My bucket list – for the information professionals

Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox from Batman Begins.

Image via Wikipedia

I suppose I had better make it quite clear what I mean by ‘information professionals’, and also that I do not think they are necessarily looking at their impending demise, in the same way that Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson were challenged in the film of the same name.  After having been in this field for some time, of course I have seen changes, but some things have, sadly remained the same since I entered it in 1980: the public ignorance about what we do; the pathetically misogynist caricature that is made of us; the quick and easy belief that we can be supplanted at the drop of an internet connection; failure to understand what lives would be like without access to the materials – and rather more specifically, the ideas – that we make possible as our task.  By ‘information professional‘, I mean those of us who assist in communicating ideas (and feelings, of course) from one human mind to another, regardless of time and distance, in particular by noting how ideas are recorded, and caring for those records to ensure that they can be physically and intellectually accessed as required.

Of course this is vague, general, aspirational, ill-defined and broad: but so, then, is human nature and the ideas and insights that our imaginations and intellects can conceive.  No shame in that.  And of course there is an ongoing shift (possibly evolution) in the ways in which ideas may be represented and recorded, in language and using various physical artefacts.  As humans, we have used sound, sculpture, light exposures on photosensitive materials, mud, blood, plant juices, movements, sounds, colours, stones, egg yolks – just about anything that you can think of, some more permanent than others, in order to do this.  No surprises there.  I don’t remember artists of old debating the pros and cons of lithographs versus oil paintings.

But all of this is utterly redundant and irrelevant if the aspirations in my bucket list are not realised.

1.  We deal with ideas, not books, or, indeed, documents of any kind.  Documents are convenient and secondary, mere facilitators of our goals.  We must be engaged with ideas, understanding, and what we and everybody else think and have thought of reality.

2.  We have a social responsibility to ensure that ideas flow in society as and when they are needed.  We should make our systems as transparent as possible.  Working together will help (a ‘world brain‘ of information professionals).

3.  I don’t want people attracted to the information professions simply because they enjoy reading.  Or even, perhaps, if they imagine themselves as literary.  Literature is only one, very small part, of the ideas with which we must work and with which we must be familiar.

4.  United, we should be able to fashion a compelling argument for people like David Cameron, who should not only fund libraries (and other cultural institutions) generously, but also pour money into schools so that everybody has a good level of functional AND critical literacy.  Education is a basic human right.  Everybody must understand the cultural symbols of their milieu and make sense of them.  Never mind all the distractions about different kinds of literacy: the ability to  ‘read’ any medium, with critical ability, is what the world wants.  AND creativity.  Anything else is going to be really dangerous in the long run.

5.  I want the world to be curious.  This means that even though meeting the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, health) can be very demanding, people will realise that are are more ways in which this can be accomplished if they can learn about what solutions others have come to.  There are many ways to live our lives, and just one of them may make you happy.  (Which, in my view, is the purpose of life).

6.  I want cultural memory institutions to be capable of making life better, and to be recognised for doing so.  And we must work out how this is to be achieved.

Well, this is my Sunday flight of fancy.  I would be really, really, happy if these were to be achieved by a communal effort.

Have a good week, everybody.

About Susan
Retired academic, website creator, SEO advisor, grandmother. I love the sea, dogs and walks; I hate fluorescent lights and TV sport.

6 Responses to My bucket list – for the information professionals

  1. Useful ideas for discussion and sharing.

  2. Sue Myburgh says:

    I found your reference to Kate Lundy’s speech very interesting, not least because I had never heard of it before and so one wonders how ‘public’ she wants the ‘public sphere’ to be, especially when ‘they’ are introducing internet censorship and so forth. Oh well, one must do what one can. It’s better than nothing. I do hope you are right in saying that a ‘communal effort’ seems to be forming and ‘the obvious seems to be coming so’. At least we may start hearing other voices than Murdoch’s, now that he has made a couple of really big mistakes…
    I have heard that I have been successful in my registration for Paradiso in Brussels, and I have got flights booked etc so I hope it’s all systems go. Thank you so much for your good idea re: videos, interviews etc. I shall certainly do what I can, and post here or wherever.

    Thanks muchly for the Google link as well (another point towards their attempt at world domination. Now they should just take over the banks too and be done with it). I’ll explore it further, too. I would certainly like you to be my teacher.

    Glad that there are holes in the bucket, dear Lisa.

    • It’s funny how perception works.

      You thought I was pointing you at what Kate was saying. But I was pointing (mainly) at a methodology which aims to illustrate & develop the “public sphere” = encapsulated in that slideshow on the same page = most of which came out of the brain of Kate media’s advisor. And run on a shoestring.

      If you’d been across all the activity during the process, your bucket would have found an aweful lot of leaky others. Unfortunately, as it is with most ground breaking changes, it was back to the usual shortly after. You might want to spend your time on the plane going though these two pages. (They’re bottom up).

