Strategies for Dealing with Human Information Needs: Information or Communication? – article comments

Dervin, Brenda. 1976. Strategies for Dealing with Human Information Needs: Information of Communication? (Part One of Information: An Answer for Every Question? A Solution for Every Problem?). Journal of Broadcasting 20, no. 3 (Summer): 324-333.

I quite enjoyed this Dervin article.  But what I did not enjoy was not having access to any of the 30 citations!  [A rant on this head is in the works as a separate post.]  This is a mid-70s critique of the influx and impingement of the concept of ‘information’ on the field of communications, the misplaced overemphasis on it in everyday life, and the assumptions behind this which redirects research to the wrong questions.  Also addresses why so many of the things seen in communications research contradict what they assume or are even told is important by subjects.

The main article focuses on 10 assumptions and their ramifications “which have unwittingly hindered efforts focusing on the information “needs” of average citizens” (326). These are:

  1. Objective information is the only valuable information.
  2. If a little information is good, a lot must be better.
  3. Objective information can be transmitted out of context.
  4. Information is acquired only through formal information systems.
  5. Information is relevant to every urban need.
  6. Every need situation has a solution.
  7. Information that is not now available or accessible can be made so.
  8. The functional units of our information systems equal the functional units of users of those systems.
  9. Time and space can be ignored.
  10. The connections between external information and internal information can be assumed (326, direct quote).

Again, not really a review.  I pulled out some choice bits, for my purposes anyway, and added some commentary.  My goal in these article commentaries is to give you enough that might entice you into reading them for yourself if they fit your research or interests and not to make it so you do not need to.

“Directly or indirectly, each of these scholars has begun to take the scientist’s dilemma of “creation versus discovery” and pull it out for review. Does humankind discover reality (and, therefore, simply collect information about it)? or does it create and invent reality?

The question is not answerable. But, we behave as if it is. Despite the relativistic nature of our empirical findings, we continue to assume that objective information about reality is obtainable. We assume that only if we work hard enough, long enough, we can have complete knowledge and that knowledge is orderable.3 We assume there is a given order and we are but discovering and confirming it. …

… This view of knowledge essentially posits homosapiens as a totally adaptive creature, using information about reality to adapt to reality. Yet, the history of humankind is marked … by creation, invention, and control of surroundings. Humankind at least in part, creates its own reality” (325) [some formatting issues left in].

The above addresses a fundamental disconnect between communication theory and reality-as-observed.

A “three-type formulation of information is suggested as potentially more useful than our current cybernetic denotation of the term10” (326).

“Information1 – the innate structure or pattern of reality; adaptive information; objective information; data” (326). [Only included as this kind comes under critique below.  If you want to know all 3 read the article.]

The following will address bits and pieces from the sections on the 10 assumptions.

A1 : Misses a “great deal of information-relevant behavior because it appears in unexpected places” (327).

Exactly!  Information science (IS) is just as guilty of this.  Well, truthfully, IS is guilty of all of these, or certainly was in 1976.  We, as well as Comm, have made some progress I would like to believe.  Our theories are beginning to back away from these seriously limiting assumptions but I see little evidence of that theoretical progress informing the design of our systems.

A1 : “Instead of positing the use of advice, rules, and interpersonal help as an informing function (information3), we label this high use of informal sources as a “law of least effort” that operates in the acquisition of information” (327).

Reading this was like the hard slap in the face that I needed.  Besides the (seeming) general insider superiority of one uttering the “law of least effort” I was also bothered by it for reasons I could not put my finger on.  But this so-called law has simply been a smoke screen for our (and Comm’s) unwillingness to tackle the complexities of behavior and situations “covered” by this law.  It is not a law; it is simply laziness on our part.  And damaging laziness at that. Please realize that I am not saying that no one takes the road of least effort on occasion, myself included, but that much of what is covered by this “law” is not that. It only looks that way to us as we, as researchers, have taken the same road and have not adequately theorized the divergent behaviors we have lumped together under this “law.”

A2 : “Yet, if individual knowing is some unknown combination of objective reality plus personal reality, then being informed is not the same thing as having information1. We have focused on the “information” and not the “informing”” (328).

We are so utterly guilty as charged here.  As is much of society, popular and scientific, which seems to think that having or supplying information is the same as being informed/informing.

A3 : The assumption of objective information mapping to reality and that this is orderable leads to certain approaches to education and the mass media.  “We are bombarded with isolated facts. Because each fact is assumed to have a proper place, each fact is assumed to have informing utility” (328).  But this approach leads to much information being “rejected and ignored as being irrelevant and meaningless” (329).

