Thursday, July 22, 2010

RE: RDA/ Library Discovery Experience/FRBR

Posting to Autocat

>Kevin Randall wrote:

> If it's still argued that FISO does not apply to what people are doing online, then I guess I feel just like Alice, fallen down through the rabbit hole or through the looking glass.

It isn't that FISO does not apply to what people are doing online, it's just that based on the very existence of Web2.0 tools and their popularity, plus other new internet technologies, other methods are overtaking FISO. Also, I want to make clear that I find these "other methods" to be potentially very dangerous. Let me explain.

When someone is not actively searching out information, but when this information is simply being spoon-fed to them and they can just click on a link, as happens with automatic recommendations, RSS feeds, shared bookmarks, and other similar tools, the person is essentially following roads that others have picked out for them. Therefore, if you are on a left-wing site that hates the Republicans, and you use only their tools, it is very possible you will never see any other side. Or, if you are on a Republican site, you may also never see any other sides. And let's face it, it would be crazy to expect links to the "enemy camp" from either side.

Corporations will present you with information that portrays them in a good light. They will never lead you to sites that say how bad they are, e.g. I haven't looked, but I am sure that BP's site tries to put the best face on everything, and does not give a full picture of the criticism they are undergoing. This shouldn't surprise anyone since it is only how the world works, but in a Web2.0 world, we see other consequences.

Therefore, the danger of Web2.0 tools (at least in my opinion) is that they could lead to the creation of isolated, information islands that consequently leave people in the same isolated positions, getting only information from e.g. FoxNews and sites that agree with them, or only DemocracyNow and sites that agree with them, or specific bloggers that link only to sites they agree with. Of course, this not only occurs with politics, but it could be for science, for all areas of scholarship, each replete with their own feuds, and for all areas of knowledge. Especially today, when people are angry about the economic meltdown, real and true schisms could occur, and in terms of the WWW, the Web2.0 capabilities may make it even worse. Of course, web search engines can be manipulated as well.

So, I am very skeptical of Web2.0 tools but I accept their utility and their popularity. They won't go away, nor should they. But right here I think librarian ethics (!! I know!) could become incredibly important. Here is the ALA code: and there are a few that stand out here:

II. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.
III. We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.
VI. We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.
VII. We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.

I think these principles can stand as an excellent foil to the potential dangers of Web2.0, and need to be much more seriously considered as we go into the future. They deal with many of the most difficult issues in the development of the web today. I know of no other field that has anything even remotely similar to this, unless of course, you actually believe Google's "Don't be evil" stuff.

Any tools we make must be kept with these principles in mind and then I think the task becomes a bit clearer. For example, to make a tool that gives people an idea of the *wide array* of information on a given topic, and not only present information that we happen to agree with personally or that agrees with the institutions that pays us our salaries. Web2.0 will not do that, but I maintain that people and society need it.

It really is a great, but frightening time, to be a librarian!

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