frenetic, or a comment on the New Media Citation digped of 2 Nov

digital citation in new media.
one hour, twitter,
go! #digped.

wrong tools.
tweets & convos
race past.

reflection,
@Jessifer files
Storified version.

On Friday the 2nd of November I participated in a Twitter chat on the topic of new media citation practices. It was quite “raucous” as Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) calls it in his post at Hybrid Pedagogy. For me, it was “frenetic.” [OED online. Sense 2b: Of a quality, power, act, process, etc.: frenzied, manic; wild, passionate; rapid and energetic in an uncontrolled or unrestrained way.]

As soon as it was over I attempted to write a poem describing my experience of it. I got the first two stanzas out fairly quickly but then got no further. This morning, Jesse posted his Storified version to Hybrid Pedagogy and I read it through. I think he (and it) does a good job of capturing much of what was said, although clearly not everything was captured, as he used about a score of the total of 440 tweets.

The second stanza of the poem above reflects more my frustration with the tools I was attempting to use. I have participated in less than a handful of tweet chats previously and I was not prepared for this raucous freneticism. I was at my desktop for it—wouldn’t even begin to think of trying it on the iPad—where I use the Twitter app for Mac from Twitter. But I wanted to keep that kind of separate from what I was doing so I opened Twitter in a Chrome tab on the desktop I am using for DigiWriMo and ran a search for the #digped hashtag.

Perhaps the biggest problem was that the Twitter search on their website was not showing me tweets (or more specifically, replies) from some of the folks I follow. For example, @Jessifer’s responses to me were only showing up in the Twitter app for Mac. I figured this out fairly early as my phone was next to me and kept vibrating as I got replies that I wasn’t seeing.

Robin Wharton (@rswharton) suggested I try Tweet Chat but I, in the moment, assumed it was an app and not simply a website. Later, Sara seconded it as a good tool also. I will definitely try it the next time.

The next biggest issue, not directly related to the chat but to DigiWriMo, is that I was trying to copy my tweets and the links to them into Scrivener to save them towards my word count. This was much easier from the Twitter app than the browser. This meant switching desktops and multiple windows and …. I eventually moved the Twitter app onto the same desktop but things stayed hectic due to the volume of things going on in the chat.

On the other hand, stanza two in the poem above also reflects my firm belief that Twitter is simply not the place for such conversations. Sure, it sort of worked. If you look at the comments on this post at Hybrid Pedagogy you’ll see that a few of the participants think differently than me. And that is fine. I have had these conversations before. Twitter works great for some conversations but, at least for me, fails horribly for others.

There were so many differing, and frequently unexplicated, assumptions behind (most of) the tweets and no way to tease out philosophical, departmental, temperamental or other differences. There were, on occasion, conflations, or at least lack of specifying, between whether one was talking about a standalone bibliography (annotated or not) or one attached to a specific work (article, book, blog post, etc.). There was little actual real discussion about what purposes/roles/functions a citation actually does or should play. There was much agreement that things are, and probably should, change in academia regarding citation practices. I am fairly sure that sometimes some of us were bringing “old” media issues back into the discussion supposedly about “new media.” But I am not sure there is, or should be, a lot of difference. Certainly the how of how one goes about making a citation in many new media might frequently need to be different than how one does in a print medium, but I remain fully unconvinced that the why is different.

To me, these sorts of higher level questions are of more interest and ought also be more immediate. Once the larger issues of why—multiple reasons corresponding to different roles/functions—are sorted out, then it is time to figure out best practices (within disciplines/communities/media/etc.) for actually doing so. One of the larger questions—or perhaps more intermediate—to me then becomes answerable, or at least addressable.

Back in the day, over 5 years ago now, myself and others (and no doubt many others elsewhere including such folks as the makers of Zotero) were wondering what and how bibliographies could be of the web and not simply on it. Sadly, I never got very far with that, and all of the people involved in the conversation with me at the time have also moved on to other things, although I am willing to bet that they are still highly intrigued in how things could be different if we had better tools.

Some of my questions were:

What purposes (if any) do bibliographies serve on the web? Is there one?
What form should web-based bibliographies take to support those purposes?
Should embedded COinS or some other OpenURL or similar technology be employed?
What would be the best way to present our literature in a web-based bibliography that might entice you to read some of it?

I was also trying to get at things better tools could do for us and allow us to do. My brilliant friend, Jodi Schneider, hit the nail on the head, as usual, with her comment:

Ok: in my ideal bibliography system:

You would be able to:
* filter, search, and sort items by any metadata field.
*select any subset of the bibliography (including the whole thing)
*and do actions on the whole or your selection

Here are some actions I would want:
*download citations to your own collection (online or locally hosted on your own computer)
*mark the subset for later use in the online system
*search the full-text of all items in the subset. Results would show KWIC snippets and could generate subsets for further actions
*add all references to your collection (preserving field structure)
*use an associated “bibliography processor” to download all the associated items. Your processor would be able to authenticate for your library access and individual subscriptions. It would create a new subset of problem items, for manual inspection, which could easily be passed to other services (like ILL).

Other bibliography thoughts:
*free online resources and subscription resources would be distinguished by an icon
*a good bibliography should give a sense of the field–clustering and facets may help with this, and leveraging the structured data (e.g. by journal, tags/descriptors, etc.)

If we had tools that easily pulled citations, references, links, pointers out of new media documents, web pages, reference managers, and what-have-you, and that easily added them to other documents, whether web-based or not (prior to printing, of course) and that allowed us to easily manipulate sets and subsets of them and to perform assorted actions on them easily, then not only would our lives be easier (and, arguably perhaps, better) but much of the discussion that took place in the tweet chat would be moot.