There is also a tie-in to information literacy (IL) instruction here due to the fact that “our education system is geared primarily for the transmission of information1 rather than instruction and practice on how to become informed” (329).  If our educational system did focus on these important areas of becoming/being informed then there would be less need for IL at the college-level, or perhaps it could focus primarily on library-related systems instead of the ridiculous breadth of topics IL instruction is trying to undertake today; particularly ridiculous given the extremely limited amount of time instruction librarians have with students.

A6 : “We equate having solutions [which is “(after all, the raison d’être of the the system …)”] with being informed, being able to construct one’s own reality, being able to develop personal answers20” (330).

But see work on medical communication and seriously ill patients frustration with the system.

A8 : “As citizen’s begin to use information1 systems “designed for them,” they collide with those systems. The citizens, on the one hand, are asking for functional units that are meaningful to them. The systems, on the other, are protecting the functional units in which they have vested units” (331).  Kapitzke also had a critique on this head as it relates to IL, although I did not address it in my post.

A9 : While we have acknowledged that people are embedded in social situations, we have been on a quest for situation-free generalizations. … Yet, we continue to search for enduring personally traits, enduring information processing strategies” (331-2).

A10 : We assume the connections between external reality and internal reality must exist based on the assumption of an ordered universe. But we do not study them. “Thus, we know little about how people do inform themselves and make connections30” (332).

I apologize for not being able to tell you what those superscripts refer to.  Keep watch for a rant on that topic.  Soon.

Cited by:

Dervin, Brenda. 1977. Useful theory for librarianship: Communication, not information. Drexel Library Quarterly 13: 16-32.

User studies, information science, and communication – article commentary

Katzer, Jeffrey. 1987. User studies, information science, and communication. Canadian Journal of Information Science 12, no. 3: 15-30.

Argues that changes in technology, the economics of info systems, and previous research into information behavior is pushing information science to more complexity and predicts that it will become more like the field of communication.

“What has been recommended is to add, as central to our endeavor, a more comprehensive consideration of meaning, intention, cognitive components of personality, and many other topics which have previously been viewed as more a part of the social-behavioral sciences than as integral to information science. The suggestion is that information science can add these topics and incorporate them into our field as add-ons—much like the extra features we’ve jury-rigged onto our systems over the years to overcome acknowledged deficiencies.

I disagree. Any explicit and significant increase in our consideration of meaning, intention, and cognition will affect our field fundamentally. It will bring into question the basic paradigm which has guided our research activities, our educational programs, and our service philosophies. It will ultimately change the very nature of who we are. Conceptually, if not practically, all of information science, but especially information behaviors and information retrieval, will be more profitably seen and understood in the context of human communication” (16).

Various critiques of user studies along the axes of population studied, central focus, information channel, major variables, research methods, and applicability are presented.

Argues that the “often implicit assumptions which underlie how we approach the design of our systems and the provision of information services” no longer serves us and are untenable as they present “an overly simplistic model of human behavior …” (18).

These assumptions under the heads of information needs, information user, and information uses are interrogated. As Katzer states, these assumptions when boldly (and one might add, baldly) stated would be found wanting (18).

The author points to (then) current research showing the limits of, or invalidating, these assumptions and brings attention to those who were calling for information science to become a social science, and perhaps even like the field of human communication.

“It is interesting to note who are making these recommendations. The arguments to consider our field a social science have come almost exclusively from either European-trained information scientists such as Belkin, Brittain, Roberts, or Wilson, or from U.S.-trained communications researchers such as Dervin or Paisley” (20).

Reasons are provided for the affinity between the groups.

Katzer’s main call is not for the subsumption of one discipline into another, but “is a recommendation to consider those principles and practices found in the field of human communication which look as if they could be fruitfully applied in our research” (21).  Along these lines, the author looks at what may be of value from the field of human communications regarding the information channel, meaning, process, and outcomes.

Some of what is presented could easily be presented in an Integrational framework. In the section on Process, Katzer writes: “Communication is a process which occurs over time and in a specific context” (22). It also ties into a domain analytic view; also in Process, “… the fact that communication effects are almost always domain-specific” (23).

Next, the author provides some examples of application of “communication mechanisms to information science” (24).

While discussing cognitive similarity and organizational operators Katzer writes, “The point is to discover the microculture values (which goes beyond the topic), and to use those operators, norms, or success factors to improve our understanding of the user’s information behaviors” (25-6). That could easily be under the macrosocial aspect of Integrationism.

