Visual language: or a new wander

In which I begin a new intellectual wander amongst the idea of visual language, particularly in comics, or at least that is how I got interested in it in a roundabout way.

My son and my friend Dave will probably laugh at me as this is the kind of thinking they’ve both done for much of their lives. They are visually arty. And musically. I am neither.

Past wanders

I am not sure that I am going to continue homebrewing and I am, after my last session of doing so, seriously reconsidering my beer judging. But those are different stories. This is about a new rabbit hole. “Psst, over here. “


As my Thursday AM coffee shop book, I am currently reading Smits, Rik. The Puzzle of Lefthandedness. Translated by Liz Waters, Reaktion, 2011, and it is fascinating! At least to a left-hander from a family of left-handers. Old enough that my parents were “seriously discouraged” from using said left hand and that even my doing so was looked down on, at the least, at school. Yes, I smeared a lot because that stupid non-smearing way to supposedly hold your pencil was dreamt up by a right-handed zealot with a sadistic streak. [That’s my story.]

Anyway, fascinating book! It is a series of 38 essay-ish pieces (I am about halfway through) about left-handedness but also about the concepts of left and right and their symbolic meanings, and so on. Sort of like 38 takes at tossing a dart at the dart board of the topic from 38 different points in space from all around the target. So, thus, not a coherent, long-form, argument, but a truly interesting way to break off into related topics.

The last couple chapters I read started with one on left and right in the murder genre of Western painting. Because of course “we” have one! ::sigh:: Then there was one on the violence towards women—almost always sexual—in Western painting. This also included the object of the male gaze, the “harlot.” Next was one on left and right in married couples portraits, and single portraits also, which also translates into where the woman stands in a traditional church wedding and which side she exits on, etc.

Interspersed throughout these chapters were talk about how all this depiction of movement [arriving vs departing, messengers with good news versus bad news, etc. transferred to most other forms of art and much of culture, including the stage, the silver screen, comic books and graphic novels, advertising, and so on. Much of this was also looked at cross-culturally; in literate cultures, much hinges on direction of writing and reading.

The point

All this really got me thinking as I have been reading so many graphic novels, comics, and some manga and I am often lost by the artwork and I am self-aware enough to know that sometimes it isn’t simply me or bad art but that I just don’t understand the conventions; especially true regarding manga and other forms of Japanese comics/anime.

Neil Cohn

Over the past weekend I discussed this with my wife and she started poking the Interwebz and found the the following article: Cohn, Neil. Comics, Linguistics, and Visual Language: The Past and Future of a Field. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

Yesterday I got a chance to print it and read it and it was mind-blowing how perfect it was for me. It isn’t exactly a practical lexicon of comics art, if you will, or not at all, which is what I sort of wanted: something to the point without being overly theoretical or way too wordy or …. I wanted the perfect “document” for me. This is a very close second and, in many ways, better, in that it provides a great entry into what I am looking for.

The article is exactly what the title purports to be: Comics, Linguistics, and Visual Language: The Past and Future of a Field. It shows why “a language of comics” is the wrong object of study and that it is actually “visual language,” akin to “spoken” and (I forget what he called them, but) “manual,” that is signed languages.

Lots of great citations, as he has a good lit review early on, and then looks at the topic from most angles of study in linguistics, covers the research done in that area and the research needed, along with what the proper questions and concepts are in that area, and how they map, if at all, and whether that matters, to other forms of language (for instance, photology versus phonology).

Scott McCloud

The heaviest cited piece he uses is: McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. First HarperPerennial edition, HarperCollins Publishers, 1994, of which he says, “…, contemporary works on comics in a linguistic light—both in America and abroad—have exploded since the publication of comic artist and theorist Scott McCloud’s (1993) graphic book Understanding comics.” and “McCloud’s approach has permeated nearly all linguistically-driven studies since its publication” (4). Ten total cites to it. The author has 20 cites to his own work. But that is spread across 11 different titles versus one. [Not saying that isn’t fair as he seems mighty prolific. I still need to check out Cohn’s website,] But McCloud’s book seems to be the object to engage with in the article and in linguistics and comics since 1993.

When I looked up McCloud’s book to see if we had it at COCC—which we did—I saw that we had a 2nd McCloud book so I grabbed it too when I went up to get Understanding comics. It too is a graphic novel, McCloud, Scott. Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels. Harper, 2006. And next to it was another early classic, also cited by Cohn, so I grabbed it as a possibility: Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist; [Incl. New and Updated Material. Norton, 2008.

