some jackass commentor tries to hide behind the shield of anonymity and call the post author a liar. Certainly there are all sorts of views on this war, including those of the troops fighting it.

Perhaps if you ever get the chance—you could try arranging the chance—you, too, should have drinks with a soldier (or sailor, airman or marine) and find out a bit about what it is like on the ground in this war.  Of course, don’t forget the millions of servicemembers still living who served in our previous wars. A patient, caring ear would do many of them a world of good.

The value of a liberal arts education

For an interesting discussion on the value, or lack thereof, of a liberal arts education and liberal arts colleges see “On Liberal Education” at the Academic Librarian blog. Wayne Bivens-Tatum critiques the views of the author of a new book on the subject, as presented in The Kansas CW.

A spirited back-and-forth between Bivens-Tatum and the book author follows in the comments. I should state up front that I agree entirely with all of Bivens-Tatum’s points and his larger argument. The book author tries to point out some flaws in Bivens-Tatum’s arguments which simply are not there. I found that rather humorous.

But the one point I was hoping Bivens-Tatum would take up was the author’s insistence that some immediately practical subjects should get substituted for liberal arts classes because students are incurring too much debt, can’t pay their student loans, have to take high paying jobs vs. the job of their dreams, have to move back home with mommy & daddy, etc. because colleges are financially predatory.

So the solution is immediately practical vocational training? Wouldn’t better financial counseling for students, laws barring credit card companies from preying on students, educational finance reform, and so many other things be helpful, too, and perhaps even more ethically important? Have a look and see what you think.

Early Mike Wallace interviews with “important people”

Via Resource Shelf comes The Mike Wallace Interview.

In the early 1960’s, broadcast journalist Mike Wallace donated 65 recorded interviews made in 1957-58 from his show The Mike Wallace Interview to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. The bulk of these were 16mm kinescope film recordings, some of the earliest recordings of live television that were possible, and that survive today. Many of these have not been seen for over 50 years, and they represent a unique window into a turbulent time of American, and world history.

See interviews with jockey Eddie Arcaro, stripper Lili St. Cyr, actress Gloria Swanson, Steve Allen, Frank Lloyd Wright, birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt, novelist Pearl Buck, and many others.

Doing the dirty fictionally

Via 3 quarks daily we get a book review in the New York magazine of Robert Olen Butler’s Intercourse: Stories. Find it in a library near you via WorldCat.

Robert Olen Butler’s new story collection, Intercourse, is, as its title suggests, totally about doing it. It imagines the thoughts of 50 iconic couples as they knock the proverbial boots, beginning with Adam and Eve copulating on “a patch of earth cleared of thorns and thistles, a little east of Eden,” and ending with Santa Claus blowing off postholiday steam in January 2008 by doing the nasty with an 826-year-old elf in the back room of his workshop. But, as the clinical tone of Butler’s title also suggests, Intercourse is very much not a work of erotica. It tends to ignore messy fluids and crotch-logistics in favor of wordplay and psychological nuance.

Civilization and cultures

Also via 3 quarks daily we get Tzvetan Todorov in the Pakistan Daily Times thinking and writing to his usual standard of quality.

But if you look at this line of argument more closely, the flaw in Barnavi’s argument is immediately apparent. The meaning of the words civilisation and culture is very different when they are used in singular and plural forms. Cultures (plural) are the modes of living embraced by various human groups, and comprise all that their members have in common: language, religion, family structures, diet, dress, and so on. In this sense, “culture” is a descriptive category, without any value judgement.

Civilisation (singular) is, on the contrary, an evaluative moral category: the opposite of barbarism. So a dialogue between cultures is not only beneficial, but essential to civilisation. No civilisation is possible without it.

[There, S, I did it. And no, neither linking to the Academic Librarian nor WorldCat invalidates my effort. 😉 ]

Some things read this week feature is over

Back in mid-January 2007 I started a “feature” entitled “Some things read this week, …”. I have, for a long time now, been unhappy with it. I have rarely addressed the important things in the depth which they deserved and to which I would like. The date data is generally recorded in at least one other place, if not more, for all items listed in those posts, but they did serve a sort of chronological collation function for me, though, which was in a sense more easily useful for my own purposes.

