Posting to NGC4LIB
One last point of Karen’s talk that I would like to raise is a very important one, and perhaps the major question facing the cataloging community today.
Karen mentions that the world doesn’t need yet another copy of bibliographic metadata, when the world is awash with it already, from Amazon to ONIX to all kinds of other types of bibliographic metadata and therefore all that libraries can contribute is their holdings data. This really hits the nail on the head, in my opinion, and the question is: is this correct or not? If it is correct, it would appear to mean that the current information discovery mechanisms are considered to be adequate. These mechanisms are based on various types of algorithms, almost always of enormous complexity and often, proprietary and unavailable for review.
Someone who has brought these issues to the fore and made some fascinating arguments is Ted Striphas and his ideas of “algorithmic culture”. He lays out very clearly several problems that have concerned me but I have not been able to describe them as well as he has. In short, he describes “algorithmic culture” in this way (from http://www.thelateageofprint.org/2011/09/26/who-speaks-for-culture/):
“When I began writing about “algorithmic culture,” I used the term mainly to describe how the sorting, classifying, hierarchizing, and curating of people, places, objects, and ideas was beginning to be given over to machine-based information processing systems. The work of culture, I argued, was becoming increasingly algorithmic, at least in some domains of life.”
Of course, these algorithms are dominated by engineers. This is from the same post:
“As Siva Vaidhyanathan has pointed out in The Googlization of Everything, engineers — mostly computer scientists — today hold extraordinary sway over what does or doesn’t end up on our cultural radar. To put it differently, amid the din of our pubic conversations about culture, their voices are the ones that increasingly get heard or are perceived as authoritative.”
Here is an interview he did with the CBC radio show “Spark” http://www.cbc.ca/spark/2011/10/full-interview-ted-striphas-on-algorithmic-culture/ (16 minutes)
It seems to me as if he is talking in many ways about libraries and their traditional tools. Attached to this is the crowdsourcing example of the Smithsonian Institution that I provided in the previous thread on this list “Authority in an Age of Open Access (an analysis)” where it was very easy to point out serious problems with access that would otherwise remain hidden.
So, after all of this, my question is, is Karen correct about the world not needing our metadata except for our holdings data? It seems to me that either answer: yes or no, raises a raft of additional questions.