 I have read his fiction graphic novel, The Sculptor.


Of course there is language to this kind of thing but at what level of analysis and so forth? Or is it all practical versus theoretic and where and how have they influenced each other? I need a Wissenschaft on visual language.

Seeing as I do not have one—although that linguistics article went a long way towards portions of theory, and McCloud’s books, along with possibly Eisner’s, will hopefully provide some great practical knowledge—I will have to construct my own.

But that is par for the course:

“Wissenschaft incorporates science, learning, knowledge, scholarship and implies that knowledge is a dynamic process discoverable for oneself, rather than something that is handed down. It did not necessarily imply empirical research.

Wissenschaft was the official ideology of German Universities during the 19th century. It emphasised the unity of teaching and individual research or discovery for the student. It suggests that education is a process of growing and becoming.” (Wikipedia, “Wissenschaft.” Emphasis mine; spelling mistake Wikipedia’s)

I love Wissenschaften since they are, amongst others things, intellectual histories and that is my favorite kind of history by far. I also agree with the philosophy of education.

A New Wander

I have been needing a new rabbit hole—a new intellectual wander—and I do believe I have found it. No idea how far I will go but there are still a handful of citations to look into from Cohn’s article. I mean, seriously, how could I, with my assorted background(s) not read “Impossible Objects as Nonsense Sentences”? A title like that is like an opiate to me. And I have a few books to begin with; two of which are nonfiction graphic novels, my favorite kind.

What’s up so far in 2014? Home buying, it seems

[N.B.: Mostly written 6 January with minor updates over next 2-3 days. Current follow-up follows.]

So what’s up in 2014 so far? 2014 got off to a great start. For one day.

Sara and I do a kind of annual review, along with a semi-annual review and weekly reviews using assorted tools such as calendars, OmniFocus and some text documents. Neither of us do resolutions but we do want to have goals for the year, and to check up on them now and again so that we might have a chance to actually accomplish most of them. We entered 2014 with this year’s annual review pretty much done. Mine was primarily complete except for final formatting as a document in Scrivener.

Then on the 2nd of January the mail was delivered. Our place was recently bought by some out-of-towners and we got notice that our rent was going up 15%! We are already stretched pretty thin and that is just ridiculous. We immediately jumped into “can we buy a house” mode. We have been considering that anyway but we figured it was at least 6 months to more like 2-3 years in the future for us. Nope. [We need to find out right now whether we can get a loan for enough to buy a house here in Bend or we need to find a cheaper place to rent until we can qualify for said loan. If we can get a loan then we need to be seriously looking for a house that meets all of [ok, much of, hopefully]  our criteria.

Either way, (update to follow)] almost everything I had planned for this year has now been indefinitely placed on hold. My 2014 annual review/plan has been scrapped by the second day of the year. Yay, me!

Thankfully a lot of stuff is still in boxes from when we arrived here in August 2012. That will make moving somewhat easier. But we also have not weeded out near enough stuff that we were supposed to have gotten rid of by now. And we have probably acquired more stuff than we have gotten rid of. My surgery in May put in a big damper on my weeding which I had hoped to do this past summer. Sara’s full-time job has prevented her from making any progress on her stuff.

I have jumped into weeding pretty heavy the last couple of days and hope to continue. We’re donating a bunch of stuff to the Humane Society Thrift Store, some of the better books to the public library, and recycling a crapload of stuff. There is, sadly, plenty more to go through though. As we free up a bit of room by getting rid of stuff I have a bit more room to get at and sort through even more. So I guess one can say it’s looking up.

It is, though, extremely demoralizing to have just committed to and documented one’s goals for the year and to then have to toss it all away on January 2nd.

So what were/are some of my plans for 2014?

  • Read 75 books
  • Wrangle our ebooks into some kind of order, usability, etc.
  • Do some more beer tastings
  • Help with Central Oregon Beer Week
  • Do another book talk this year for Central Oregon Beer Week
  • Meet some of the beer folks in Bend who I haven’t been able to yet
  • Do some beer trading
  • Finish my “article” on Prohibition in Bend
  • Perhaps work on my Cicerone certification
  • Blog some book reviews that I am way behind on
  • Learn to make better use of Evernote, OmniFocus, Scrivener, etc.
  • Meal planning
  • Get my new tattoo started
  • Track down a citation for that damned Paracelsus quote or show that it is not attributable to him
  • Exercise more and get back into some semblance of shape
  • Visit some places in Oregon: Broken Top, lava tubes, Crater Lake, etc.