This paper relied heavily on the work of Brenda Dervin and pointed me to several Dervin citations. It isn’t like I have never seen them, but I had only read Dervin & Nilan’s ARIST chapter, “Information needs and uses.” [citation below]

I have been meaning to look more formally into Dervin’s Sense-Making Methodology so this was a useful reminder that I need to do that work. The situation has been remedied and I am working my way through a fair bit of her corpus. I was planning to discuss her article “Useful Theory for Librarianship: Communication, Not Information” next, which is one he cited, but think I will hold off for now. I will say that I enjoyed it and found it useful, although I must jettison her view of information as espoused in the article.

Regarding the progress of research in our field since Katzer’s critique was written I have no doubt that some researchers have adopted more of a communicational stance toward our field.  I do not, though, feel that it has been enough.

For me this paper fits well into the sociohistorical view of our field that I am constructing for myself.  It provides a good look at the communicational critique and the response of the field at a specific point in time in which the field was beginning to take these critiques more seriously.  It has helped me to make sense of, or, more accurately, progress toward making sense of, the need for a view of our field that is more aligned with the way we actually communicate.

By the way, a big shout out to Christina Pikas for telling me a couple of years ago to look at Dervin, among others. I knew she was correct but just couldn’t find the time.

Dervin, Brenda. 1977. Useful theory for librarianship: Communication, not information. Drexel Library Quarterly 13: 16-32.

Dervin, Brenda, and Kathleen Clark. 1987. ASQ: Alternative tools for information need and accountability assessments by libraries. Belmont, CA: Peninsula Library System for the California State Library, July.

Dervin, Brenda, and Michael Nilan. 1986. Information needs and uses. In Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 21:3-33. Knowledge Industry Publications.

See also [this is mostly for me: Some things read this week, 26 August – 1 September 2007 ]:

Roberts, Norman. 1976. Social Considerations Towards a Definition of Information Science. Journal of Documentation 32, no. 4 (December): 249-257.

habitually probing generalist

Change of blog name

I have changed the name of my blog. Again. This time it should not break any of the Internet nor should you need to change feeds; I hope.

3 years ago tomorrow I moved my blog to WordPress and renamed it Off the Mark. This was after a few years of blogging at Typepad under the name …the thought are broken…. I had put out a call for suggestions and for slightly different reasons both Walt Crawford and Richard Urban recommended Off the Mark. For those and other reasons I liked it. But over time various (possible) connotations have been bugging me. I was certainly aware of them then but I dismissed them, at least in my own mind.

A few months after renaming my blog I read an article for a class and my tagline was born. That tagline is now being promoted to the name of my blog. Henceforth, this space is to be known as habitually probing generalist.

I feel that that far better represents me and how I’d like to be known. For now, Off the Mark will be my tagline.

In the interest of disclosure, I feel that the primary reason for this change is that which I stated above—Off the Mark carries certain negative connotations which I no longer am willing to ignore and habitually probing generalist better represents the external face I want to present. Secondarily, though, I cannot deny that the phrase “off the mark” is heavily represented and used on the Internet. There is a greeting card company with that name (I have enjoyed giving a card or 3 to others from that company; check them out) and at least another blog or two, besides being a common phrase in its own right. “Habitually probing generalist” appears to be only used by me and a few others who have referenced my tagline. Thus, I am laying claim to it. Carole Palmer deserves a boatload of credit for it but I alone am responsible for this specific formulation.

Working toward this change I made myself a new favicon about 2 weeks ago. No longer is my favicon barely distinguishable pink flowers but is a blue background with a whitish “hpg” in it. I still need to do a little code editing so the fonts are switched for the name and tagline on the blog but that can wait. A looming physical move takes precedence.

With my blogging output over the last year a few of you might well ask “What is the point of a name change for a moribund blog?” Sadly, that is a valid question. I cannot make any promises but ….

CAS project

Friday I met with my academic advisor, Dean John Unsworth, about my CAS paper, for the first time in about 11 months. The gist of what we discussed is that things are settling down in my life (as much as possible for someone with a temporary job) and that I am ready, and looking forward, to beginning on the job of writing and defending this paper.

First, I must get physically moved across town and somewhat unpacked but then I should be able to devote far more time to it than I was willing to over the last year. The love of my life and I will live together and there will be no more of that whose apartment are we going to?, are you/am I spending the night?, blah blah. Perhaps more importantly, I will have research time once my 2nd year Visiting Professor appointment starts 16 August. This should make a major difference in my mental ability to focus on the task at hand. Also, S will be majorly busy and working many hours in September and October so I hope to use some of that time to get back in the flow of reading and writing towards a directed end.

