FW: technology improved knowledge?

To Autocat

On Mon, 21 Dec 2009 09:31:23 -0600, Guinn, Suzanne wrote:

>Thus we have this scenario —
-Someone postulated a theory or thesis and wrote it down. (Sorry, Socrates).
-The next person has a question about what was said and writes a response.
-A third person has a question but doesn’t know the answer, so he looks for more written responses.
-The Information Facilitator, (!) networking with other “IF’s” finds the recorded response and gives access to the third person still seeking answers.
-Along the way all have used some form of technology to accomplish the task. It doesn’t necessarily make the knowledge better or worse, but at least accessible, faster to obtain, and able to be distributed to an even wider audience than those within earshot of the speaker.

Perhaps the Information Facilitator sums up very well what I think will be the task of libraries in the future (and by extension, of library *catalogs* since they will be more and more the initial and only point of contact between the public and the library’s “stuff” and services). We have facilitated some of this in the past by employing headings that go beyond any present limitations, e.g. people can find disquisitions on Aristotle’s Ethics written during all times in history; and with citation indexes, which use citations so that if you have an article from 1958, you can find other, later articles that cite your article. (You can do this same thing in Google Scholar, by the way)

While this has been a step in the right direction, there are still problems with it. For example, if I were interested in later discussions of the section from the Phaedrus I cited earlier, a mere citation found in a book of the Phaedrus will probably be of little use, because Phaedrus is a
wide-ranging dialog and the sections about writing are only a small part of it. Again, there may be small parts of books or essays by Abelard, Dante, Hegel, and many others that deal with Socrates’ argument about writing, but these small parts get lost because they are all contained in much larger works. Of course, getting this level of control is far beyond the capabilities of the library community, but it is one place where the public can help, using the Web2.0 tools.

There is a part of me that thinks that in 30 or 40 years, people may look on the physical book in quite a different way than we do now. I remember when I went through Hartford, Connecticut and stopped at Mark Twain’s house. Apparently, he had one of the first telephones in the country and it occupies a prominent place. Of course, it no longer works today and even back then, it was connected to the no more than a dozen or so other telephones that existed. Perhaps people in the future will look at a book in a way similar to how I looked at Twain’s primitive, disconnected telephone: as a self-contained unit devoid of the context that the online resources
provide, linked and inter-linked to varying types of resources all over the place and that opens a world of possibilities. While Twain’s telephone opened up his world, it is woefully inadequate today.

A few thoughts on an interesting topic.