Another issue which has recently arisen for me is that I have been reading a few books on a topic vastly different than what was normal for me. But our circumstances can change our reading preferences as I would hope most anyone would admit. The issue is that I, after discussion with a trusted confidante, do not feel comfortable listing and discussing them here. Actually, I feel perfectly comfortable listing and discussing them with many people.

The problem is librarians as a group. As a group, librarians are uncomfortable with this topic, as they are with many topics. Now these are books that I walked over to my local library, Champaign Public, and checked out. I was planning on putting a big (Self-)Censored heading in my post for this upcoming week before discussing the issue much as I am now.

But, based on my unhappiness with the “feature” anyway, and adding in that I am now painfully self-censoring myself, I see little need to continue it.

Rest assured that I will continue to blog about some of the things I read. But not having to worry about trying to say something about everything and feeling bad when I don’t—which was frequent—I can now concentrate on saying something of potential use to others and myself. I imagine something along the lines of The Gypsy Librarian‘s Article Notes and Book Notes features.

I honestly do not imagine anyone will miss the weekly list, except perhaps me, and I will certainly not miss the work involved in writing and constructing the blog posts.

Some things read this week, 18 – 24 May 2008

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Sutton, Michael J. D. 2001. Proposal for a provisional knowledge management taxonomy. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, Ed. D. Grant Campbell, Vol. 255-266 of, Université Laval, Quebec City, Quebec (Accessed May 4, 2008).

Sunday – Monday, 18 – 19 May 2008

Harris, Roy. 1996. Signs, Language, and Communication : Integrational and Segregational Approaches. London; New York: Routledge.

  • Ch. 5 : Communication processes

As my girl Ani says, “I got distracted.” 🙂

And, honestly, I’m bored with these posts. They provide a good record of my readings in some ways, but the data is often also recorded in other places. It does provide a chronological collocation function though which is not as easily accessed via those other means.

I’m not happy with the quality of most of these posts anymore either. Maybe I’d be less bored if were providing more and better commentary. I don’t really see it improving much any time soon, though. Need to make a decision. Later.

I did start another book earlier in the week but I’m rolling it over till next week as I’m going to try and finish it during my trip to Texas. Which also means next week’s reading will probably be quite light, too.

Some things read this week, 11 – 17 May 2008

Monday – Tuesday, 12 – 13 May 2008

Budd, John. 1992. The Library and Its Users: The Communication Process. New York: Greenwood Press.

Got back to this finally.

  • Finished ch. 4 : The Library in the Communication Process
  • Ch. 5 : The Librarian in the Communication Process
  • Ch. 6 : Noise
  • Ch. 7 : Conclusion

Finished this Monday, started back on it about a week ago I think. Not particularly interested in commenting on it right now.

Barnes, Bill. 2007. Read Responsibly: An Unshelved Collection. Seattle, Wash: Overdue Media LLC.

Actually read over the past week or so.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Fallis, Don. 2001. Social epistemology and LIS: how to clarify our epistemic objectives. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, Ed. D. Grant Campbell, 175-183, Université Laval, Quebec City, Quebec (Accessed May 4, 2008).

Discusses how social epistemology (You have read Egan and Shera 1952 haven’t you?) can help decide what the proper objectives are for library and information services. If the idea of social epistemology is new to you then this is an excellent short read with a few key sources in the bibliography.

Tuesday – Saturday, 13 – 17 May 2008

Harris, Roy. 1996. Signs, Language, and Communication : Integrational and Segregational Approaches. London; New York: Routledge.

Started this one over; had only read the preface and first 2 chapters back in March. This is one of 2 books that I really need to read and absorb before I write my CAS paper. Anything else is probably gravy, or even excessive, but this and the other are pretty much foundational.

  • Ch. 2 : Before communication (Wed)
  • Ch. 3 : Communication and choice (Thu)
  • Ch. 4 : Communication and intention (Fri-Sat)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Meadow, Charles T. 1999. Information retrieval–a view of its past, present, and future. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, 190-196, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec (Accessed May 4, 2008).

A short history of information retrieval. Kind of hard to evaluate at this point in history but it seems pretty fluffy and while not poorly written it is not well written either.

As much as I do not like claims of the “this is the kind of thing every LIS student should know before they graduate” kind this seems to be to be such. I have no doubt that many don’t, especially those oriented towards reference, and children/youth/adult services. If ALA were doing its job in accreditation then it would be something any newly graduated librarian ought to be able to spout off off the top of their head.