My time over the last year has by no stretch been a waste! I have read far more broadly in a vast array of disciplines, topics and genres, which has better prepared me to think about and critique the actual use of language and communication. I was on a panel at ASIS&T last year where I spoke about Integrationism in regards to tagging. I also attended the 1st Ethics of Information Organization conference this May.

I now have an idea for a draft proposal for a presentation at the 2nd Ethics conference next year. This also forms a small but core portion of my critique of the uses of the concepts of language and communication in LIS. Thus, working towards fleshing this out will be a big help in a key premise of my argument. I might also be able to then expand on it or shift it a bit to present at ASIS&T or the SIG-CR preconference next year in 2010.

I also have an idea for a way to have interested parties work with me to compile a “listing” of theories of language and communication used in LIS and citations of works that explicitly use them, well or not. On this head, though, I am first doing a bit of research to seed the list and to determine what might be the best tool to use for a (small, I assume) group to manage it while making it publicly available. Stay tuned.

… and this means what for the blog?

Well, I hope that I will blogging much of what I get up to. I will need to reread many things and refresh my memory of what they say. Summarizing these for the blog is a possibility, as is comparing and contrasting ideas. Bouncing ideas and/or draft paragraphs/sections of my paper or my conference presentation ideas off of my readers are distinct possibilities, too.

No promises. But. I hope that I can claim that—for the near future, at least—I am back.

Sing a song with a friend
Change the shape that I’m in,
And get back in the game,
And start playin’ again

John Prine. Clay Pigeons.

Pathways for communication : a mini-review

Foskett, D. J. 1984. Pathways for Communication: Books and Libraries in the Information Age. London: C. Bingley.

 

I read this lovely little book [128 pages] last week. In many ways it has a lot in common with John Budd’s Self-examination and with Patrick Wilson’s Two Kinds of Power. All in all, it falls in a sort of middle ground. Budd’s book is both broader and narrower, and certainly far longer, while Wilson’s is much narrower and about the same length. Oddly, this book, though 16 years more recent than Wilson’s essay, feels far more dated. More on that in a bit.

Its chapters are entitled: Information and understanding, Communication and chronicles, Communication and society, Information and the psychology of users, Keepers and finders, Technology and culture, Theory and practice, Memory and anticipation, Looking for answers, and A reading society.

As I said above, this book feels a bit dated. Strange things is, though, I did not read that book. Early on when I noticed its datedness I asked myself what would Foskett say about that in the context of today? And somehow I managed to do that throughout the book. In fact, I got so good at it that I often just seemingly read what I think that answer would be. Thus, I may not even be qualified to comment on the book as such since that is seemingly not the book that I read.

In that regard, I think this is an important and an excellent book. Or, at least it is for one who can also manage a similar trick. For the unimaginative who can only read what is printed on the page then perhaps the book would be less valuable. I will say that if I ever teach an LIS course where some or all of this book would fit it will be assigned reading with the explicit goal of having the students update Foskett’s views; that is, apply Foskett’s criticisms and analysis to the contexts in which we find ourselves today. That, I venture to bet, would be a valuable exercise for all but the most dull among us.

Much of this book spoke to me regarding debates, discussions and contexts in which the profession finds itself today. One of Foskett’s primary critiques is that of confusing means for ends. One particular piece which I happened to note [and wish I had marked others] was the following:

The opposite of progress will occur if our effort are stultified by nonsensical theories leading to stupid practice. If ‘information’ becomes reified into a commodity subject to the laws and forces involved in commodity production and distribution, there is a real danger that quality will be sacrificed to quantity, and the information industry will produce and process large quantities of rubbish in order to prove what vast quantities it can process. We do not belong to the dismal and defeatist school of ‘more means worse’ if we wish to oppose the apparently attractive but actually meretricious school of ‘we must do it because we can’. Once more, means are in danger of becoming ends (111-112).

Communication, that is, human communication, looms large as the title would suggest.

There is also a lot of reference to the ‘paperless society,’ as that was a leading concept of the time. But it also one which still has pundits and while the term is rarely explicitly referenced anymore nonetheless it has significant impact on the thinking of many.

Another theme is the danger of contrasting the ‘librarian’ and the ‘information officer.’ In essence, they both deal with knowledge of source materials, whether or not their favored sources are physical objects.

As dated as this book may seem to some, I maintain that it is of immense relevance atill as the opening of the chapter, ‘Theory and practice,’ demonstrates:

The headlong progress of computer technology over recent decades has carried along all those of us engaged in communication at an exhilarating pace. Learned societies, publishers, librarians, have all become convinced of the necessity of making publicly available every last thought, no matter how commonplace or trivial, so that it may be indexed, abstracted, put into machine-readable form, and displayed on a visual display unit.