      Re: Our education ( I’z doubt if youse r capable of dun teaching me to rite as gud as you).
      I’m need to work my way through a curriculum that brings two groups to the same page.
      The cheesemakers on one hand. In your terminology that’s digital librarians, archivists, Museologists who can communicate (I’ve heard, through the grapevine), usually in compiled texts. The most influential ones seem to have (blue) tickets on themselves.

      The other professional soothsayers are just starting to open the conversations up. .They might even communicate although i know they don’t like to write.

      In between are (cause I’m a geekish type) these tradespeople. (which wasn’t quite so big 35 years ago when I was teaching AV). They are still too practical to have an R&D department. (BTW, when did all the public institutions drop the D?)

      And I’ve said almost all I have to say (badly).
      So that’s my perspective on the big, professionally sealed, buckets. EWould you like to share yours?

  3. Thank you for your kind words, sir. And for the interesting links. I am hoping to get to the Paradiso get-together as I will be in Europe (Italy, specifically) at that time. Nice to know that some people are taking notice of you – have you had communications with said minister? It is sometimes difficult to know what is ‘professional’ and what isn’t. I would argue that hairdressing and plumbing aren’t professions – not because I’m a social snob, but perhaps because I’m an intellectual snob. There are two characteristics of professions that I think set them apart from other activities: one is that there is a body of research and theory which examines the problems in the area from the perspective of the area; the other is that professions have social responsibilities to fulfill. I don’t think that plumbing is a social responsibility. Convenient, yes, but it is not a responsibility that affects lives longitudinally and across generations…
    Must finish writing book now.

    • I do hope you get to Paradiso. Lucky you Italy eh?

      Talk to a Minister? No only in Oz and only to Kate and more importantly, her media advisor Pia. Mainly about turning this “one off” into the norm.

      In Europe it’s easier to talk to a bureaucrat and hope he/she will put a few words in a Minister’s mouth. It’s encouraging when you see the language change from Platforms for “Collective Awareness and action” to “platforms for discussion and collective action”. Seems Fabrizio has Neelie’s ear.

      You’d understand what I was getting at with the talk about “professional” when you compare the kiddies platform, Facebook, to the one for grown ups, LinkedIn. I really can’t see any great technical differences. So the “professions have social responsibilities to fulfil” comment was very welcome. The problem is as you say they do it by “examining the problems in the area from the perspective of the area”. Put an “e” in front of some profession and bingo, a professional becomes a new age expert.

      So I do hope you might have some time in between finishing that book to get a video camera out, and maybe do a few interviews or workshops at paradiso, or any other conferences for that matter. This blog has a place for everyone except the network plumbers and they really do feel a social responsibility too. It’s just that everyone hops on planes and jumps from one conferential iceburg to another rather than using all the goodies to leave a decent archive, and be inclusive. As I ‘ve mentioned to the school’s principal, Roger.

      We’ll see. The obvious seems to becoming so. In the meantime, yu might want to use this goodie/code from the computer scientists. Should save having to give a lesson in “how to translate”, in English.
      Would you take me on as a student/teacher?

  4. My Hero(ine),

    You might understand why I don’t have a blog. I’ve spent so much time “behind the other side of the glass” recording such talented people, performing such great stuff, it seems superfluous to add to the virtual haystack; especially when there are so few golden needles like your own.

    Maybe we should throw the “professional” moniker away. The last think we seem to need is more information professionals. If we are talking about “those (of us) who assist in communicating ideas, then we are talking about communications professionals. We’ve got a real problem here. Either they are cheesmakers, who stir the ideas into something tasty, or they are mousetrap builders, who want to be great network engineers or apps developers.

    So on one side we have cultural anthropologists like Mike who can say in a short entertaining video what would take a few thousand words. On the other we have network managers who simply don’t want to deal with the “commodity internet”. It’s either about connecting “National Institutions” or “High Bandwidth users” and nothing in between. Content? User centric? But I don’t have to convince you. terena’s silence is typical.

    As for sterotypes. These barbarians have me shaking in my boots.

    What did Alfie say? “Life is an offensive, directed against the repetitious mechanism of the Universe”.

    I just wish a few researchers would take a bit of notice of that before they hop on a plane, for two days at an expensive hotel , to attend a conference, with a few of the “professionally” converted, for a few hours, and then scatter the conference remains around the Universe.

    But the communal effort seems to be forming. But as you say, it does need creativity (not just money). Maybe you should ask the people inside 100 cultural institutions what they might come up with in the way of project to answer this question.

    You have to forgive the rave. I’m feeling (a bit) full of myself. I get that way when a minister starts using some of my terminology.

    All the best.
    P.S. There are holes in your bucket, thankfully.

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