Thursday, November 22, 2007

Names of schools

This is a snip "from the archives" printed in the latest edition of The Bulletin in which the former dean of my school explains that the school had changed name from Library Science to Library and Information Science "to reflect the importance of computers in the field". That was 25 years ago. Today we argue that our focus is on information practices that takes place beyond technology; and that the a better name for the field is, simply, information. And a better name for this sort of school is "Information School". I don't think that information is a particular good, smart, or descriptive word (or concept for that matter), but at least it doesn't have the science (or worse, studies) word attached... or depend on technology or particular institutions in its conceptualization. I believe we are on the way to establish schools that are large enough to focus on the breadth of the field, from various perspectives -- and focus on what is important to know and understand to function successfully in the information field.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A social catalog?

Katherine Gould has an excellent post in which she discusses the shortcoming of traditional library catalogs, "A fundamental shortcoming of the library catalog is that it doesn't (and as currently designed can't) know the why for any given search." -- we can only search for what people ask for, independently of why they need the particular information; the purpose of the reference interview is to get to people's real information needs... this reminds me of the distinction between exploitative and descriptive power which Patrick Wilson makes in Two Kinds of Power -- either we give access based on neutral, objective representations of the artiofacts (not possible) or we give access based on an in-depth understanding and appreciate for people's information problems (not possible).

I am not sure if there is why to get around Wilson's analysis, if we still aim at providing one system for access to library material -- it seems to a path bound for failure...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Web 2.0, CVs, and language

Peter Morville has posted an interview in which he discusses what Web 2.0 means -- I usually enjoy Peter's blogs and books; and this is no exception, I find his observation that Web 2.0 is "as much about attitude as technology" right on; and his comment that this change in attitude is about "relaxing control over the data, the interface, and the experience. It’s about taking risks, admitting mistakes, and continuously improving with the help of your users", should have serious consequence for KO research and practice, especially if one, as Peter, is "painfully aware of the challenges of language and representation. Our best attempts to structure knowledge and manage meaning through the creation of controlled vocabularies and thesauri have fallen far short of the ideal". As I have argued a few times, for instance at the NASKO 2007 conference, we have to realize that there is no one system, no one way to organize information (and stuff), no one way that is better or more correct than other ways... (although there are, of course, obviously wrong ways...), which in turns means that we have rethink the purpose of KO systems and our approach to thinking and talking about them. The challenge is: how do we expand the tradition of KO to include the attitude of Web 2.0?

Cool KO stuff

I just watched Michael Wesch's film again... it is great; I love it. It think it precisely captures the core issues that KO research and practice faces today -- in terms of which questions we ask, what we teach in KO classes, and how we practice KO... I am quite optimistic about the future of KO, if we manage to incorporate this sort of stuff.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The beginning

So here I am giving birth to yet another blog; just what the world needs -- some random thoughts about this and that... well, I hope you will bear with me...