The benefits of the new technology are indeed not to be denied, and it would be foolish to try to keep it out of libraries. But if technology is not to become the master, then library and information science requires an advance in its theoretical foundations, and this must play an important part in the preparation of future members of the profession (75).

As I said, perhaps I did not even read the book in front of me; I read a different book. I am not sure how or why I managed to read this book far more forgivingly than many others I have read. But read it I did. I also recommend it as a valuable exercise for those who can generously apply Foskett’s critique to a more up-to-date context.

I highly recommend this book but with the caveat that you attempt to read it as if it were written today. And with that, I want to leave you with one more quote, this time from the final chapter.

What is much more dangerous is that the whole concept of Information Technology in this narrow sense means the development of a society which is thoroughy superficial in its attitude to knowledge, and which has no stability because its existence depends, not on the security of the shared points of view which add up to a cultural heritage, but on a continuous flow of separate bits of information. The individual will have no time or opportunity to digest and assimilate all these separate bits, or to build them into a coherent and integrated structure. Society will become a behaviourist paradise, and human beings will behave as if they were machines only able to act in response to external stimuli. Power will reside in those who provide the stimuli, and unless they have the time and the will to form considered judgements, progress in the global village will consist in a succession of crisis responses to the latest bits of information, no matter what their source or validity (123).

Mark has been Off for 2 years

… but broken for much longer.

This blog, Off the Mark, is 2 years old today. I shall refrain from calling it an anniversary, as such, since last year we sort of decided that my blogging anniversary ought to be from the start of my 1st public blog, …the thoughts are broken…, which debuted in January 2005. It was “decided” that this is really a continuation of the first and I cannot really disagree, even if I could employ serials cataloging and FRBR terminology to show otherwise. 😉

Here’s what I wrote on my 3rd blogging anniversary back in January of this year.

There appear to have been 157 published posts here in the last year. Forty-seven of those were “Some things read this week …” posts, while there were another 8-10 that commented on that “column.” I posted 2 of the 3 poems that I wrote; “fallen” and “Stargazing.” Wow, what vastly different views of the world!

In the larger scheme of both blogs and my blogging overall, I have 961 posts, 5 in draft, and I’m remembering 3 specific ones that were published and then pulled at some point [not a light decision]. Will I reach a thousand posts by the end of the calendar year, or perhaps my 4th blogging anniversary in January? Who can say? Based on historical statistics I will easily. Based on current output and current thinking I would say no. We’ll see.

Things have been somewhat quiet around here lately and I expect them to stay that way for several reasons for a while, at least. I am doing some serious thinking about and work on my communication styles. I want to change a fair bit about how I say some things. Topics will probably stay much the same, although much of the personal productiveness and questioning of personal narrative will (has) generated some “new” topics for me; i.e., new for the blog.

So, while I really do not want to mark this as an official anniversary I do want to take this moment to note some of this and to say “Thank you” to any who read, comment, and critique. I take feedback here quite seriously. I simply cannot grow without the voice and help of others.

Quick shout-out to LISHost for hosting and support for the past 2 years.

Love letter to an ex-girlfriend

I went back through my posts of the last two months and there isn’t much explicit mention of the best distraction a boy could ask for. I think the first (and one of 2, maybe 3) explicit reference is in the post “Living room talk.” There are certainly several other references that were mostly for her that one or two of you might get a hint from, but not much more.

I also notice I didn’t actually post very often. There were frequently week-long gaps and, I believe, 2 13-day gaps.  Not unheard of for me, but rare.  My previous post addresses this quietude a bit.  Let me just say here that it has not been mostly due to my having a girlfriend.

But wait. I do not have a girfriend.

Today [Friday] would have been our 2-month anniversary. It was to be our full moon anniversary. Sorry, relevant to us, no details for you. On Monday she told me she needs to go back to just being friends.

While this is clearly not my 1st choice of realities—like I or anyone else gets a choice of realities—and it hit pretty hard, I am doing pretty well with this development. [This has been one amazingly interesting and personally productive summer, let me tell you!]

The first day or two I really was just kind of in a state of shock.  I wasn’t doing much active processing of this.  And that, I think, was a very good thing.

Since Monday we’ve been talking and have even seen each other a few times, e.g., watched a free movie at the public library together, shared a bag of popcorn, and had salad together after the movie. Again, not so much on the overt processing.  What I have been doing is listening to a lot of music. But here’s the kicker.  It’s mostly been just a few songs, on repeat, and sometimes repeatedly.

