Archive for the ‘ 801 Journal ’ Category

Capstone Presentation Clip

“I just love that word desperate. It’s so romantic”. – Roberta (Rosanna Arquette), Desperately Seeking Susan

first 1:14, then see 5:16

Journal 09-25-03

Well, this is probably a strange journal overall.  Some entries I typed from free writing and others I wrote straight onto the computer, either by adding on to discussion topics or creating an original entry.  So, it probably lacks consistency overall.  But, I guess if it isn’t clear in other entries, I can say it here, that I do feel more confident about the issues we’ve discussed in this class.  Whereas at first I was completely overwhelmed by the multiplicity of areas that the information sciences cover, now I feel I can approach it with a growing curiosity.  I am still overwhelmed in as much as if I get going on a topic I tend to be more impassioned than intelligible.  But I think I’m learning more and more.

An article I read recently really takes a bite out of all this realm of our profession.  Rich Lowry in an article titled “The ideological librarians” would have us bottom feeding (as  the joke goes) with the lawyers of the world.  He doesn’t seem to have liked that we’ve let our hair down and become impassioned about civil liberties.  Instead, he seems to be more in a state of shock, revealing a bit of fear of abandonment, as he reflectively defines librarians by the books he learned to read as a kid.  This is just what John Ashcroft also did in his statement regarding the ALA “hype” over the Patriot Act.

My initial entry essay to this degree program was filled with excitement precisely at the fact that it was so obvious to me that the library profession is changing, that we’ve “come unbunned”.  Though I had no idea to what extent I would become involved in this, I am no less confident about this evolving mission.  I do have to wonder, after reading articles like these, if I am (we are?) too isolated in this vision when all around people outside the profession don’t seem to have a clue what librarians do.

To Lowry’s credit, he does bring issues to light that we have discussed in class, especially in the area of fashionable librarians’ and libraries’ social service bent (e.g. the homeless) while contrasting that to the majesty of the more traditional library (e.g. Library of Alexandria).  He also raises questions that I have not yet answered for myself (e.g. Internet access filters).  If nothing else, I think the rising voice of the ALA to these and other issues of public concern is a dramatic statement to our changing role.  So, I guess it is to be expected that it takes people by surprise.  Lowry’s opinion will not stop the change, and perhaps his voice is a diamond in the rough if it causes people to see a little bit of the revolution at hand!

Journal 09-24-03

Reading more from the Utne articles about choices, I found other interesting connections that I have discussed separately in my journal in and in class.  Karen Olson admits the cause of out anxiety may be cultural or it may be fear.  Phillip Moffitt of the Yoga Journal coined the post-September 11 societal climate as an Age of Fear.

My mom is a psychologist who is completing her doctoral thesis on post-traumatic stress disorder.  Her take on this goes beyond the definitions I (and perhaps others) assume that it is a post war disorder, discovered or studies primarily in veteran soldiers.  She takes it further account for victims of child abuse (physical, sexual, and emotional), car accident survivors, those who have experienced the death of a loved one, divorce or any other significantly traumatic event.  Friends and I were discussing this and the tie to September 11th, that the entire country is likely suffering from the traumatic event of that day, from the atrocity our government’s response, from the fact that the worldwide protests against the war in Iraq were dismissed, and we can be described as suffering from this in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder.  If you have never read about post-traumatic stress disorder cases (I’m thinking of my own experience just from watching a war movie once), imagine a victim incapable of normal daily communication function, suffering from outburst of emotion, flashbacks, nightmares, etc., living in fear of their memories and experience.  This seems to be where many of us are today.  Helpless. Helplessly hoping that some vague movement of truth will prevail that will give us a new president in the next election (at least this is what my group of friends were discussing).  But the vague feeling exists I think on a larger scale.  People are traumatized to the point where they cannot find solutions.  The ultimate suffering might be that we hope, but we have lost the ability to know how achieve results.

That seems to match the state the Karen Olson describes, that our multiplicity of choice has caused so much anxiety, that not making a decision gives the impression of weakness.  It is in a sense a weakness.  But to view that weakness as a negative trait is characteristic of and compounds the problem itself.