23 January update:

We found a house, put in an offer, got their counter and accepted. We have the inspection set for Saturday a.m. and are meeting with the mortgage broker tomorrow morning to do more paperwork and get VA appraisal scheduled. If all goes well with those we’ll be moving late winter / early spring.

I have been in full-on moving prep mode for about a week now. I am so damned sore. But. I am much closer to being ready. I have a good idea of what is packed, more stuff was topped off and packed and many binders and articles were packed, it is mostly segregated from other stuff, and the inventory is updated. More books were weeded.

We should have a couple weeks to move in. It kind of comes down to when we close and the 30-day notice we give our landlord. Current estimated closing is March 17.

My only big concern is weather. Well, and will my aging body hold out: preferably for it to treat all the labor as weightlifting and other “good” exercise. Seriously though, moving in the rain or a snowstorm or having ice/snow on the ground are the worst for moving. So far our winter has included almost none of any of that, which is not good. We need snow, at least outside of town.

It is all moving so fast. Which, of course, has deepened even more the feeling of upended plans. Not all is a loss, though. I am reading some and not quite as slowly as I suspected. I am helping with Central Oregon Beer Week as a member of their team this year. If you need me for any Central Oregon Beer Week business feel free to email me at I am trying to figure out what I want to do as Bend Beer Librarian for COBW; not up for another book talk for this year. Considering things and talking with people but need to decide soon to save 15% as a returning sponsor.

I met a few more Bend beer people, including one I wanted to meet in person, but, intriguingly, we met them in Portland. We attended the 1st Big Woody put on in Portland and a boatload of Bendites were there as attendees, volunteers, brewery folks representing, and event organizers/staff. That was nice and I finally met Matthew Ward (Bend Brew Daddy) and his wife Lisa. Definitely hope to hang out more with them. We also got to spend some time with non-Bendite but extremely nice guy Christopher ( at Hair of the Dog. So possibly future trading and/or nice bottle swaps as it sounds like his are the kind of quality we are looking for. Maybe we can get Christopher to Bend, although we explored so little of Portland last weekend.

Blogging and other forms of writing have been practically non-existent, book reading is way down, research for either major topic of current interest is on hold, and most other projects listed above or not are pretty much forgotten about.

I hope this place works out and we can get settled in quickly. I’d like to get back to some of my projects recently put on hold and others, many of which have been a long time coming.

It is an adventure, and so far easier than expected, but its timing seems a little sudden.



Hysteria (movie)

[This, too, is a late DigiWriMo post.]

Thankfully, later after watching The Tree of Life we watched Hysteria, which we have also been wanting to see after seeing the previews a couple years ago. It by no stretch came to conservative Sioux City so we missed it in the theater. We couldn’t even find it in Omaha, although we could be wrong on that count but we had looked repeatedly while it was in theaters. Ninety miles one way is a long way to go for a film but we would have.

After we watched it I tweeted,

Cleansed my movie palate with Hysteria, based on this most excellent book by Rachel Maines [tweet]

The next morning, Karen Coyle tweeted to me:

@mrlindner One of my favorite books. See: [tweet]

Check out her review at that link. It is much better than mine.

We saw the preview for the movie in the cinema shortly after I read Maines’ excellent book and I knew that it was (somewhat) based on Maines’ book immediately. It looked hilarious and as The Technology of Orgasm is one of my favorite books of all time—which I had discussed a fair bit with Sara as I read it—we really wanted to see it. It did not come to Sioux City or environs and time went by. We moved and even more time went by. Sara got it from the public library finally and we watched it last night. The movie was as good as we hoped and we are in the process of watching the documentary (actually excerpts from Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm) that comes as an extra feature on the DVD. It is also pretty good and features a lot of Rachel Maines, along with a couple of others, so I am happy to be able to hear her talk about her research also.

The Technology of Orgasm The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual SatisfactionRachel P. Maines; The Johns Hopkins University Press 1998WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder  
Katherine Young (Ph.D. and author of Presence in the Flesh: The Body in Medicine) puts forth the idea that the Copernican Revolution was revolutionary in another way than is typically thought. She had been outlining some long time ideas on human sexuality in that males were thought to be of the elements of fire and air, thus hot and light, and that women were of earth and water, and thus heavy, cold and wet. When the Copernican Revolution replaced the Earth (female) as the center of the solar system/universe with the sun (male) then female sexuality as a topic disappeared from discourse.

