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information, design, architecture; information design + architecture

It isn’t really a business, is it?

Paul Kedrosky believes we live in an “open information economy”, which we know because he says so right here. But if he’s right, Google Scholar doesn’t have “sucktitude”: it’s the obvious outcome of an information economy.

If you can get past the slapstick of a man pushing hard on the pull door (Click “All n. versions” for a cheeky PDF freebie…), what’s most interesting is that most people don’t even see the stuff there as being of economic value. If they aren’t reading it, then how are they going to act on it? If you aren’t acting, how are you making value? A genderless internet entity notebulb goes in to a kind of fugue state on this theft, blaming the Ivy League Library System, which is the roundaboutest name for publishers I’ve yet heard, and it’s such a long and torturous attack, and it’s so amazingly wrong, because why would anything think about charging for this stuff? That makes so little sense that scholars are reduced to toadying, insular Old Boys (Oxbridge, not Chan-wook), passing their precious secrets through their Ivory Tunnel Network under JSTOR’s subscription walls.

There’s a grain of truth in that (it’s a lot like where all that Just Sharing malarky would seem to end up), but it’s not really everything. Instead, the whole publishing industry is making it really obvious that it’s not only with the advent of digital products that sharing became better than owning, and it’s not, as according to Mary Harrington according to Anna Jay, everything on the internet is the opposite of print.

Most blog posts aren’t product themselves, but press releases for public speaking, or conference attendances, or address books, or even just more syndicated content, but most journal articles aren’t much more than variables to pour in to the dark algebra of other people’s attention.

So can we please stop calling it an information economy if no one can find a way to package information like a product?

(The post that made me think all this in the first place came via Mark Dahl.)

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Filed under: Information use, scholarly communication, Uncategorized

Reading, again (and a metalesson in its perils)

A very odd thing happened to me on my way to writing what I now realise to be a a completely unrelated post about user-generated content…

Two exciting things came to my attention; Nate Hill linked me to Aaron Schmidt, specifically his social database mockup, my reaction to which got bogged down in first hearing about, and then waiting to hear more about, Talis’ Project Xiphos, now finally better explained better over on their Panlibus blog under the explanatory title “Silos Silos Silos”. There’s a lot to both of them, but broadly the former is a social information site that creates a set off tools for users to databases that, in turn, creates a level of metadata for other users, and the latter is a semweb set of technologies for opening up multiple datasets to, amongst other things, radically alter the currently insanely annoying experience of federated information access regimes.

What’s surprising to me is that the initiative to make data interoperable is explicitly courseware, and the one to make it social is implicitly (and slightly reluctantly) so. You’d except that to be the other way around, which to me firms up the idea that libraries host a specific kind of information use, that they served and encouraged by topic-based physical browsing, that they need to now better support with new, non-physical (well, non-linearly-physical, or something) technologies. (TANGENTALLY RELATED ASIDE: last night Stan Cohen, a bright button, said that Google held 338,000 entries on “climate change denial” as if this meant it contained 338,000 items denying climate change. Of course, it does not. It contains 338,000 items discussing the denial of climate change. There’s something about search as the primary form of access that implies you’re finding exactly that encourages a bias in favour of certain desired biases, I feel. He wouldn’t go to 324.243 and become outraged at the quantity of fascist literature encroaching on academia, would he?)

Final point, (WARNING: .pdf) the JISC & SCONUL Library Management Study reports that “[t]he ability to aggregate user behaviour has significant potential for discovery services, based on click streams, context and personalisation. Nevertheless libraries are not yet exploiting intelligence about user habits to enhance their position in the information value chain.” Well, yes.

Filed under: classification systems, Information use, scholarly communication, Semantic Web, User experiences, , ,

Library use models

Nate Hill’s post about library cards as service avatars, and the Playful Librarian’s about desire lines across (information) architecture tie in to the same thing, and, not to come over all Annoyed Librarian, but it’s not David Lee King’s engines-not-OPACs thing

Libraries are a very odd sort of space, and bound by the kinds of space-y things people run up against all the time, like sequential time and scarcity of resources. None of these really have anything to do with human thought, which is a transitional thing moving from one point to another (accurately, if poorly, rendered in the essay, and it’s emphasis on structure and argument), which libraries attempt to render via classification schemes that create (metaphorical) shelves of related items, and put these on (physical) shelves of metal. These metaphorical shelves are not fixed, and slide across the physical shelves depending on the demands of the (entirely arbitrary) physical dimensions of the resources they consist of.

Everyone already knows that this compromise isn’t ideal. Resources have multiple possible shelf-marks listed on the catalogues themselves, while the indexes of classification systems have multiple routes to the same numbers (this means you, Israel/Palestine/DDC 956). More to the point, books themselves (it’s probably clear I’m talking in the academic context by now) are often collections of threaded essays, rather then a single lengthy one. Even Ranganathan was wrong: the real point is each chapter, each paragraph, each line has it’s reader, each reader her… etc.

The library doesn’t have to simply funnel free resources into advertising-subsidised social networks, as King valorises (although free things and people doing with free things what they will are both important); it — and its related discipline of scholarly communication — already is Hill’s service avatar, but needs to build on the behaviours it already supports and extend these outwards, showing the worn patches of ground between data, across the walled gardens of documents.

Filed under: classification systems, Information use, scholarly communication, ,