Only the larger questions of why we would cite or compile bibliographies would remain, along with some issues of formatting. But, despite the amount of effort that goes into formatting citations into the almost innumerable styles that are out there, the reasons for specific formatting styles is rarely ever known by most users of them, and even less frequently ever actually theorized (and how much of this formatting is just bullshit wasted effort in the first place?). We truly need to get rid of about 95% (or more!) of the styles that exist for formatting citations (in any medium) and revisit the why of the specific how of doing so, with good and proper reasoning for each choice.

Ah. Now Mark the librarian and inveterate footnote/citation tracer is talking. ::sigh:: I think for now I’ll just wander off of this obviously passionate topic. It seems clear that many of my first-order concerns with citation practices are not the same ones as many of those who participated in the chat. And that is perfectly OK, too.

I do want to add that I did, though, despite the poem or any of the above comments, enjoy myself in the chat. It was just a very frenetic enjoyment which could have been helped by better tools.

“Better tools.” Maybe that ought be the title of this post.

 

We are moving to Bend, Oregon

We are moving to Bend, Oregon in early August.

Sara got a job as the librarian for OSU-Cascades in Bend. She starts in the 3rd week of August so we are in full on packing and move planning mode.

We are really looking forward to this move. Just over two years in Sioux City (SUX) has been plenty. Don’t get me wrong, Sioux City has a fair few good things going for it and we’ve made a few friends who it hurts to leave, but for two liberal, vegetarian (or nearly so [me]), academically-oriented librarians it has little to offer.

Our time was certainly not wasted here, which is a consolation. Sara got more experience as a librarian and was promoted to Director of Educational Technology, a position created for her. I had a poem published in the Iowa state poetry contest annual, and a photograph published in a literary magazine and on display in the Sioux City Art Center for about 7 weeks. I also helped edit this year’s edition of the Briar Cliff Review, took several classes, all of which were literature or writing courses, except for one digital photography course where I finally learned to use my Nikon D40X off of automatic.

We saw a few concerts, the more important of which we had to go to Iowa City, Omaha and Minneapolis for. We attended the Iowa Library Association annual conference in Coralville, THATCamp LAC in Green Bay and the Library Technology Conference in Minneapolis, and a few smaller ones here and there in Iowa.

I was hired as a cataloging contractor by Briar Cliff’s Bishop Mueller Library and eventually was able to do a lot of collection development work, particularly weeding, among other things. We are hoping that I will be able to continue doing some work for them by distance.

But. Bend. Oh my. We already have tickets to see Madeleine Peyroux and we will attending a 3-day yoga festival in early Sep. That is no doubt more than my quota of yoga in one sitting but I figure it’ll be a good way to suss out the local community and see if there are any instructors whose style I like and so on.

They are also a craft brewing haven. There are 8 microbreweries within walking distance of each other in Bend alone, with a few more in the nearby Central Oregon environs. There are also 3-4 more opening in the next 6 months to 1.5 years. That web site lists 14 breweries in Bend and one in Sisters but it also includes brew pubs.

They have tons of events like the upcoming Fermentation Celebration on 12 July (we’ll miss it), which is the kickoff to Oregon Craft Brewers Month. Also, coming up (and we’ll be there!) is the Ninth Annual Bend Brewfest. There is a Bend Ale Trail and they even have an app. Oh, also coming up is the 4th Annual Little Woody Barrel Aged Brew and Whiskey Fest. Oh my.

Downtown has an independent coffee shop on most every street where we have one (perhaps 2) decent coffee shops in Sioux City.

There’s an organization called (theNatureofWords).  How can I not like an organization with that for a name? Their mission statement:

The Mission of The Nature of Words is to strengthen and support the literary arts and humanities in the high desert region of the Northwest through community interaction with acclaimed authors and through creative writing programs for youth and adults.

There are several disc golf courses in the area including one right out back of the library Sara will be working in.

Mountains, forests, outdoor activities of all kinds, new forms (to me) of natural objects to learn about and photograph, and so on.

Moving sucks, as usual. And yesterday I tripped and fell backwards over something in the basement while working down there so I now hurt far more than I did simply from the labor of packing and disassembling things which I’ve been doing for a week and a half now; started with the books and the office primarily. Also sorted out still fully packed boxes in the basement from those needing repacking. So lots of heavy, tiring work. And more to come after a day off today.

But we’re going to Bend!

Regex help. Please!

I have been dealing with some text exported from our ILS, SirsiDynix Symphony 3.x, to generate usable spreadsheets of zero circulation data as one portion of the decision-making process for weeding decisions.

I have done OK up until now but need some help at this point rewriting a regex to be much stricter to do what I want. For background, here’s my workflow and examples of my data.

I run a report from within the client asking for title/statement of responsibility and call number of all bibliographic items within a given class number range that have never circulated (since we’ve been on this system, which is a couple of years now). I copy and paste the output of that report into a text document. Opening the resulting text doc in TextWrangler I strip out the header and the page header info inserted between each page using find and replace.

