Re: [NGC4LIB] Google Ngram Results

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 14/03/2013 21:34, john g marr wrote:

… if I want to get some concrete thing (like ending obesity) accomplished

Interesting that you picked that example because it allows me to point out a tremendous disconnect between the so-called “developed” and “developing” world. When I worked at FAO of the UN, we were having a thesaurus translated (AGROVOC), and the word “obesity” came up. It turned out that in some cultures, there is not even such a concept. As we described what it meant, some of those people were completely shocked. In their countries, people were dying from hunger–because there was not enough food due to war, environmental causes, but here was a problem that people were dying because they were eating too much? We tried to explain that it was bad food and learned habits but it was too much for some of them. They couldn’t believe it and they found the very idea offensive.

In any case, many from the countries with insufficient food do not appreciate that money and resources go to solve the problem of people dying because they OVEReat. I was in the middle. I saw both sides. I don’t know what the solutions are. After this, I began to look at the things around me in different ways.

Look at a smart phone. High-tech, glitzy, cool. But that smart phone hides some horrors: who built it? What are the conditions where they live? Can they plan for a comfortable retirement or have a respectable family life? If your cell phone were made in some countries, no way. Only very rarely do these realities invade our consciousness, Those who actually make our smart phones may have a completely different attitude from ours. Or how they view obesity. Or your TV, your shoes, or any number of things.

As we all become connected through the web and learn more, the things around us that seem familiar become far more complex because different people in the world will react to the same information in different ways, much as how someone looks at a smart phone. Many want to keep alternative information hidden from their respective groups.

I can’t solve any of that, but to come back to catalogs and libraries, I think that libraries can make a difference by leading people to information that is reliable and by letting them find it in ways that are as unbiased as possible. The concepts “reliable” and “unbiased” must be completely rethought in the current environment, but these are matters that cannot and should not be solved by catalogers alone. The catalog will play an important part and will have to change, or least become “unbroken”. Yes, I am stating this again as a fact. I feel as confident stating this as anything else I have maintained. I consider it in the realm of “The sky is blue” or “The grass is green”. Listen, or read, my latest podcast for an indepth discussion of how and why it is broken.