Monday evening and Tuesday both remain kind of hazy in my mind.

Wednesday morning began with Not A Pretty Girl and quickly morphed into multiple replays of “hour follows hour” and “asking too much.”

i just hope it was o.k., i know it wasn’t perfect
i hope in the end we can laugh and say
it was all worth it

too much is how i love you
but too well is how i know you
i’ve got nothing to prove this time
just something to show you
i guess i just wanted you to see
that it was all worth it to me

hour follows hour

i want somebody who
sees the pointlessness
and still keeps their purpose in mind
i want somebody who
has a tortured soul some of the time
i want somebody who
will either put out for me
or put me out of my misery
or maybe just put it all to words and make me go
you know, i never heard it put that way
make me go what did you just say!?

asking too much

Wednesday evening I was on my way to Crane Alley and I appropriated Poe’s “Spanish Doll” from Haunted for my own purposes.

This place feels so unfamiliar
And yet I know it well
I think I used to belong here
But the only way I can tell
Is that I miss you still
And I cannot find you here
You left me tattered and torn
Just like that Spanish doll

(Sweet Spanish sweet Spanish… doll)

I went down to the alley way
(Sierra la Bonita)
And found that you were gone …

Except for she wasn’t gone and actually joined me there for a couple hours.

Thursday AM began with “imagine that” from reckoning [of revelling/reckoning]. And pretty much stayed there. Later yesterday [Thursday], while at home, Jude’s “I Know,” from the City of Angels soundtrack was on repeat for almost 2.5 hours.

so here i am at my most hungry
and here i am at my most full
here i am waving a red cape
locking eyes with a bull

just imagine that i am onstage
under a watchtower of punishing light
and in the haze is your face bathed in shadow
and what’s beyond you is hidden from sight

imagine that

I know there’s nowhere you can hide it
I know the feeling of alone
Trust me and don’t keep that on the inside
Soon you’ll be locked out on your own

I Know

Interspersed has been an awful lot of Haley Bonar’s new album, Big Star, which I got in the mail last Saturday. Also prominent would be Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky album. Since the major clarification [for me] on my communications issues there has been a lot of talk, and more thinking, about personal narratives/mythologies, especially mine, and with this … whatever this is … there has been more about hers, too.  And one cannot get in stick throwing distance of my personal narrative without being smacked over the head by that album.

“Late for the Sky,” “Fountain of Sorrow,” “Farther On,” and “The Late Show” are particularly grounding for me.

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to struggle, you’ve had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you’ve got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright

fountain of sorrow

Now the distance leads me farther on
Though the reasons I once had are gone
I keep thinking I’ll find what I’m looking for
In the sand beneath the dawn

But the angels are older
They can see that the sun’s setting fast
They look over my shoulder
At the vision of paradise contained in the light of the past
And they lay down behind me
To sleep beside the road till the morning has come
Where they know they will find me
With my maps and my faith in the distance
Moving farther on

farther on [this one is undergoing some serious questioning]

I saw you through the laughter and the noise
You were talking with the soldiers and the boys
While they scuffled through your weary smiles
I thought of all the empty miles
And the years that I’ve spent looking for your eyes
(looking for your eyes)
And now I’m sitting here wondering what to say
(that you might recognize)
Afraid that all these words might scare you away
(and break through the disguise)
No one ever talks about their feelings anyway
Without dressing them in dreams and laughter
I guess its just too painful otherwise

the late show

Honestly, I do have to admit that a little of Ani’s Dilate snuck in there early on. But then what righteous babe could possibly resist “Done Wrong”, “Going Down” and “Adam & Eve” in this sort of situation?

you can’t get through it
you can’t get over it
you can’t get around

just like in a dream
you’ll open your mouth to scream
and you won’t make a sound

going down

you put a tiny pin prick
in my big red balloon
and as i slowly start to exhale
that’s when you leave the room
i did not design this game
i did not name the stakes
i just happen to like apples
and i am not afraid of snakes

adam and eve

I have also had several good conversations with my friend (she’s not my ex, she’s my friend), and with two other people which were particularly helpful.  One was Tuesday afternoon, just shy of a day, and one this afternoon [Friday].  One in person, one by (crappy) phone. My friend also had a good idea of some of this music since I also provided it to her and/or pointed her at the lyrics.

So, a mostly ‘just let it wash over me’ attitude and some highly specific music has kept me sane this week. Or, more accurately, allowed me to move from completely lost in the world [’tis far more complicated, but is another story] to almost as sane as I ever am and reasonably happy with the situation.