Example text ______ (WordPress seems to be prettifying it a little)

Time in New England / photos. by Paul Strand ; text selected and edited by
Nancy Newhall ; pref. by Paul Metcalf ; afterword by Beaumont Newhall.
F 5 .S9 1980

New England begins : the seventeenth century.
F 7 .B74 V.1

New England begins : the seventeenth century.
F 7 .B74 V.2

New England begins : the seventeenth century.
F 7 .B74 V.3

The Allagash. Illustrated by George Loh.
F 27.A4 D5

The great White hills of New Hampshire, by Ernest Poole, illus by Gartin
Williams.
F 41.5 .P6

Black ice / Lorene Cary.
F 44 .C7 C35 1992

More Massachusetts towns. Illustrated with wood engravings of fifty-three
Massachusetts towns, drawn in 1840 by J.W. Barber, commentary by Ivan
Sandrof, and a special foreword by Mrs. Endicott Peabody.
F 64 .S35

Before 1776; the Massachusetts Bay Colony from founding to Revolution.
F 67 .G7X

Winthrop’s journal “History of New England”, 1630-1649. Edited by James
Kendall Hosmer.
F 67 .W785 V.1

Winthrop’s journal “History of New England”, 1630-1649. Edited by James
Kendall Hosmer.
F 67 .W785 V.2

Chronicles of the first planters of the colony of Massachusetts Bay,
1623-1636 : now first collected from original records and contemporaneous
manuscripts, and illustrated with notes / by Alexander Young.
F 67 .Y6X

_______

0CircF000-9999

(The actual text file for LC Class F that I am dealing with.)

_______

I then add a tab between the title and the call number using find and replace in grep mode by finding (case sensitive), for example: PT.* (class number of PT) and replacing that with \t&

I remove blank lines between all the entries by again using grep mode to find: ^\r replacing with: blank.

The resulting text file is imported into Excel as a tab delimited file giving me (generally) two columns of title and call number. I usually have to do a little cleanup because the removal of the page header info isn’t always perfect which causes minor issues. But it has been generally successful as most of my call numbers have been double letter call numbers and it is extremely rare that two capital letters exist contiguously anywhere other than the call number, especially with the call numbers I have been dealing with.

Example of the data brought into Excel

Screen shot of Excel spreadsheet for Class PE

Screen shot of Excel spreadsheet for Class PE

——-

But now I need to deal with the call number ranges of E and F. And, sadly, capital E and F abound in titles and names and I can’t manually fix all the resulting issues that arise from my, so far, very loose regex.

I need a more complex regex that can recognize a call number and only grab the pieces of it to insert a tab before as a whole. In almost every case there will be a capital letter (E or F, in these) followed by a space (pragmatically accurate enough?) followed by a number and further combinations of letter, numbers, spaces, ‘periods’ and (almost always) ending with a number(s). Although there will be the rare case of something like: F 203.4.W3 A4X

If there are a few false splits made inserting extra tabs resulting in data in extra columns I can fix that by hand but I need ~95% (or better!) accuracy.

If there is something I am simply missing about making this easier please don’t hesitate to let me know. Maybe I am simply approaching it wrong; I am fairly new to actually being productive with regex. By the way, I do have very limited control over the initial form in which I get the data, though.

Can you help me? Thank you!

Got unglue.it?

My tl;dr point:

If only 1/10th of all the librarians attending ALA Annual this coming week pledged $1 to Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth H. Finnegan (1970) then it would be successful.

So, you may not have heard, but there’s this thing called unglue.it.  Or maybe you have but have yet to look into it. It officially launched May 17th.

unglue (v. t.) 4. For an author or publisher, to accept a fixed amount of money from the public for its unlimited use of an ebook. (From their main page)

I am MarkLindner there and am a very early supporter.

What you can do

You can support the ungluing of books so that the resulting ebooks rights are Creative Commons licensed so readers everywhere may enjoy free and legal access to these works. See this page as a good starting point for more info. The set of faq pages are also a great place to find more information whether you are a reader, an author or a rights holder.

As an account holder, you can add books to your wishlist, support books others have already added, and pledge to support the ungluing of specific works. Since the site just recently launched there are currently 5 active campaigns.

Each campaign includes assorted premium levels, much like Kickstarter. See, for instance, this page for Love Like Gumbo by Nancy Rawles. In all cases (so far), for only a $1 pledge you will get a copy of the resulting ebook if the campaign is successful. For increasing amounts you get other things on top of a copy of the book.

If you are on my actual blog (vs. feedreader, etc.) you can see in my right sidebar widget area that you can also embed widgets for books on active campaigns and those on your wishlist. I currently have two, one for the book I am currently pledged for and one for Patrick Wilson’s Two Kinds of Power which I so very much want University of California Press to … well, do the right thing by.

Why I am supporting unglue.it

I became a member as soon as I saw the official announcement for beta testers (I had been reading about the idea in advance) at Eric Hellman’s blog: go to hellman. There is, of course, now an unglue.it blog where you can read about each of the campaigns and other things.

I have no idea if this model can work but I want it to. Sara and I support a fair few projects via Kickstarter also and we think that crowdfunded projects are a great way to show artists, authors, and assorted rights holders that people do want to support them while getting a quality product for a fair price and that they are willing to put their wallets where their mouths (or computer clicks) are.

During the beta testing there was a call to help test the pledge mechanisms and payment processes (currently via Amazon Payments) and I helped out. I made a pledge for $5, I increased it to $25, and then I decreased it to $10. We were asked to do such wishy-washy things to stress test their systems. The primary premium was a copy of a chapter Eric Hellman wrote called “Open Access EBooks” for a book by Sue Polanka. Increasing premiums were things like unglue.it stickers, autographed stickers, and so on. I was able to provide some useful feedback and left my pledge at $10 so they might have a (very) small bit of operating funds.

When the site went live and first five campaigns were announced I must admit I was a little disappointed. I wasn’t deeply interested in any of those works. I mean they all looked interesting enough but with hundreds of books on hand and thousands more not immediately on hand that I know I want to read they weren’t intriguing enough to me to pledge for any of them. I justified my not contributing by my participation in the beta pledge.

Friday I changed my mind and pledged $7 to Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth H. Finnegan (1970)Why?