Journal 09-23-03

I talked to a friend of mine tonight about my school and got on the topic of what a massive undertaking our product is and can become.  I have found myself quite overwhelmed at times, especially reading Kurzweil, wondering how I will get my head around the entirety of information science.  So many aspects, thoughts, ideologies, issues, concerns, answers!  And how, when/if I do get my head around it, will I be able to help others with it all?

I went back to the article from the Utne Reader and found another interesting aspect of this whirlwind of information. Karen Olsen, the author of the first article Are We Overwhelmed by Too Many Choices? reflects on the fact that abundance of choice is a defining feature of our country and generation, which is linked tightly to our individual self-image as well. She writes:

Our choices seem especially fraught with anxiety now as [our selections] are more than ever declarations of who we are…with each decision you are constructing an identity for all the world to see and judge you by.

**and this was pre-social networking!**

Then she goes on to make the point that the anxiety come from the lack of time to make that decision.  This is similar to what we talked about in class about the need for reflection time.  The dread rate of change has got us so wrapped up in that it nearly doesn’t allow for a moments wait.  Think about searching the internet. We are constantly searching for a faster response.  It is clear that when we don’t have an outlet or learn to incorporate reflection into a major part of our lives, we will translate that impatience with a machine response times on to people, our interactions with patrons, our personal relationships, to new ideas, and to new technologies.

It is also similar to the modern (or maybe its mostly Western) movement in social (per this article) and religious thought that everything begins to be OK, whatever feels right to you is best.  Such freedom of choice, it might be said, begins to corrupt the moral fiber when considering very sensitive social issues (e.g. abortion, pornography). Maybe that’s a sweeping statement and might reflect some bias.  But, I wonder if this isn’t a message in what the author is also saying, that we can’t be afraid of making these statements  that reflect one of our many sides or ways of seeing things. I guess I’m not afraid of these statements because I expect to reflect of them further, refine them, and edit them if needed.

Journal 09-19-03

Our society (it is not news) is in a conundrum.  While I believe it is partly what our professor said about our society being anti-intellectual, I have to also highly disagree, because at the same time, we are (as she also stated earlier) discriminating against the unintelligent.  We view success in knowledge.  Knowledge is power and this is our construct.  Sure, we ultimately also fear it in an anti-intellectual sense.  But, we operate within it full throttle.

The idea that the know-it-all causes a problem for society not unfounded.  But the reverse approach has not yet been considered.  Answer #1: Make everyone feel intelligent, create an intelligent delusion.  “Stuff them so full of facts, they feel like they’re thinking”, as Beatty said.  Maybe this is indeed what we are doing (with less intent and malice).  Rather, we do it ignorantly and blindly believing that we are achieving knowledge.  So our answer, answer #2, is knowledge is power, reason is highest value.  This is the goal.  You don’t necessarily have to reach it.  We’ll put all sorts of anti-discrimination laws and ideas around to counteract being uneducated.  But the key to happiness is knowledge.

Well, now that I just wrote that I guess I’m not sure that is actually what we do.  I think what I just said sounds more like Beatty.  We do that and don’t know it.  I guess bottom line is we have a warped sense of knowledge.  It is a sense that is so wrapped up in our own ego that we think we have full knowledge just by learning what we want to know.  This is an individualistic ideal to the extreme, to the exclusion of everything that is not me.

What I am trying to steer towards is humility.  I’m trying to connect the quote of not “hiding your ignorance”.  If we fear anything in this society it is being wrong or being ignorant.  Does a society like Beatty’s produce this kind of thinking?  They seem to be satisfied with their facts and no one seems to be seeking knowledge at all.  No one is holding it over anyone.  But in our society we do the same accumulating of facts in order to hold it over someone.  Not even true why knowledge to hold over people, but how knowledge, stupid facts and statistics about which we complain and fool ourselves into contentedness.

Journal 09-17-03

A classmate wrote on the discussion list:

The biggest flaw with Kurzweil is that he uses the term spiritual .  I think he did this more for shock value than anything else.  He doesn’t equate spiritual with any sort of what I would consider spiritual, but rather use it as a synonym for conscience.  That is certainly not the connotation that one associates with spiritual.