You have no need to know what the issue between us is. Truth be told, there is no “issue.” In a sense, it is far more fundamental than that. One reason I am currently avoiding it—as it may still get written about—is that it has occupied quite a bit of my time since Monday evening. And it is as complicated as anything between humans can be. I wrote several pages on it for my friend, but that barely qualifies as a 1st draft; lots more thinking since.  Plus, some clarification from her helped narrow & shift things a bit.

What is love? In how many ways do we use it? And with whom? And what do we mean by it when we use it with a particular person, or class or group of persons?

I love my children, I, in fact, love my ex-wife. I love my mom, sister, niece, …. And I love my friends. I don’t mean the 136 people on Facebook who call me “friend,” of course. I care greatly about every one of them as humans, and even somewhat about them as the individual that they are in the world, but I am not going to say that I love them. Although some of them I do. Somewhere in there a line gets drawn. When? Why? Who?

I love my ex-girlfriend. One. She clearly belongs in my closest friends. We were “friends” before this for a year and a half or so and I always wanted to know her better; to become her friend. We both went into this wanting to protect our (budding) friendship. Two. The things she has enabled me to be, to see, to feel, to dream. Three. Classy way in which she has handled herself in this since Monday and has helped guide me through it. Four. ….

For many reasons, we are entering some serious brave new territory.  The utter absurdity of the messages we get from our culture leave us completely unsure of what we are doing. But we both know that we each care greatly for the other, we each  see great things in and for the other, and I know that the vision of possibility I got from her needs to find a way to only make a slight adjustment and allow me to soar and not go “Poof! Welcome to your old life.” [Not going to go into it in this post but the road I saw open so very, very clearly not only looked exceedingly lovely but also showed me [and some reminders] who I really am and how I might really be who I want to be. These are things I cannot see and can barely dream on my own.]

Certainly, there are some […]

[Saturday]

The writing of this post got interrupted yesterday evening by a reminder of the Full Moon Drum Circle at the university’s Japan House. I quickly finished what I was doing and rushed over to grab my friend and head over there.

All I am saying is that this was the best non-anniversary I have ever had. The drumming was nice, the moon was exquisite, we met another friend there, and then we came home and took our friendship to even greater heights.

Thus. I want to sum up and say that I love my ex-girlfriend.

That I love my friend even more.

And I plan to always.

Who do you love?

O, most frabjous day

Things have sort of “settled down” around here; here being the blog. Related things in my daily life got “interesting” and have only progressed. Today was a most enlightening day. [Yes, Christina, that “interesting” was purposefully vague, and for you.  😉 ]

Wow. What to say, or not say? Been working on this for a while now since …, well, mid-June.  Been doing a lot of thinking and a couple two days ago I started drafting a post, and some drafts of things referenced in the draft post and making a list of “sources.”

Been talking to some folks, in various venues, more face-to-face lately; been trying to talk to a few others, various venues, mostly f-2-f at moment but not entirely [I seriously need to reach out to a couple folks … once I has plan]; I have a new advisor at school; and also someone I am seriously discussing my perceived communication issues, amongst other things, with.

But today brought a whole new level of interestingness. I really am not about to go into much, yet and if at all, but today I listened to the entire Q&A for the Gorman colloquium and it seems my lived experience as perceived at the time [and some odd coincidences at school] led me to perceive my communication issues vastly differently from what they truly are.

After the very pleasant shock of how I sounded in my comments to Michael Gorman—direct, perhaps blunt, but level-headed and with little emotion—I had a few conversations with a couple of amazing women, some of whom I have already been talking with, that really helped put some things in perspective.

After today I have a much better idea of the issues I face—talking them through with wonderful and intelligent people also really helps.

I am not a failure. I also must remember the impossibly high standards that I set for myself before saying such silly things again. I did fail, momentarily [and in highly specific and narrow ways]. I am not a failure. I know so very much. There is always more to learn.

This little non-event has done some serious work for me. I have a much better idea of who I am and what I am committed to. I have fully embraced the knowledge that this commitment may well impact my earning potential. I will always be “that guy.” When what I want is to be this guy and in many more contexts.

I’m going to stay kind of quiet for a while most likely but know that I am working on some things. And, me? Please know that I am as fine as the wonderful little summer storms we had earlier this evening [yes, I adore them] and that I am Stargazing.

Today was a very affirming, most frabjous, day.

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. 😉 ]

I am a failure

I have come to realize that I am a failure at the professional role that I have been trying to adopt for the last several years.  It is one which, in many ways, I am perfectly suited for.  For instance, I can shoot holes in most any argument presented by most anyone, preferably with the intention of helping the argument be strengthened.  I’m also pretty good at adding nuance to arguments and discussion, or at least insisting that others do so.  Unfortunately, in other ways, I am ill-suited for it.  Sadly, the ways in which I am failing are much, much harder to change than others.  I cannot simply acquire more education to fix this.  I need to change a fundamental way in which I present myself.

