JCDL 2015 Conference - Knoxville, TN - Part 1

I’m posting some brief notes on the presentations from JCDL 2015. Here are some thoughts and notes from the first day. Panel on Lifelong Digital Libraries, a discussion of how the digital library community may respond to the growing amount of personal data people are capturing in their daily lives. Some examples of technologies that allow lifelogging are fitness trackers, Google glass, and mobile phone cameras. The discussion was moderated by Sally Jo Cunningham and included short presentations by Haavard Johansen, Taro Tezuka, Cathal Gurrin

Education and cognitive domination

A brief excerpt in Today’s Professor newsletter from a book edited by Chad Hanson. In the past 20 years, scholars and practitioners have committed to measuring the cognitive outcomes of education. In this chapter, the author assesses the movement that focuses on cognition, to the exclusion of other outcomes. An identity-based framework is offered as an alternative. Howard Bowen (1977) once wrote, “The impact of higher education is likely to be determined more by the kind of people college graduates become than by what they know when they leave college” (p.

On Hamlet's Blackberry by William Powers

Powers joins the ranks of people who are critical of our ‘always-on’ connected world and calls for more people to take time away from our screens to talk to other people, both strangers and our families. I’m broadly sympathetic to the critique Powers makes but his insights are not original. There are many others who have been expressing the same concerns for much longer. This book was published in 2010 and takes most of its examples from newspaper and magazine stories.

On The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White

Brust and White tell the story of a small group of people who have been manipulating human history for millennia by gradually changing people’s plans and minds. The Incrementalists store their own memories in the Garden, like a memory palace which can be shared with others in the group. When an Incrementalists dies a new person is chosen to inherit the memories of the dead member. The plot of the book hinges around a rogue member who kills herself in order to force the group to do things the way she wants them done.

On Stoner by John Williams

A mid-century classic which is little known. William Stoner grows up a poor farmer’s son, he goes to college to study agriculture but becomes enamored with English literature and decides to stop farming and get a PhD. He spends his entire life at the University of Missouri as an English professor, he marries, has a child, has an affair, and fights with his boss. His marriage quickly becomes loveless as his wife fights to take control of his daughter’s life, ultimately destroying her personality.

The Social Sciences and Scale

The following are some preliminary thoughts on scale, epistemology, the social/human sciences, and philosophy spurred by some recent reading on the web. A recent article raised the question about the purpose of the social sciences. One of the criticisms raised by the authors is the sheer scale of the social science research literature. According to the Thomson Reuters Web of Science database there are at least 3000 social science journals which are publishing tens of thousands of articles per year.

Citizen Science and Open Data

I spoke on a panel last week about citizen science and open data. The panel was one of the events put on by the University of Alberta library for Open Access week. I went first so my presentation didn’t reflect directly on the work of others, although there was much to think about. I started by describing the key dilemma faced by many scientists who have turned to citizen science methods: how to deal with the huge amounts of data which are needed to do or are used in science today?

On loops, feedback, and other symbology

A recent article at Aeon magazine proposed that one of the master symbols of twentieth century biology, the double-helix structure of DNA, should be replaced by the symbol of a feedback loop. Jamie Davis provides a quick tour of the ways that understanding DNA has failed to capture or explain the development of organisms. The technology to sequence the genomes of many organisms has only developed in the last two decades and the optimistic hope that once the sequences were completed we would then be able to understand the whole of the organism, the causes of diseases, and much more has been mostly dashed.

Information ecologies in another context

This post is a partial response to a post at the CLIR blog on information ecology and morality by Timothy Norris. In 1999 Bonnie Nardi and Vicki O’Day published the book Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart with the MIT press. The book summarizes some of the common metaphors used to describe technology, such as tool, text, system, and ecology. At the same time it reviews some of the major technological critiques of the twentieth century by authors such as Jacques Ellul, Langdon Winner, and Neil Postman.

Death of a Library Search Box

I’ve been thinking about how libraries can become better at serving researchers and expert users, especially through their front pages. A recent news item from the University of Tennessee library prompted me to make the connection between expert users and library home pages. The University of Tennessee library just announced the launch of their One Search box on the home page. I found this quote especially disturbing “launching a major upgrade to the Libraries’ discovery portal: the search box in the middle of library homepages will yield exponentially more results than in the past.