Some things read this week, 4 – 10 May 2008

Sunday – Saturday, 4 – 10 May 2008

Wilson, Patrick. 1968. Two Kinds of Power : an Essay on Bibliographical Control. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Ch. III : Relevance (Sun)
  • Ch. IV : Bibliographical Instruments and Their Specifications (Mon)
  • Ch. V : Subjects and the Sense of Position (Wed)
  • Ch. VI : Indexing, Coupling, Hunting (Thu)
  • Ch. VII : Consultants and Aids (Fri)
  • Ch. VIII : Reliability (Fri)
  • Ch. IX : Adequacy and Bibliographical Policy (Fri-Sat)

What can possibly be said about this work in a few pathetic sentences?

This work needs to be in print. It needs to be available on the web. It needs an index; needs a bibliography; needs to be marked up in TEI; needs an outline of its arguments; needs to be read widely and discussed widely.

I would gladly give a year or two of my life to facilitate most of that, if someone would only pay me. The University of California Press is completely failing us by letting this languish and remain out of print.

I hope to say more about this wonderful essay if I can ever get my hands on a copy of my own. The kind of close reading and engagement that it really deserves cannot be accomplished (by me) with a library copy.

If you’ve never read this then do so. If you have, consider reading it again. My advisor said she had one of her classes read parts of it recently and it blew most of their little minds. Good!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Budd, John M., and Heather Hill. 2007. The Cognitive and Social Lives of Paradigms in Information Science. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, Ed. Clement Arsenault and Kimiz Dalkir, 11, Mcgill University, Montreal, Quebec (Accessed May 4, 2008).

Is a call for the rejection of the Kuhnian paradigm in favor of Popper’s views.

Monday evening dinner: crab cakes, 2 pints of Guinness and 3 articles

Mai, Jens-Erik. 1998. Organization of Knowledge: An Interpretive Approach. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, 231-241, Université d’Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario (Accessed May 4, 2008).

One of the best opening sentences ever in an LIS article:

The major challenge for information science at the dawn of the millennium is to establish an appropriate epistemological foundation for the field (231).

Of course, he was at the Royal School in Copenhagen at the time. A small influence perhaps?

The paper argues that information science in general and organization of knowledge in particular needs to establish a clear epistemological foundation, which takes into account that the field should be studied as a human science. It is argued that the definition of knowledge is needed, and suggests that Wittgenstein’s concepts of ‘form of life’ and ‘world pictures’ could be used as frameworks (abstract).

Warner, Julian. 2000. Meta- and Object-language in Information Retrieval Research. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, Ed. Angela Kublik, 5, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta (Accessed May 4, 2008).

As usual, I’m not exactly sure what the author is on about—although he’s a wonderful guy when I see him at conferences—but this seems as if it might be quite useful when I turn to metalanguage/metalinguistic issues in the future.

Smiraglia, Richard. 2005. Instantiation: Toward a Theory. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, Ed. Liwen Vaughan, 8, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario (Accessed May 4, 2008).

Hmmm. “Instantiation, essentially, is a generic term for the phenomenon of realization in time. Other terms are associated with the concept, but with more problematic overtones in their definitions” (1).

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Foskett, D. J. 1995. Libraries and information systems – a fruitful partnership. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, 16, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta (Accessed May 4, 2008).

Being 13 years on this seems an odd piece on one level. On another it is the words of a pioneer and leader looking to the future with a long career behind him. In 16 pages it runs the gamut from libraries, information jungle, “three-minute attention span of attention,” creativity, serendipity, predictive power of science, reflection, interrelations between media, facet analysis, data, information, knowledge, wisdom, and much more.

This can be read so many ways. And it needs to be read generously. I have objections to much of the phrasings, even outright to some of his ideas. But I also love parts of it. I’m going to take it as a moment in time versus some tightly argued thesis as I agree with most of what I take, anyway, to be his major arguments.

Some things read this week, 27 April – 3 May 2008

Saturday – Sunday, 26 – 27 April 2008

Abbott, Andrew. (2008). “Library Research and Its Infrastructure in the Twentieth Century.” Spring 2008 Windsor Lecture, 12 March 2008

Read the pdf, below. [Note: Audio in Real format.]