  1. I really truly want this model to succeed. To do so they need to be successful early on and this work currently has the most chance of being so.
  2. I am actually truly interested in this book even if it isn’t that high on the priority of the oh so lengthy to-be-read list.
  3. They bribed me. :P They offered some additional pledge incentives, one of which was the $7 level which would give me a copy of this ebook, if successful, and a choice of another ebook from the publisher. Oooh, this is the other book I’ll hopefully get myself.
  4. Did I mention that early success is critical to demonstrate to authors and rights holders that this model is a workable one?

What I would like you to do

Please have a look around the unglue.it site. Read the about page, poke at the faqs, look at the bios of the people involved, peruse the blog, check out the books in the active campaigns.

But most importantly, pledge something for one or more of these books. It shouldn’t really matter if you are even personally interested in any of these titles. If the campaigns are successful then these books will be free, as ebooks, for anyone. And surely you know someone you could give a copy of one (or more) of them to. $1 is all it takes!

If you are a librarian, a reader, or an ebook reader, then imho you really ought be contributing to the success of this model. It isn’t the only way forward but it can be a great start. But only if people like us make it one!

If only 1/10th of all the librarians attending ALA Annual this coming week pledged $1 to Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth H. Finnegan (1970) then it would be successful.

We have only 5 days left to make this a success. Won’t you be a part of something this important?

Dickens 2012 at Briar Cliff

Tuesday of this week, February 7th, was the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, his bicentenary. Various events were held worldwide and we did a little bit here in Sioux City at the Bishop Mueller Library at Briar Cliff University.

Charles Dickens, sitting, with colorful birthday hat on his head

Late in January, thanks to having most of our Dickens’ texts around me due to a reclassification project, I decided to see if I could do an exhibit in the campus library. I had been aware of the (then upcoming) Dickens’ bicentenary for a good while based on seeing reviews of new biographies of Dickens, commentaries on his status as a literary icon, and so on.

I asked the director and she said, “Certainly,” and we found a spot. A few days went by and then I got busy and picked the books I wanted to use, found the illustrations within a few that I wanted to display, located the stands, and made a few info sheets with a mini-bio, some web sources for more information, sources for free ebooks and subscription ebooks via the library, and the call number range(s) for books by or about him and his works in our library [the reclass project is not done]. The display debuted on the 1st of February.

Display of works by and about Dickens

Charles Dickens Bicentenary display at BCU Mueller Library

A day or two after putting the display together, and no doubt prompted by gathering links about the bicentenary, I thought that it would nice to host a reading ourselves, a Read-a-Thon. I asked the library director if we could do it in the library and got a definite “Yes.” I then asked the president of WREN, our student Writing and English club, if they would co-sponsor the event, which for me simply meant telling the Writing/English students about it and letting me put their name along with the Library’s on the flyer I would make. Alex did a great job and even secured permission from the Dept. Chair for the students to get service credit for reading. [Juniors and seniors have to do so many hours of service to the department and/or university to graduate.] I then asked the prof who teaches Victorian Lit, Dr. Jeanne Emmons, if she would give us a short introduction to Dickens at the start to which she readily agreed, and also claimed the education portion of Hard Times.

From there I designed a flyer with the help of my lovely wife. I found a photograph of Dickens that I could legally use and had Sara place a birthday hat on it at a ‘jaunty angle.’ [See above. Original photo found at Flickr and supplied by the Penn State Special Collections, Darrah Collection, Image 61680. The photo is licensed as CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, so feel free to use this transformed work under the same license. Thanks for sharing, Penn State!]

I then hung these up around campus several days in advance. The library director sent out an all staff email advertising the event, too, as I wanted any interested party to be able to come and enjoy listening and to read, if they chose.

On the day of the event, I came in about an hour and a half early to push around some of the furniture to make a space and provide more seating. I also went to the stacks and grabbed a pretty much complete set of Dickens’ works and brought them down on a small cart. A big pot of coffee was brewed and the cake and cookies I bought that morning were put out.

The event was scheduled from 4-5 pm and people started showing up a half hour in advance. By 4 PM we had a good 20+ people with 6 pre-signed up to read.

I gave a brief welcome, introduced myself to those (few) who didn’t know me, and provided the ‘rules’ and encouraged people to sign up on the list of readers. Then I handed the stage to Jeanne who gave us a nice introduction to Dickens’ life, works, and enduring influence and then she read from Ch. 2, Bk. 1 of Hard Times, “Murdering the Innocents.” Next up was Great Expectations from another of our English and Writing profs. Several folks read from A Christmas Carol, one from David Copperfield, and Sara read excerpts from letters Dickens wrote to his friend and sometime collaborator, Wilkie Collins, which can be exceptionally funny.

We only got two additional takers who weren’t pre-signed up but all in all it worked out great as we went the whole hour. I, too, read from Hard Times, and as there is so much wonderful material there I had a hard time (ha ha) narrowing it down. I initially read from Ch. 15, Bk. 1, “Father and Daughter.” I read a fairly lengthy selection making sure to encompass Luisa’s all important ‘digression’ to her father while he is presenting Mr. Bounderby’s marriage proposal to her:

“There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke. Yet when the night comes, Fire bursts out, father!” she answered, turning quickly.

I went near the middle of the pack and as we wound down and got no other takers but still had a few minutes left, I took the emcee’s prerogative and read a shorter section from Ch. 8, Bk. 1, “Never Wonder,” as I figured it would be good to end with the library scene and “these readers [who] persisted in wondering.”

Woman reading from her iPad

Dickens Read-a-Thon at Bishop Mueller Library, Briar Cliff University

More folks had shown up throughout the event, including the University President. All in all, I would say that it was a roaring success. More importantly, many others, including most of the English and Writing faculty, the president of WREN, and the librarians, thought so. They were still talking about it the next morning.