It is an extremely interesting idea but I would really like to see some good supporting evidence. If anyone knows of any books or articles that address this idea I would be most grateful. My initial skepticism leans toward the shift having started well before and that the displacement of the Earth from the center was perhaps the final straw. And even if the idea as presented is true, then I imagine it is hingeing on a highly condensed version of reality, in that the Copernican Revolution involved an awful lot of historical, political, societal and religious changes that were highly intertwined and influencing each other in multiple ways. Symbolically this idea is highly interesting, but I imagine the reality of the shift away from a supposedly fairly prevalent knowledge of female sexuality and needs to one that pretty much discounted female sexuality would have to be far more complex than a shift in symbols.

I would love to have my skepticism discounted though so please do pass along any sources you may be aware of that address this issue. [I went back and re-watched that section and got her name and the name of the book she wrote, Presence in the Flesh: The Body in Medicine, which Sara has requested for me.] So, if you are aware of any other sources that address this intriguing topic please do pass them along.


Hysteria: Good romantic comedy based on an excellent and important book.

Follow-up: Tonight (3 December) we watched the full documentary, Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm, which we got through ILL. It was good but it was only 74 minutes vs. the 47 minutes of excerpts on the DVD of Hysteria as an extra. The additional material was interesting but probably not worth going out of one’s way to acquire. You can find more information about it here.

Young’s book has also arrived by this point in time and I look forward to having a go at it, but I am highly disappointed to say that neither Copernicus nor Copernican Revolution are anywhere to be found in the index. I want to know more about this symbological interpretation but am remaining highly skeptical as to its actual explanatory depth.


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.

@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.


Marshall – Reading and Writing the Electronic Book

Reading and writing the electronic book Reading and writing the electronic bookCatherine C. Marshall; Morgan & Claypool 2010WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 


This is my 5th book review for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge.

Note: This is in no way a balanced review of this book. I do think this can be a valuable book to read if you are interested in the topic; at least it will be for a little while longer. But it has some issues, and those are what I primarily focus on here.

Table of Contents

  • Ch. 1 Introduction
  • Ch. 2 Reading
  • Ch. 3 Interaction
  • Ch. 4 Reading as a Social Activity
  • Ch. 5 Studying Reading
  • Ch. 6 Content: Markup and Genres
  • Ch. 7 Beyond the Book


This book examines “a rather more pragmatic set of issues and developments” and is based on “sources from information science, computer science, and human-computer interaction, but especially on the results of studies I have conducted with colleagues and by myself over the last decade-and-a-half” (8).


In defense of the sociality of reading, one of her examples is “…, drivers read billboards together as they speed by the landscape, …” (16).  Seriously?  The other examples actually support the claim of reading being social but this is beyond me as to how it can be considered social.

In this book:

“The word eBook can refer to hardware, software, content prepared to be read on the screen, or a combination of all three. In much of this book, when we talk about eBooks, we’re by and large referring to the software—the reader—used to present the content” (33).

“…; after all, no one needs instructions on how to read a book, assuming they are literate” (33-34).  On one hand, “No shit!”  To become literate we learn to read books.  This, also, includes how to interact with the physical book; knowledge of which is needed to correctly operate said book so it can be read once learns to read the language marks inscribed in the book.  So her claim is accurate but also inherently circular with regards to what it means to be literate in our society.  On the other hand, there are plenty of books for which we need training to use, although they are not extremely prevalent.  I am thinking of specialty reference books here primarily.  Also, has she never heard of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book or similar titles? Reading is not a simple, unitary skill, nor or all books “read” in the same manner.


Discussing some early objections to eBooks based on their immutability she quotes Baudrillard:

“The compact disc. It doesn’t wear out, even if you use it. Terrifying. It’s as though you’d never used it. So it’s as though you didn’t exist. If things don’t get old anymore, then that’s because it’s you who are dead (Baudrillard 1996, pp. 32-33)” (39).

That is beyond silly.  They do wear out in several ways, both physically and access-wise.  We don’t even have to get into hardware and format changes here.  Borrow a handful of CDs from your local public library and it is quite probable that at least one is wholly or partially unusable.  Quoting some bad analysis by a French theorist, which doesn’t support the point you are trying to make, is not helpful.