Windsor Lecture Series
“Library Research and Its Infrastructure in the Twentieth Century”

Dr. Andrew Abbott, University of Chicago
PDF format | audio recorded 3/12/2008

Sorry. Taking a rain check on this one once again. I went to the lecture and took some notes. Wanted to check them against the audio. Then I got the text of the lecture. Now it’s been a week since I read it.

I’d really like to write about it; I think Abbott makes some fine points. And [parts of] his research methodology really resonates with me for much of what I do. I understand that there are vastly different ways to “do research” but his is one I comprehend and feel.

Who knows if I’ll ever get around to writing about it. Thus, I suggest you check out the audio or text of the lecture, whichever works best for you.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

FRBR for Serials

Found at The Serials Cataloger blog in a post called “FRBR for Serials.”

Interesting. All I’m saying for now. Want to see/hear more.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Austin, Michael W, ed. 2007. Running & Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind. Malden: Blackwell Pub.

  • Ch. 19 : The Soul of the Runner by Charles Taliaferro and Rachel Traughber.

Finished this. Quite good overall even if spotty in a few parts.

Tuominen, Kimmo, Sanna Talja, and Reijo Savolainen. 2002. Discourse, Cognition, and Reality: Toward a Social Constructionist Metatheory for Library and Information Science. In Emerging Frameworks and Methods: CoLIS 4: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science, Seattle, WA, USA, July 21-25, 2002, Ed. Harry Bruce, 271-283, Greenwood Village, Colo: Libraries Unlimited. [WorldCat]

Looks at metatheories in LIS:

Three different metatheories—the information transfer model, constructivism, and social constructionism—are identified and their assumptions about the relationships between discourse, cognition, and reality are described (271).

The authors are arguing for a constructionist view.

Constructionism’s emphasis on language is heartening.

The primary emphasis of constructionism is not on mental but on linguistic processes. In constructionism, language is seen as constitutive for the construction of selves, and formation of meanings, not merely something that influences thinking (273).

To the following, I can only say, “Hear! Hear!”

Therefore, LIS would benefit from including an explicit theory of language into its metatheoretical repertoire (273).

Also contains a great, short critique of the information transfer model. And a nice view of the evolution of theory and metatheory.

Springer III, Edward V., and Rong Tang. 2002. A Communication Perspective on Meta-Search Engine Query Structure: A Pilot Study. In Emerging Frameworks and Methods: CoLIS 4: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science, Seattle, WA, USA, July 21-25, 2002, Ed. Harry Bruce, 323-327, Greenwood Village, Colo: Libraries Unlimited. [WorldCat]

This one didn’t stick out so much for me.

Monday – Wednesday, 28 – 30 2008

Forster, Michael N. 2008. Kant and Skepticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

This is was interesting [finished it], particularly if one is into Kant and/or skepticism. But probably not the best use of my time currently. Le sigh.

At points I was understanding this a paragraph at a time, basically. The author has a very didactic way of explanation and writing but I can see how it is pretty much required when talking about issues such as these.

The last chapter is a charm, though. In it, “The Pyrrhonist’s Revenge,” Forster shows that Kant’s underestimation of “radical” [if you will] Pyrrhonism undercut his whole frame of transcendental arguments.

I was particularly taken by this paragraph and, even more so, by its footnote:

Hegel and Bardili also imply that classical logic has not been provided by Kant or his predecessors with any epistemological defense capable of protecting it against such skeptical attacks. This appears very plausible[35] (85).

[35] The question of the epistemological security of logical principles has in general received rather scandalously little attention from philosophers, who have tended, instead, to show indecent haste in attempting to reduce other sorts of principles to logical ones, on the assumption that the latter were certain and that their certainty would thereby transfer to the former as well—as, for example, in Kant’s explanation of analyticity in terms of the law of contradiction, and Frege’s attempt to reduce arithmetic to logic (143).

Always one of my pet peeves with logic and logicians who want to use it as the ultimate basis for, well, much of anything, much less of everything, instead of as the wonderful tool (among many) available.

Referring to “Kant’s explanation of analyticity in terms of the law of contradiction” there’s also the matter of inferring belief in the law of contradiction from people’s inability to believe contradictions. At best, one might infer tacit agreement if the principle was articulated. But seeing as I hold that people are able to believe contradictory things, [perfectly healthy, normal people] this bad argument has even less force for me [See for example, “Why Kripke was Puzzled About “A Puzzle About Belief.”] Actually, I don’t so much hold as people can hold contradictory beliefs, although they can, but that most cases of description of people holding beliefs that contradict are by 3rd parties. As most people are fully unaware of their contradictory beliefs 1st person accounts fail to even notice them.