Success! And Happy 200th Mr. Dickens!

JaPoWriMo

My friend Jess talked me into participating in JaPoWriMo, or January Poetry Writing Month. At least that is how I am parsing it out.

The idea is simply to write one poem a day. She insisted they could be a short as haiku and that there was no requirement for them to be any good. I am sharing them with her and my wife, of course and, so far, one or two with the odd other here and there.

Much of my month is taken up with my Grimm’s Fairy Tale class and editing and other magazine production duties putting together this year’s issue of the Briar Cliff Review. Thus, a couple have been about Grimm’s; I foresee one or more about editing; I have written a couple about books, those I’ve read and those I won’t be reading (end-of-2011 book post); one about meetings (after a long meeting on Friday); one about our SirsiDynix Symphony ILS (subject of said and several other meetings); one about not having a subject; and so on.

There is no need to worry—not much anyway— as I will not be sharing all of them with you here. Many of them are bad, and I doubt that any of them are actually good. But I agreed to commit to this writing a poem a day in an otherwise already quite busy month as I hoped that more writing, even if mostly tossed off, would help me in assorted ways as a poet and a writer. The bottom-line is that I am a lazy poet. Perhaps this will cultivate a habit, perhaps this will leave me with a few choice phrases or lines or ideas, perhaps nothing will come of it.

With all of that said, I would like to share two that I wrote in response to my Grimm’s class. The first was written about 15 minutes before the class met for the first time; the second was written this morning and is a conflation of “Snow-white and Rose-red” and “Little Snow White,” which we read for and discussed this past Friday, along with other generic thoughts on the role of “beauty” in the tales we’ve read so far (~10).

 


Grimm’s excitement today
Innocents start to play
Villains and ogres slay
Justice wins come what may

3 January 2012


Beauty for its own sake, enticement.
Or is it really entrapment?

The hunter spares her …
The wicked queen poisons her …
The dwarves domesticate her …
The prince wants her … dead and mute.

Snow-white. Rose-red. Two
Halves of the same girl.
A maiden on the edge
Of womanhood.

Tame the bear,
Emasculate the dwarf,
Remain kind to the vile.
Gentleness, purity, innocence

Retained. These are the steps to
Make oneself a woman.
Chaste, yet chargedly erotic.
Snow-white. Rose-red.

Beautiful.

8 January 2012

I may spend some time with the second as it could undoubtedly be improved. But, considering that I wrote it in about 10 minutes this morning I can live with it.

Abbas, Structures for organizing knowledge

[Full disclosure: I personally know and greatly respect the author of this text. I have met and talked with her at 5 conferences from 2006 to 2009 (4 ASIST Annuals and the 1st NASKO). I have seen her present and moderate panels and have read some of her articles. While the topic of her book is of great interest to me, with my current level of involvement in the field, if it had been written by most anyone else I probably would have skipped it.]

The first thing I want to say about it is that it is edited quite well. I wanted to say that up front as it is increasingly difficult to be able to say that any more. There are a few minor issues but I am sending those directly to the author.

Contents:

  • Preface
  • Part I. Traditional Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 1. Introduction to Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 2. Historical Perspectives and Development of Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 3. Standards and Best Practices
  • Ch. 4. Disciplinary Uses and Applications of Knowledge Structures
  • Part II. Personal Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 5. Structures for Organizing Knowledge in Personal and Professional Contexts
  • Part III. Socially-Constructed Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Ch. 6. Social Knowledge-Organizing Behaviors and Socially-Constructed Structures for
  • Organizing Knowledge: Research and Discussion
  • Ch. 7. Extending Our Thinking: Creating a Structure for Organizing Knowledge from Various Threads
  • Ch. 8. Thinking Ahead: Are We at a Crossroads?
  • Index

According to the Preface, the book:

“Explores and explains how we organize knowledge by looking at three broad questions: (1) How do people organize objects in personal and professional contexts so that they make sense and are useful? (2) What roles do categories, classifications, taxonomies, and other structures play in the process of organizing? (3) What do information professionals need to know about human organizing behaviors in order to design useful structures for organizing knowledge” (xv-xvi)?

It is organized into 3 major threads:

  • Traditional Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Personal Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Socially-Constructed Structures for Organizing Knowledge (xvi)

The intended audience is LIS students as well as the practicing professional. It” is not meant to be a “how-to” guide for developing, applying, or implementing …; rather it is designed to present a conceptual discourse and to inspire thinking about taxonomic behavior, or how and why people organize knowledge, in various contexts. It also serves as a textbook on the historical development of structures for organizing knowledge and the current interdisciplinary theories and research related to the creation and application of structures for organizing knowledge” (xix). “A secondary audience for the work is that of researchers in library and information science and related fields” (xix).

So, basically, it serves as a textbook. Personally, I see it serving as an excellent foundation for a structures of info/knowledge organization course. Mind you, I do not mean a basic information/knowledge organization course like many LIS schools require, although it could work there also. In my opinion, the basic course should be broader than the contents of this work.

In a follow-up course, one which looks at the various structures in which information and knowledge are organized, this book would excel. Flesh it out with some other readings ranging from the highly philosophical (Svenonius or Beghtol, perhaps), to some stuff on XML/RDf and related technologies such as open data and open linking, and even some “how-to” articles depending on what kind of projects and assignments the course included and you would have a great and highly flexible backbone (depending on which supplementary readings used) for an advanced course in the structures used for information organization across time and domains. Of course, the text itself suggests many possible supplementary readings depending on which aspects of the text and the research it covers one wants to stress.