I am a very passionate person, about a great many things.  Professionally, my greatest passions run to our bibliographic structures, past, current, and future.  It is why I spent another 40+ hours on my education post-Masters.  A job doing something with these structures, traditional or otherwise, is what I desire.

Unfortunately, my passion, especially in its extemporaneous, face-to-face version mostly seems to come out as anger, at least to others.  I do not fully understand why that is, but it is old and deeply ingrained.  It is also somewhat connected to my coming back to life from the intensely deep chronic depression I was in when I retired from the Army.

I would give anything to change this and have desired to and have worked on it for the last several years.  It is certainly a professional handicap, particularly for the role I want to play.

Was my behavior yesterday—my comments to Michael Gorman—disrespectful and/or unprofessional?  Only you can decide.  My intended behavior was not, in my opinion.  You may well disagree.  What about my manifested behavior?  Well, I won’t say I’m proud of it.  But neither was it what I intended.

I do stand by everything that I’ve written or said on the subject, though.  Some of it I wish was expressed better, especially what I said in room 126.  But then that is the issue.

Another place where I am failing is in much of my blogging.  I frequently take a comment by someone and in my reply broaden it so greatly—kind of like riffing on it—that I am no longer addressing the comment author.  I may, in fact, specifically not be addressing the commenter.  But.  That is a dangerous thing to do because I am often unclear that that is what I am doing and, thus, some folks take my replies personally when they really shouldn’t.  Or they simply don’t believe my intentions.  Now in external appearances they are fully justified in doing so.  I cannot deny that.  Thus, I am a failure at that, too.

Another area in which I often fail is distinguishing at what level, if you will, I am talking.  I also make frequent shifts between “levels”—theory vs. practice, cultural reality vs. how I believe the world (or some portion of it) ought to, and could, be, and so on.  This one plays out frequently in my exchanges with my dear friend, Jenny.  Jenny frequently argues from the cultural reality or, at least, cultural perception perspective.  This is something she is imminently more qualified for than me and I greatly appreciate her doing so.  It reminds me of how the world really is, or seems to be, for many others, sometimes even for myself.  I, on the other hand, am often arguing for how I think the world ought to, and could perhaps, be.  Our discussion of whether or not Michael Gorman is qualified to address the topics on which he spoke is a perfect example.

Jenny’s argument (greatly simplified) is that having been ALA President does, in fact, in our cultural context of librarianship qualify anyone to address the future of libraries and other topics.  This is true. But my argument is from another angle.  I prefer a world in which real qualifications are required for something this important.  I am not saying he is completely unqualified.  That would be completely asinine.  He is highly qualified to address much of what he did, and much of it he did so eloquently.

But much of it he is not.  The fact that he was ALA President is completely irrelevant to whether he is qualified to speak about Dublin Core or metadata in general.  And the fact that he willfully and belligerently holds to a view of DC and metadata that is so overly simplistic is one prime reason why he is unqualified, in my opinion.  He is an extremely intelligent person who could easily choose to upgrade his knowledge if he chose to.  But his willful disregard for the state of portions of our field is a political move.  In fact, it is a move which plays well with many in our profession and serves a purpose.  The purpose is even one which I greatly support.  But there are far better and more honest ways to do so.

But I have a hard time expressing these things so that people will listen, especially the people I am trying to critique.  And no one, including myself, is above critique.

So.  There it is.  I am a failure.  I am, currently anyway, constitutionally incapable of playing the professional role that is most important to me.  I have no idea what I am going to do about this.  I truly don’t.  And that fact scares me.

Over time I have had many, in various ways, tell me that they appreciate what I do and that the profession needs people like me.  I cannot agree more.  But it needs people who do what I do who can do so more eloquently and either with much less passion or, at least, with that passion much better expressed.

Even if librarians and the profession don’t deserve it, those for whom we do what we do do deserve better.  Better than I seem capable of.

To anyone affiliated with GSLIS who is embarrassed or offended by my behavior—here, in person, or elsewhere—I truly and sincerely apologize. Offense is not my intention, but I do think what I am attempting to do is critically important to our profession. I just wish I could do it better, now.

[Comments are disabled for this post.]

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 http://www.cais-acsi.ca/proceedings/2001/fallis_2001.pdf (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 http://www.cais-acsi.ca/proceedings/1999/meadow_1999.pdf (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.