Having re-read that piece on Kripke I am quite proud of myself that my main argument over those years was already one of language in use. When I 1st noticed (remembered) that it was like a slap upside the head. But it also made sense. Another little piece of the puzzle just fell into place.

There are other good reasons why one might want to question the epistemological basis of the law of contradiction (or any other fundamental law of logic), and thus how one gets logic started on a solid epistemological basis.

Cronin, Blaise, and Lokman I Meho. 2008. The shifting balance of intellectual trade in information studies. (Accessed April 4, 2008). Or: JASIST 59(4):551-564.

An interesting article with which I do and do not want to argue with their conclusions. Basically, they claim that Information Studies has become a much better exporter to, and somewhat better importer of, other disciplines.

This article also goes a long way towards why I have so many issues with bibliometric studies. To make this an actually doable project meant cutting lots of corners, as any large-scale, interesting study would require. But by cutting those corners then the best one can really get to is to point at what looks like a trend and to make tentative judgements. Have I ever seen an author make that claim in their analysis, though? Rarely.

They claim that the reasons for the “striking increase in foreign citation to the literature of IS can be explained in large measure by two developments” [i.e., exports] (11). One is the “growth of research domains influenced materially by advances in information technology and Internet applications …” (11). “Second, the expansion of ISI’s coverage of domains cognate to information studies” (12). At this point they discuss the case of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, the number one importer from IS. LNCS is not only number one but is so by a factor of 4.35 times the 2nd highest importer, Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence. The 3rd highest is only 3/4 of #2 and it goes rapidly down from there.

Now, admittedly, there is a fairly long tail in the remaining top 200 importers. But. The claim is that the “number of non-IS papers citing the IS literature has risen from 3,982 for the period 1977-1986 to 18,079 for the period 1997-2006, an increase of 354%” (10). That is all well and good, and on one hand I can’t dispute it (accepting all caveats of their methodology).

Knowing that LNCS numbers in the multiple 1000s (at least 3500) I wondered how many of those were published before ISI started indexing them and might in fact contain citations left unaccounted for. So I took me a quick trip to Springer’s LNCS site and had a look around. Here’s what I found:

  • 1975-79: 48 titles
  • 1980-84: 91
  • 1985-89: 208
  • 1990-94: 450
  • 1995-99: 766
  • 2000: 200
  • 2001: 269
  • 2002: 274
  • 2003: 325
  • 2004: 360
  • 2005: 473
  • 2006: 519
  • 2007: 521
  • 2008: 98*

So my hypothesis may be out the window, but …. Do you see anything else interesting?

I’m not going to attempt to do the math, but that is a significant increase in titles published each year. In 2007 there was well over 5x the numbers published between 1980-84, for example.

So the authors’ claim that (part of) the increase is due to an increase in coverage by ISI is, perhaps, not untrue. But neither is it the truth really. If we assume a similar increase in output in LNAI then these two series alone have had a dramatic impact on what looks like increased outside citation of IS. And I can’t really deny that it is an increase in outside citation. But. Is it increased outside citation or primarily an increase in the number of things published? Both appear true. But the one alone could make it look like the other is the case.

The authors also state that, “[by] way of contrast, the level of intra-field citations (IS citing IS) increased by a mere 33% during the same time period” (10). There could be several reasons for this. Perhaps our field hasn’t seen such a dramatic increase in number of publications, perhaps the growth in number of citations per article in our field is far less than in others, and so on and so on.

So I can’t really say that Cronin and Meho are wrong. Neither do I believe that they are. But I do believe, even accepting all of the caveats that they (or anyone) had to to do a study of this size, that their analysis is at best only a part of the truth. First off, though, I find it quizzical to claim that there are more citations because the tools you use to count have increased their coverage of the “inbound” disciplines. That does not begin to show increased citations. At all. I find it even more odd to attribute the massive increase to the increased coverage in ISI. It is not an increased coverage at all. Rather it is a massively increased publication output that continues to be covered by ISI.

And that is far more than I ever wanted to say about this article.