This book fits in a kind of middle ground, I want to say. It is neither a “how-to” as the author said, nor is it any where as deeply philosophical as Svenonius’ The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization. With some judicious selection of supplemental readings one could fashion at least a score of courses around this topic but with highly different focuses.

Definition

Def: organizing structures (for our purposes) as “either a physical or a computerized information space that represents an entity or collection of entities, and the patterns and relationships between entities, within the context of the life experiences, connections, understandings, and applications of the organizer” (8).

“[C]an also think of them as ways to recognize, observe, and make sense of the information being organized within the structure” (8).

Further comments

The author rightly points out that “The differing perspectives on the concepts of information and knowledge remain the most problematic and passionate discussions in the field of information science” (9) and then goes on to cover only two, although she did point to what I would agree is “perhaps the most comprehensive overview of the debate and varying perspectives presented by multiple disciplines in their attempts to define information and knowledge” (9). Since the book is not a text on either information or knowledge this is legitimate. As much as would like to see other views covered in this section, it is not in the scope of this text to do so.

Part I, Traditional Structures for Organizing Knowledge, contains four chapters looking at (1) some definitions and scope, (2) historical perspectives and influences on, and kinds of, structures for organizing knowledge, including contributions from philosophy, natural history, and cognitive science, (3) standards and best practices, including the standards development process, and (4) various disciplinary uses and applications of knowledge structures, focusing particularly on biology, library and information science, and the social sciences.

Part II, Personal Structures for Organizing Knowledge, contains one chapter which looks at personal structures for organizing knowledge, but splits this into the two contexts of the personal (home, mostly) and the professional (work).

Part III, Socially-Constructed Structures for Organizing Knowledge, contains three chapters and looks at (1) social knowledge-organizing behaviors and systems, such as social bookmarking and cataloging sites (delicious, Flickr, LibraryThing) and tagging, more generally, (2) a review so far and (3) some thought exercises on how we might combine the threads of the traditional, personal, and social.

Each chapter begins with a list of questions as “Focus Points” and ends with some others as “Thought Exercises.” References are placed at the end of each chapter.

I have no comments on the index as I had no cause to use it while reading the book or in writing the review, although it does appear rather thorough.

I think this book could serve well as a textbook for an introductory class on information and knowledge organization, but that it is far better suited to a follow-on course focusing more specifically on structures for organizing information. This is, in my not so humble cataloger, metadater, taxonomist, indexer, et al., heart of hearts an extremely important topic; one which I wish far more LIS students took seriously.

If you are a practicing professional or an LIS researcher needing to think more broadly about knowledge organizing structures or are looking for an entrée into the current literature on tagging and knowledge organization (KO) or those of personal information management (PIM), human-computer interaction (HCI), and human information behavior (HIB) as they pertain to this topic then this book would serve you as a valuable resource.

Upcoming fall semester

Thought I’d post a little update regarding my plans for fall. First, a quick update on where I am currently.

Update

My hours at the BCU library were bumped up to 6 (from 5) hours/week so I could take on a weeding project of my own. I had already cataloged the backlog and current acquisitions and I was removing bibs and holdings from our Sirsi catalog and from WorldCat.

About a month ago I started weeding the PZs. I began with the PZ7s and up, skipped the small amount of PZ5s for now (less than one shelf), did the PZ4s, and am now a bit over halfway through the PZ3s. This leaves the PZ1s, which are mostly sets, to do when I finish the PZ3s. So far I have weeded approximately 1000 titles from the collection. Many of these books have not circulated in 30-40 years (or more). Some, of course, had never circulated. A few were in lovely editions over 100 years old. But if they haven’t been checked out in 50-60 years and no one teaches them anymore (if ever) then our small library does not need them. Of course, I have also been removing the bibs and holdings for these.

The wife

The wife is keeping especially busy and is reasonably stressed; reasonably as in she has good reason to be, and also as in not breaking down stressed. All of this year’s incoming freshman at BCU are getting iPads, as are many of the graduate and some of the returning undergrad students, along with many of the faculty and staff. There will be another opt-in period for returning students who have not done so shortly after school starts. As the Director of Educational Technology, this project is kind of her baby. Other folks certainly have their own crosses to bear in this als0; like the head of IT and the hoops she’s jumped/ing through to get the campus wireless upgraded to handle ~500-600 wireless devices where before there were only a handful.

Added on top of that stress for the wife is that we are leaving the country for close to a week right before/as school starts. So she has spent most of this weekend on campus trying to do all that she can to make this all go as smoothly as possible without her direct input when it happens.

Wedding in Germany

We are heading to Heidelberg, Germany for my sons wedding! Both the bride and groom were born there so it is a particularly apt setting. We only wish we had a lot more time to spend in Deutschland; we both miss it dearly.

My fall semester

I am taking one class, which I was asked to take by the professor. Advanced Briar Cliff Review is a one-hour credit class in which interested students, primarily English and Writing majors, do much of the selection work for the short fiction that makes it into the Briar Cliff Review.

I will also be sitting in on 2 classes; Modern Grammar, and Classical Literature and Mythology. I was, as of a couple months ago, planning on sitting in on Shakespeare also but have decided I would actually like some sort of life. Shakespeare is taught regularly and frequently, so I hope to catch it the next time around. There are, of course, several other classes I am interested.  Most were winnowed out earlier due to scheduling conflicts but, despite freeing up some time, I see little point in rebooking that time.

