Mainp softvnncom

'what' we will find so much as the way that information and knowledge relates to the particular topic we are reasoning about.

Information understood by where we find it

Let us begin with a little history lesson.1 J. C. R. Licklider was a leading US scientist in the 1950s and 1960s. One of the founders of the Internet, and a visionary, he was lead author of a report in the 1960s on the future of the library, and libraries of the future. The report's main argument first of all recognised the value of the printed page. It was a superlative medium for information display and processing— 'small, light, movable, cuttable, clippable, pastable, replicable, disposable, and inexpensive'. But, in an early sign of the impending crisis of information overload, the report outlined how the collecting of pages into books, journals, magazines, and bound documents, while necessary to allow even basic retrieval of information once printed, negated many or all of the display/processing features while only partially solving the huge difficulties of classifying, storing, and retrieving individual pages. It also created its own organisational problems.

Licklider concluded 'if books [and we might include here all bound collections of pages] are intrinsically less than satisfactory for the storage, organisation, retrieval, and display of information, then libraries of books are bound to be less satisfactory also'. A device, he said, was needed to allow both the transport of information to the reader 'without transporting material' and, at the same time, some processing of that information in ways that suited the reader's particular needs/uses of that information: 'a meld of library and computer is evidently required'.

While we might think we have that device—the Internet—we can probably see, even from the most cursory searching and browsing, that the Internet has solved many problems, but only at the cost of creating a lot of new problems.

I use this example to make the point that the different categories of information sources you encounter (e.g. monographs, edited collections, journals (both print and electronic), newspapers, magazines, web sites, email lists, reference books, conference proceedings, and so on) are primarily designed to assist in organising information to make it readily available, rather than to assist you immediately to decide what to use for your reasoning. They make information accessible rather than making it analytical, sensible, or useable.

That said, we should not ignore the way in which the places we look for information can, with careful use, provide some clues in the search for sense and utility. While these places might be distinguished by labels that tend to describe the form of their production (conference papers, monographs), these labels also imply certain judgments about the value and reliability of information one finds there. Here are some examples:

• Academic conferences are normally held to enable scholars and experts to present the latest findings of their research or applied work to their

0 0

Post a comment