We just aren’t sexy enough. Digital World, Part 2.
February 25, 2011 1 Comment
Information professionals are not taken seriously. In fact, it is doubtful if we are ‘taken’ at all: who ever thinks of us? Were we a news-breaking element in the World Summit on the Information Society? Are librarians, archivists, records managers and other information professionals regularly consulted when so-called ‘information policies’ are being created? (I put ‘information policies’ in inverted commas as they usually have to do with either technology or economics, rather than information itself). Why is all the theory that already exists in the field – in information retrieval, user behaviour, learning, categorisation and so on – steadfastly ignored, only to be laboriously reinvented when required? We are concerned with ‘upliftment’ and ‘preservation of cultural heritage’ and ‘corporate memory’. We are anxious that people don’t ‘know’ enough, and give them more than they need to know (something I myself have been rather guilty of in this blog, flooding you with my opinion). We understand the consequences of losing or destroying documents, and so are preoccupied with preservation and conservation. Anybody concerned with technology is a ‘geek’: a male with gross personal habits and no social habits; usually with pimples and a paunch from pizzas, he performs magic at his keyboard which is totally incomprehensible to a non-geek. We are doing things the wrong way. We are not taken seriously because we take ourselves too seriously. We are out of line with the current cultural environment, in which everything is easy, quick, attractive. With all our talk of ‘the user’, we are making the classic mistakes that Mrs Thompson made with me in Grade 8 Mathematics: (a) she assumed that I understood what quadratic equations were; (b) she thought I cared and (c) she assumed I loved mathematics and would exert myself to overcome the obstacles that stood in my way. She was wrong on all accounts. We must start with where the user is. The user spends his/her day in a world of unemployment, recession and mobile technologies. S/he is stifled in an oppressive regime, in a world of immeasurable opportunity, has access to anything or everything or nothing; suffers inequities of gender, sexuality, religion, race, class or political persuasion. Even the ‘good’ countries are flawed: look at income distribution in the US :http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph. His/her favourite activities are playing computer games, abusing alcohol and drugs, living an alternative lifestyle for the planet, or struggling to survive. S/he can’t believe what s/he reads (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/feb/23/churnalism-pr-media-trust; http://blogs.reuters.com/gbu/) or hears (Gulf oil is not a fossil fuel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck01KhuQYmE; New World Order and the US Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xd9NX8dPE1I); US military is spraying chemicals into the air: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_zaCpVj_jc – pick your own conspiracy theory) but often doesn’t know the difference, or doesn’t even care. They are downloading all the movies and TV shows they want to see using Utorrent or BitTorrent. Do they care about breaking copyright laws? Doesn’t look like it. Can we compete when most of our research looks at relatively sophisticated educated people: students, scholars and academics? How much information information is communicated on any given day in any given organisation that changes the way the organisation works? How many students request advice from a librarian for an essay? How many governments consider their political legacies in terms of the documents they leave behind? How can we get a new healthy outlook and a sexy new approach? We need to reinvent and rejuvenate. We will also need to increase our numbers, and our specialisations, enormously. The digital information environment is throwing up challenges that we haven’t even started to consider, as we plan and strategise for a digital future. Do you agree?
- A Simple Guide for a Mindful Digital Life (zenhabits.net)
- Bill Gates is Killing Journalism, Replacing it With Self-Serving PR (techrights.org)