I am looking forward to the upcoming semester. I’ve had a mythology class but this one will focus on myth through the classical lit itself, instead of being condensed versions of folktales, and I can use more exposure to classical lit. As a critic of orthodox grammar and linguistics I can definitely use a formal class. More importantly, I hope it will help me describe and discuss that which I have known at a deep and intuitive level for most of my life. I’m also looking forward to reading the BCR short fiction submissions. I don’t read much short fiction, at least not for a long time, and I look forward to discussing and engaging with it critically. Also, how often does one get asked to take a class by the professor?

Vacation

I thought I’d bring folks up-to-date on what I’m doing work-wise. Since mid-September 2010 I have been working 5 hours/week as a feral cataloger at Briar Cliff University’s Bishop Mueller Library. Technically, I am an independent contractor, not an employee.

The majority of what I do is copy cataloging,  although I have derived a couple of records for different editions and have done a very few original records. I do miss original cataloging but I do not miss the inordinate  increase in problems to be solved.

BCU is undertaking a large-scale weeding project so for the last month or two I have also been removing records from our Sirsi catalog and holdings. Although I almost broke the annual record for addition of records to the catalog (and would have smashed it if I had worked a whole year), I have removed even more in a much shorter time frame. Yes, this collection needs weeding but the cataloger in me would much rather add records than remove them. Yes, my job is (to help with) maintenance and creation of the entirety of the catalog and I respect that. But. I prefer creating and adding bibs than removing them. Nonetheless, good work is being done and that is what matters.

As of a week ago, I was asked to undertake the actual weeding of the PZs. To support this extra responsibility my hours have been increased to 6/wk. I haven’t physically begun but I have been doing some research by browsing the collection, noticing some of the easy decisions on reclassing into (primarily) PR and PS (Dickens, Twain, Austen, Bronte, …) and some juvenile fiction to send downstairs to the Children’s Collection. I’ve also been reviewing assorted lists of “important” fiction (the little I’m not familiar with), and looking up authors/titles in our new ebrary collection.

I am looking forward to this as an opportunity to help BCU but also as a learning experience for myself. Once I finish the PZs I am hoping to slide right into the general science Qs. Science faculty have been helping with specific disciplinary materials but no one has looked at the Qs themselves. I am at least as qualified to make decisions on Qs as I am on the PZs.

So. The title of this post? The amazing Franciscan Sister that I work with/for is at a gathering of Iowa’s Franciscan sisters for a couple of days. So I am on “vacation” until next Wednesday. Back I go to the largish Summer to-do list. Not much of a vacation really.

At home I am also weeding; trying to remove some of the clutter of stuff accumulated over 50 or so years. I am also weeding my computer and migrating my photos from iPhoto to Aperture. There are loads of books to be read, book reviews to write/finish, articles to be entered into Zotero, things to be packaged and mailed to dear people, ….

I recently got caught up putting photos in Flickr. Last year I got stuck in the midst of putting up those from our vacation in the 2nd half of July and never got started again. I am now up to those I took for my summer digital photography course and I probably won’t bother putting many of those up although I would like to put up those from the portfolio I submitted.

And then I still need to do something about our wedding photos from May 2010. ::sigh::

Not much of a vacation, is it?

Nardi and O’Day. Information Ecologies

This book should be required reading for all librarians and for anyone using technology. Oh, yeah, everyone.

I read this immediately after Brown and Duguid which was about “information” and thus IT, and which sought a middle ground. This is about seeking a middle ground for “technology.” They are more or less contemporaneous with this being 1-2 years older.

Contents:

  • Preface
  • 1 Rotwang the Inventor
  • 2 Framing Conversations about Technology
  • 3 A Matter of Metaphor: Technology as Tool, Text, System, Ecology
  • 4 Information Ecologies
  • 5 Values and Technology
  • 6 How to Evolve Information Ecologies
  • 7 Librarians: A Keystone Species
  • 8 Wolf, Batgirl and Starlight: Finding a Real Community in a Virtual World
  • 9 Cultivating Gardeners: The Importance of Homegrown Expertise
  • 10 Digital Photography at Lincoln High School
  • 11 A Dysfunctional Ecology: Privacy issues at a Teaching Hospital
  • 12 Diversity on the Internet
  • 13 Conclusion

Preface

“A key to thoughtful action is to ask more “know-why” questions the new typically do. Being efficient, productive, proactive people, we often jump to the “know-how” questions, which are considerably easier to answer. In this book we talk about practical ways to have more “know-why” conversations, to dig deeper, and reflect more about the effects of the ways we use technology” (x).

The book uses the movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang as an insight into technology with the first chapter providing a synopsis of the movie.

“We believe that we can and should argue about how technology is created and used. Lang suggested in Metropolis that technical sweetness is not enough. Technology development and use must be mediated by the human heart” (x).

Part I Information Ecologies: Concepts and Reflections

1 Rotwang the Inventor

A synopsis of Metropolis.

2 Framing Conversations about Technology

Nardi was trained as an anthropologist and O’Day in computer science. They have worked in industrial research labs at HP, Apple, and Xerox. (14)

“This book is addressed to people who work with and around technology. This includes schoolteachers and school administrators, engineers, salespeople, professors, secretaries,journalists and others in publishing, medical professionals, librarians, people who work in finance and banking, and many more. [Everybody!] We believe that our colleagues in technology design will also find this book useful.
For all of our readers, what we hope to accomplish is a shift in perception” (15).

“We have noticed two blind spots people seem to have in considering  work settings: informal practices that support work activities and unobtrusive work styles that hide valuable, skilled contributions” (16).

The rest of this chapter consists of three sections: The Rhetoric of Inevitability, Conversational Extremes: Technophilia and Dystopia, and A Different Approach. They discuss the unfortunate trend for technology development to be frequently characterized as inevitable; the two extreme views this inevitably drives discourse to, “the ends of a continuum [that] leave us with poor choices for action” (20); and call for a third way.