Reading as a Social Activity

This chapter begins with a two-by-two matrix borrowed from computer supported cooperative work that divides the world up by place and time.  It is used “as a simple framework to examine the social side of eBook use. Use that occurs in the same place at the same time implies that people are reading together” (73, emphasis in original).  Other than the stipulation that this chapter is about reading as a social activity I fail to comprehend how one can simply stipulate that this implies reading together.  Based on other examples given to support the matrix, I fail to see why two different people cannot be present at the same coffee house, for instance, at the same time.  Perhaps they are even sitting at the same table but reading different things, nor are they discussing what they read.  This is not social reading (unless we admit the billboard example from above; which I am not admitting). This stipulation, and the matrix, thus overestimates the amount of social reading taking place.

Content: Markup and Genres

§6.1.4 Accessibility is in its entirety three sentences long.

“Accessibility refers to the characteristics of eBooks that allow people with visual impairments to read them. Disability advocates have maintained pressure on eBook content providers and eBook platform manufacturers to adhere to accessibility standards and principles. These standards have been developed for the Web and are documented at” (125).

Clearly this topic is far larger than this book but I find these three sentences to be extremely shortsighted and a slight to the otherwise enabled.  The WAI Introduction to Web Accessibility clearly states: “Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.”

“Creative Commons is a licensing alternative to DRM that allows publishers and authors to mark their work to indicate the conditions they wish to apply to it” (129).  Oh really?  There is no reason a CC-licensed book (some licenses anyway) can’t also be DRMed.

In the section on eTextbooks Marshall references the dissertation of Jay Dominick who “makes many interesting observations about the textbook genre before he goes on to discuss his findings about eBooks” (136).  Regarding the economics of textbooks we get the following footnote:

“Dominick makes the important observation that the person purchasing the book (often, the student’s parents) is not the person reading the book. Furthermore, the publisher is selling the book to the instructors, not to the students. The bizarreness of the commercial circumstances that make up textbook economics cannot be overstated” (fn 16, 137).

I wholeheartedly endorse the fact that the textbook market is full of bizarre.  And while we do use “selling” in this aspect I still think that this is highly sloppy writing.  Textbooks are marketed to instructors; they are bought by (that is, sold to) students.

The rest of the discussion re textbooks and eTextbooks is confusing and perhaps even somewhat contradictory.

Overall Comments

The book is well laid out, except for narrow gutters.  It is quite affordable as a paperback.  But it is poorly edited; distractingly so.  Copy editing and proofreading seem to be the biggest issues.  The issues start early and continue throughout.


  • “Rereading is a meta-type that is included in the table as a reminder that any type of reading may be occur multiple times” (T2.1, 20).
  • “… and the reader buys finished book, …” (21).
  • “… leapfrogging beyond explicit the ratings and reviews …” (93).
  • “Digital materials is easy to copy” (126).
  • “The course packs are heavy and bulky; they materials are usually read quickly; …” (138).

Out of Date

This should not have been a book as it is already out of date.  At best, it should have been an ebook.  There is an ebook but try getting access to it.  Neither amazon nor Google ebooks has one.  From the publishers site you can get 24-hour access to a PDF or a PDF Plus for $20.00.  If you institution has an institutional subscription then you seem to be golden.

Either way, this book is already out of date.  Some of the reasons why without going into much detail:

  • In the sections on readers the iPhone is barely mentioned at all; the iPod Touch not at all.  In the subsection on navigation I noticed a few things that the iPhone can do that was not mentioned.
  • No mention of epub format
  • No mention of books as apps
  • No mention of iPad
  • No mention of HTML5 and CSS
  • No Kindle’s circulated (144).  This one was true at the time it was written probably but no longer is.

This book is worth reading.  Some of my critiques are minor and clearly a book  (or any other document) cannot comment on something that did not exist before it was published (e.g. the iPad).  Then again, should documents that will be out-of-date as they go to press still be being printed as physical books?

My recommendation:  This book is of value to those with an interest in or need to understand some of the areas it touches upon.  It is also a gateway to the assorted literature(s) of studies on ebooks.

Do your wallet a favor and get the book from the library.

Kuhlthau – Seeking Meaning

This is my 4th book review for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge.

I mostly enjoyed this book, which I read from 10 October to 26 November.  It is written fairly straightforwardly, is reasonably well edited, and has a better than average physical layout.

The last couple of chapters do seem fairly repetitive.  The last chapter seems particularly so.  Well that it should, as it is the wrap-up and conclusion; but somehow it doesn’t seem like it is seriously serving that purpose, only that it is repetitive.  All in all, this is a small gripe.

