A nice connection

Nicolaus Copernicus

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Enrico Francese, who commented below on the DIK definitions, and requested information on the origin of this hierarchy, posted this comment on his own blog, Mind Matters, http://fraenrico.carcosa.it/?p=793 , where he discusses libraries, technology and man in the middle.  He notes: Rispondemi sul blog, Sue Myburgh si dimostra “stupita” che il fondamento della disciplina si trovi in una poesia. Io invece no. Perché da sempre ho creduto nel valore ermeneutico della poesia, e dell’arte – che per me sono sempre stati strumenti di conoscenza molto più che non la stessa ricerca scientifica. [In her Answer on the blog, Sue Myburgh proves “astonished” that the foundation of the discipline is in a poem. I do not. Because I have always believed in the value of interpretation of poetry, and art – which for me have always been instruments of knowledge much more than the scientific research itself.] I would like to explain a little bit why I agree wholeheartedly with Enrico: the basis for my ‘astonishment’ is that ‘library science‘ or ‘information science‘ (particularly the latter) determined  that it would be more prestigious for the discipline/profession to be regarded as a natural science, along with chemistry, physics, mathematics, geology and so forth.   The literature shows a long-standing interest in being identified as a science, originating perhaps with Butler in 1933, when he introduced the term ‘library science’ to indicate the scientific and quantitative study of books and users, thus differentiating the field from the older conception of the ‘scholar-librarian’ and Dewey’s pragmatic ‘library economy’ approach.  The leaning towards science continued with Cleverdon’s work on information retrieval systems.  He believed that a researcher was committed to the discovery of truth by means of reliable research instruments and rational discussion, and this desire was expressed in the need to undertake quantitative research, which was, in particularly, quite clearly enunciated  the apocryphal comment by Lord Kelvin in the introduction to Cleverdon’s report on the results of his work, which gave us the strange measurements now used in information retrieval systems ofprecision, recall and relevance – Cleverdon’s attempts at quantification. When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers, you know something about it, but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind (Kelvin, cited by Cleverdon and Keen, 1966, p. 31). So, Enrico, what I would like to say is that I agree with you: I too understand that poetry and art, in all its forms, are more potent (and possibly ‘truer’ and more enduring) instruments or expressions of knowledge.  Scientific ‘facts’ are proved ‘wrong’ with regularity – look at Copernicus and Galileo.  But, what ‘astonished’ me is that, in its quest to be regarded as scientific, the field has boldly (or ignorantly) adopted as its basic premise a verse from a poem: the ‘pure’ science is based on a paradox.  Further, I would like to add, Eliot did not for one second suggest that data are the building blocks of information and can be ‘processed’, nor did he suggest that information becomes – or indeed is in any way related to – knowledge.  He was mourning the fact that in our busyness of life, we neglected the important parts (surely something we can identify with today).  It is the ‘pseudo-scientists’ (if I can suggest such a term here) that have created the hierarchy, and added ‘data’ at the bottom and ‘wisdom’ at the top, because it appears to make some kind of syntactic sense. Unfortunately, it doesn’t: data are created, organised, stored, understood, processed, recorded and so forth in completely different ways from those in which information or knowledge are created, organised, stored, understood, processed etc. What do the rest of you think??? Happy Valentine’s DaySue