“Technological tools and other artifacts carry social meaning. Social understanding, values, and practices become *integral aspects* of the tool itself” (21).

“The issue is not whether we will use technologies, but which we will choose and whether we will use them well” (22).

3 A Matter of Metaphor: Technology as Tool, Text, System, Ecology

This chapter discusses the metaphors of technology as tool, text, system and ecology to reveal certain facets of technology because metaphors “both illuminate and obscure the relationships between people and technology” (25).

§ Technology as Tool

Discusses “affordances” (J.J. Gibson): “those properties of an object that neatly support the actions people intend to take with the object” (28).

“The tool metaphor is useful for questions and discussions about utility, usability, skill, and learning” (30).

“People who see technology as a tool see themselves as controlling it” (27).

§ Technology as Text

” … as a form of communication, a carrier of meaning that may be reinterpreted as the technology passes through different social situations” (31).

§ Technology as System

“[P]rovides the richest, most troubling and most mind-altering perspectives” and breadth of vision (33).

Jacques Ellul and Langdon Winner are the theorists mentioned here. I have read a fair bit of Ellul, and taken a few seminars which focused on much of his work, although I have only read a small bit of Winner. I admire and agree with much of Ellul’s take on technology as a system but, as the authors state, these views leave us little room to act. They are totalizing. “This view does not address with enough force the possibility of local and particular change” (43).

The themes in the section on the Neutrality of Technology include how technology conditions our choices, “reverse adaptation”: the adjustment of human ends to match the character of the available means, and the pervasive adaptation of standards.

4 Information Ecologies

Definition: “a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment.” The spotlight is “on human activities that are served by technology”; not the technology itself. (49)

The concept of information ecologies is introduced “in order to focus attention on relationships involving tools and people and their practices” (50).

§ Characterizing Information Ecologies

  • System
  • Diversity
  • Coevolution
  • Keystone Species
  • Locality

metaphorical – ” to foster thought and discussion, to stimulate conversations for action” (50).

§§ System

“Like a biological ecology, an information ecology is marked by strong interrelationships and dependencies among its different parts.” Change is systemic. (51)

§§ Diversity

Different kinds of people, tools, roles, ideas, resources (51-2)

§§ Coevolution

“Information ecologies evolve as new ideas, tools, activities, and forms of expertise arise in them” (52).

“The social and technical aspects of an environment *coevolve*” (53).

§§ Keystone Species

“An ecology is marked by the presence of certain keystone species whose presence is crucial to the survival of the ecology itself” (53).

“Mediators—people who build bridges across institutional boundaries and translate across disciplines—are a keystone species in information ecologies. Ironically, their contributions are often unofficial, unrecognized, and seemingly peripheral to the most obvious productive functions of the workplace” (54).

§§ Locality

With references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Faust we get that “[t]he name of a technology identifies what it means to the people who use it” and that “it positions the technology more directly under the control of its users” (54).

“The habitation of a technology is its location within a network of relations;” “its set of family ties in the local information ecology” (55).

There is an opportunity but also a responsibility for “the participants of an information ecology [to] establish the identity and place of the technologies that are found there” (55).

§§ Why Ecologies?

“We are suggesting that people act locally in a committed, reflective way that acknowledges technique as Ellul documents it, but having recognized it, chooses to respond with initiative that is grounded in local understanding and values” (56).

6 How to Evolve Information Ecologies

Summarized as:

  • work from core values
  • pay attention
  • ask strategic, open-ended questions about use (65)

Part II Case Studies

7 Librarians: A Keystone Species

Based on studies at Hewlett-Packard Library and Apple Research Library (82)

§§ Information Therapy (reference interview) (85-92)

8 Wolf, Batgirl and Starlight: Finding a Real Community in a Virtual World

A text-based virtual world centered on Longview Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ, with Phoenix College, Xerox PARC and some senior citizens

9 Cultivating Gardeners: The Importance of Homegrown Expertise

“Gardeners” (140-1)

  • tinker with computers
  • learn software a little better
  • often good at configuring hardware
  • troubleshoot/solve problems when others are stumped
  • likes to help others with tech tasks
  • learn about computational things on their own
  • translate concepts and mechanism back and forth between domain of work and the technology
  • occupy a special niche = bridge

11 A Dysfunctional Ecology: Privacy issues at a Teaching Hospital

“Information was taken out of its original context and presented in a new context, without the buy-in of the people who generated the information.
Information changes shape and function dramatically when its broadcast boundaries are altered” (182)

Exactly! Begins to explain some of the issues in our networked, “broadcast” world as I see them; thinking primarily of the Internet and re-sharing/purposing of information and how it changes context. Multiple ecologies must be added in/considered.

12 Diversity on the Internet

“We view the internet as a set of environmental conditions that provide a substrate for the growth of ecologies that span traditional geographic and social boundaries. The Internet can serve as connective tissue between and within information ecologies” (185).

13 Conclusion

“We want to avoid being taken in by the rhetoric of inevitability. This rhetoric is powerful in part because it takes two seemingly opposite forms: the despair of dystopia and the don’t-worry-be-happy optimism of technophilia. A key impediment to creating and nurturing robust information ecologies is believing (optimistically or pessimistically) that technical “progress” is ungovernable and inevitable. The most extreme but not uncommon manifestation of the rhetoric of inevitability is believing that any kind of technology is desirable as long as it can be reasonably engineered and manufactured.
We have adopted an ecology metaphor because it matches the dynamics we observed in the settings we studied” (211).

This is an important and still timely book which pairs quite well with Brown and Duguid’s The Social Life of Information.