The ideas in this book, centering around the Information Search Process (ISP), are important ones.  Keep in mind, the ISP is for more complex tasks, such as researching and writing a term paper or preparing a case for trial, for example, and not for simple fact-finding questions.

  • Ch. 1 The Constructive Process in Library and Information Science Theory
  • Ch. 2 Learning as a Process
  • Ch. 3 The Information Search Process
  • Ch. 4 Verification of the Model of the Information Search Process
  • Ch. 5 Longitudinal Confirmation of the Information Search Process
  • Ch. 6 Uncertainty Principle
  • Ch. 7 Roles of Mediators in the Process of Information Seeking
  • Ch. 8 Zones of Intervention in the Process of Information Seeking
  • Ch. 9 Implementing the Process Approach
  • Ch. 10 Information Search Process in the Workplace
  • Ch. 11 Process-Oriented Library and Information Services

The “book is about library and information services for intellectual access to information and ideas, and the process of seeking meaning” (xv).

It proposes a process approach, the ISP, based on: Constructivist theory of learning – John Dewey (provides historical & philosophical perspective); Personal construct theory – George Kelly (provides psychological perspective); and an Integrated perspective – Jerome Bruner (xvi).

It critiques the bibliographical paradigm and systems approach that remain predominant within library and information science (LIS); at least within the literature.  This does seem to be slowly changing, though.

Much of what Kuhlthau writes seems highly integrational to me.

A model of sense-making information seeking should incorporate three realms of activity: physical, affective, cognitive. These form a complex interplay.

“The criteria for making these choices are influenced as much by environmental constraints, such as prior experience, knowledge, interest, information available, requirements of the problem, and time allotted for resolution, as they are by the relevance of the content of the information retrieved” (6).

The ISP is a 6 stage model which associates the feelings (affective), thoughts (cognitive), and actions (physical) that accompany each task and the process of moving along the information search process.

Initiation, when a person becomes aware of a lack of knowledge or understanding so that uncertainty and apprehension are common

Selection, when a general area or topic is identified and initial uncertainty often gives way to a brief sense of optimism and a readiness to begin the search

Exploration, when inconsistent, incompatible information is encountered and uncertainty, confusion, and doubt frequently increase

Formulation, when a focused perspective on the problem is formed and uncertainty diminishes as confidence begins to increase

Collection, when information pertinent to the focused problem is gathered and uncertainty subsides as interest and involvement in the project deepens

Presentation, when the search is completed, with a new understanding of the problem enabling the user to explain his or her learning to others (165-166)

I think these ideas are extremely valuable and that they ought be taught to children in school as early as they begin doing projects of this kind of scope.  Kuhlthau reports on some studies where this was done in the book.

All in all, I think the ideas in this book need to be given far more prominence in our schools and our libraries.  Students should be educated in this process from a fairly early age.

LIS services and systems should take this model into account when they are designed and implemented.  Reference and instruction can certainly benefit from the model; but our systems ought also be designed to assist with the process.  The old bibliographic paradigm and systems view that provides one or more “relevant” sources for the user is a failed paradigm.  This claim of failure is mine (and others) based on many things external to this book.  I believe Kuhlthau would agree that it is a failed paradigm but I do not think she showed that as well as she might have, nor do I believe she used the word “failed.”  Although, to be fair, the book is not about the bibliographic paradigm, nor the systems view, so she probably dedicated a reasonable amount of space to her critique.

My concern is the same as with all similar sorts of reform of our services and systems.  Where will the time come from?  This is not something that can happen in a one off instruction session.  Also, it needs to happen at a much earlier age than when students get to college.  But so much needs to change in our educational system, and society, before I can see a strong emphasis on teaching something like the ISP, that I have little hope that much progress can be made.

But. If for whatever reason you are still doing information seeking for complex tasks, such as writing long papers (thesis, perhaps) maybe learning a bit about the ISP might help you understand the kinds of feeling and thoughts that go along with the process as well as understanding the proper attitude to take towards your information seeking at each stage.

Recommended for reference librarians, instruction librarians, those who routinely undertake reasonably complex information seeking tasks, and anyone interested.

The following is a link to something I wrote a bit over 6 years ago in one of my early required masters courses regarding an article by Kuhlthau: Kuhlthau’s ISP Model

Looks like I finally got around to reading Seeking Meaning, and I stand by what I wrote way back when.

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

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

Read 19 October 2010

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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