I had this thought too, though more vaguely.  One of Kurzweil’s critic’s arguments focused, sort of, on this aspect.  Basically, this critic was saying that to use the word spiritual is to give it a lesser meaning or a watered down version of what spirituality means.  But, I tend to agree with my classmate’s more concrete statement that the word spiritual should be thrown out altogether.  It is simply the incorrect term to use and perhaps he DID use it for the controversial effect.

A funny conversation on what makes humans human.  My friend was wondering what it is that causes us to be bored. Do computers become bored?  Is boredom a chemical state of the brain?  I thought this was an interestingly depressing case for humanity.

Although, another case I’ve heard before is the idea of memory.  I think this one Kurzweil would be more enthusiastic about making a case for (that it is memory where computers exceed humanity).  But  how do you determine why my version or memory of something varies from another, though it is the same event being remembered?

**reminds me of a THIS AMERICAN LIFE episode clip**

What frustrates me (among the MANY things that do) is that [my attempt to defend humanity] seems to all amount to distinctions that really can’t be defined, at least not by science.   I believe it is quite clear by faith.  However, a scientific faith is sort of implied and one of Kurzweil’s critics points out this “promissory evidence’ as a weakness.  This is similar to allowing that because Kurzweil’s theory makes sense (to him) and he may have some to it from a theory that is actually credible, this does not make the result credible or the promissory result credible.

Journal 09-15-03

Having Mountain of Silence open while reading Kurzweil has been of great comfort.  It clears my head and reminds me that there is beauty in humanity.  One question that a person in this book asks Fr. Maximos is, “Who is more useful to society: a doctor or a monk?”  Fr. Maximos begins by saying that the question itself is flawed.  At least, he says, “It is characteristics of a modern way of thinking…an activist orientation tot the world”.  That orientation is that people are worthy based on their usefulness instead of who they are, instead of their humanity (if I were referring back to Kurzweil’s arguments).  Fr. Maximos even goes on to say that if we don’t view people first and foremost on who they are”…we run the risk of turning people into machines that produce useful things” (my emphasis).  He also comments on how this type of attitude toward ourselves– and I would add toward others, as well — often leads to psychological problems.

So, I think this is true and even think it follows to Kurzweil’s entire basis.  It is a modern way of thinking, which doesn’t [necessarily] mean it is right.  Another author, Ken Wilbur, claims we can know reality in three ways: eye of the senses (empirical science), eye of reason (philosophy, logic, math), and eye of contemplation (systematic and disciplines spiritual practice to open up the intuitive & spiritual faculties of self)  **unknown source, perhaps Ken Wilber? He goes on to attribute the Western trend to an imbalanced reality toward sense and reason and  away from contemplation.  I think Kurzweil would begin to argue that the eye of contemplation will be within the capabilities of this spiritual machines given the words: systematic and disciplines spiritual practice.  This gives spiritual virtually no meaning at all.  Thus in the  remaining part which defines a bit more of what spirituality is  (open up, intuitive, self) Kurzweil would lose ground.

His modern thought has allowed for viewing humanity in mechanical terms to the extreme.  And I would say that even his critics are victim to the same., as much as they argue the various points of his theory to refute it.  Denton states that “there is no longer any doubt that many biological phenomena are  indeed mechanical and that organisms are analogous to machines at least to some degere”.  The last part (analagous) I can handle, but hwy isn’t it the other way around?  Machines didn’t create biology, so how is it that biology can be described so firmly and coldly as “indeed mechanical”.  Isn’t it rather that we invented machines to do the work we want to do better and thus that machines are more biological?  Did I just say that?  Oh, context, context!  What I mean is the context out of which ideas are brought.  We create machines out of a model of biology, out of a model of ourselves.  Technology, combined with flawed/modern thought process (that thinking of ourselves in terms of usefulness alone) got us to the point of seeing these machines as human-like and allowing that ther inverse is true — that we, as humans, are machine-like.  These are both true, but do not imply a merging of the two, unless you think like Kurzweil.  And you can’t make me!

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