Saturday, July 21, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Must article to read

Posting to Autocat

On 20/07/2012 23:30, MULLEN Allen wrote:
<snip>
Lawrence Creider writes:
I think the problem is not the accuracy of the characterization of Mr. Bade's comments as Marxist but the implicit assumption that that label automatically discredits his arguments.
I don't believe it discredits the comments because of an association with Marx, it discredits them (in my opinion) because there is not a well-made argument that indicates that RDA and next generation developers are either seeking to expropriate the means of production, or are slavishly devoted to technology (the Deist analogy). Since these are included at the end of an essay with nothing that I found tangibly supported either of these references. I can see how it might be read that I was disparaging Mr. Bade's essay by drawing out those comments in my analysis. However, they stood out as being an integral part of the concluding paragraph (there was an expropriation mention earlier as well) so I believe were worthy of inclusion in explaining how I perceive Mr. Bade was framing the argument. I didn't think he was associating himself with Marx, rather he uses the associations to label RDA/NGC librarians in a disparaging manner, concluding his ad hominem argument thus. </snip>
This entire thread has been quite enlightening. For one thing, it highlights why I believe introducing politics into these kinds of discussions should not be done because doing so unnecessarily divides people and diverts attention from finding solutions.

My own reading of David's paper focuses more on his discussion of the airline cockpit designers and their attitudes, e.g.
"In the second chapter “Almost without a pilot” he discusses how in the face of problems and crashes following the installation of automated cockpits aeronautic engineers blamed the pilots: it was not a problem with the technologies but the pilots who did not understand how to use the software or how to dialogue (remember Le Marec!) with the computer"
and
"System failures leading to airplane crashes or other accidents are understood in terms of the statistical probabilities of an accident; accidents are normal and expected (cf. Perrow). But when a human is found to be at fault, the accident is no longer normal, no longer a statistical probability but a moral fault, and the pilot is judged according to moral values, not statistical probabilities."
and
"...a rash of accidents erupted in the early 1990s and led to an acknowledgment of the complexity of the real world. The cultural diversity of pilots throughout the world—such as the fact that they did not all speak or read English well or even at all—was finally admitted to be an unavoidable factor in the operation of a global aeronautics communication system."

In various other careers in my past, I have seen precisely this same occurrence whenever new technology was introduced. The workers are supposed to adapt to the new technology and if you can not, you are labelled stupid, backward, or hostile. I remember when I used to work in grocery stores when the very first scanners, with entirely new checkstands were installed. The management was planning on getting rid of many people because we would all become "more productive". The checkstands looked very good but the moment you started working in one, it turned out to be less comfortable, more tiring, much slower and was really a drag to keep clean. Obviously, it was designed by people who had done a lot of research, but not people who actually used them. I decided that if they had tested the checkstands with real clerks, those clerks clearly did not feel free to tell them what they really thought.

Well, it turned out that at best, everyone was able to go about half as fast as with the older checkstands. The management decided that the clerks were going on some kind of slow-down strike (even though the managers were only half as fast too!) and it just added to the many areas of tension between management and employees.

This is one of the purposes of (sorry for repeating it!) a business case, and how it works in the PRINCE2 method that I have been a small part of. There is one role called a Senior User who is one of the top members of project team. "The Senior User(s) is responsible for specifying the needs of those who will use the project’s products, for user liaison with the project management team, and for monitoring that the solution will meet those needs within the constraints of the Business Case in terms of quality, functionality and ease of use." In other words, what the Senior User says cannot just be summarily dismissed by the Senior Supplier, who is responsible for supplying the needs of the Senior User. Both are at the same level. http://www.prince2.com/prince2-methodology.asp

So, in creating such a business case for the new cataloging environment, who would the Senior User represent? The public and the librarians, one part of which would be the catalogers. All of this involves doing research and outreach, to determine as best as possible what people want. The Senior Supplier then creates prototypes that the Senior User evaluates, and at certain stages, prototypes are laid before the public for their comments. In this kind of system, the Senior Supplier is *forced* to listen to the Senior User. The Senior User at the same time must be understanding of the technical problems and must be flexible but a system such as this at least attempts to bring the needs of the users into serious consideration.

Needless to say, none of this has been done with FRBR or RDA, and the danger is that the library community will go down the same path as the airplane cockpit designers vs. the pilots, when the crashes and malfunctions finally could not just be fobbed off on the pilots. Similar outcomes in the library community should not be a surprise to anybody. And as David ends his paper, "Today’s believers in the superiority of their own creations, like the theologians of yesterday, are sure to blame Adam and Eve—and catalogers—for any and all problems that follow on the implementation of the Next Generation Catalog. That much is entirely predictable."


I consider that a profound insight.

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