Gnoli, Claudio, Gabriele Merli, Gianni Pavan, Elisabetta Bernuzzi, and Marco Priano. 2008. Freely faceted classification for a Web-based bibliographic archive : the BioAcoustic Reference Database. (Accessed April 4, 2008). Presented at: Repositories of knowledge in digital spaces: accessibility, sustainability, semantic interoperability. 11th German ISKO Conference. Konstanz, 20-22 February 2008.

This is a project to watch. It does have a freely available public interface at but I suggest reading the article so you have some idea what it is doing before playing with it. The article isn’t long.

Thursday – Friday, 1 – 2 May 2008

Wilson, Patrick. 1968. Two Kinds of Power : an Essay on Bibliographical Control. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Loving it so far. [I think that’s all I want to say for now.]

Friday, 2 May 2008

Smiraglia, Richard. 2007. Two Kinds of Power: Insight Into the Legacy of Patrick Wilson. In Proceedings of the Canadian Association for Information Science, Mcgill University, Montreal, Quebec: Canadian Association for Information Science (Accessed May 1, 2007).

I may well have to write about this later. Seeing as it is bibliometric I need to comment on why I am more accepting of this piece than, say, Cronin and Meho above. There is much more to this piece though, for me, than its bibliometric issues. That is, it is far more meaningful for me as a whole.

Short, 13-pages with citations. Well worth reading as an example of domain analysis around “a classic work” [in our own field even].

The short answer as to why this sits better with me is because in one sense it validates much of my reading of the last 4+ years. The literature described by Smiraglia is a good description of what I have spent my time on for a while now. It is one [good] description of my view of the literature. It validates me.

It ain’t exactly rational, but its true.

Coutu, Walter. 1962. An operational definition of meaning. Quarterly Journal of Speech XLVIII, no. 1:59-64.

Sent here by Budd (1992) The Library and Its Users: The Communication Process, p. 97.

Seems kind of behaviorist, to say the least, but also has some interesting points. Wonder if Harris has commented on it anywhere. Will have to scrub some reference lists maybe.

Some things read this week, 20 – 26 April 2008

Sunday – Thursday, 20 – 24 Apr 2008

Lodge, David. 1992. Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses. New York: Penguin Books.

Wasn’t sure if I was going to continue this but I read it on and off on Sunday and made a big dent at dinner in the Alley on Monday. I’m 66% of the way through so I imagine I’ll finish it and then shift back to more serious things.

Finished this Thursday afternoon. I guess it was OK as it had some moments but I can’t recommend it overall.

Wednesday, 23 Apr 2008

2007. Running & Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind. Malden: Blackwell Pub.

  • Ch. 17 : “Where the Dark Feelings Hold Sway”: Running as Aesthetic Experience by Martha Nussbaum
  • Ch. 18 : The Power of Passion on Heartbreak Hill by Michelle Maiese.

Only one chapter left to go. Good book.

Friday – Saturday, 25 – 26 Apr 2008

Guarino, Nicola and Christopher A. Welty. “An Overview of OntoClean.” In Staab, Steffen, and Rudi Studer, ed. 2004. Handbook on Ontologies. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Actually a fairly good article, but I have major concerns over their explanation of rigidity. It has certainly been a bit since I last read Kripke or any other relevant literature on rigidity … but they blow it in their explanation, IMHO.

I think they have it right in the end. But. Their presentation is confused. They use a highly questionable example and then make several implicit assumptions in its use and description. It might actually work if they spelled out all of their assumptions but there must be better examples.

I ran it by one or two people and would read a sentence and they’d say, “See, they’re assuming such and such and they are right.” Then I’d read the next sentence where the assumption seems to be reversed and they went, “Oh!”

Lest you think this is nit-picking—it may be but I do not think so—I also have the same complaints about many of the examples used in the cataloging and classification literature. These examples are critical. Many of these concepts are extremely difficult and nuanced. Crystal clear and meaningful examples are a must. Also, in today’s world, quit with the culturally-specific examples. I fully realize that The Wizard of Oz is fairly international by this point. I also realize that there may be few to no fully international examples available, but with a little care I do think excellent examples could be found for anyone who might be reading this kind of literature in the first place.

Recommend. But read carefully.

Saturday, 26 Apr 2008

Frohmann, Bernd. 2008. Subjectivity and information ethics. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 59, no. 2:267-277. (Accessed March 2, 2008).

Recommended if you are into information ethics at all.