Posts Tagged ‘ social theory ’

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 09-23-03

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 09-07-03

Another article in this “choices” section of the Utne (2003, May/June) was Life is a Smorgasbord which describes the differences between our culture and Sweden in regard to freedom of choice and access. The author writes that for an American, Sweden can be a type of prison because the choices are limited to the most quality items.  He describes as an example, that in American we have a liquor store on every corner but can’t get a decent bottle of wine.  In Sweden, “the System” as it is called is the world’s single largest wine buyer and its wine selection is literally (according to the author) second to none.  This is probably not as telling an example as the fact that Sweden only sells two kinds of cars. There, again, quality is the determinant.

Anyway, all of this reminds me of the FCC issues I was reading about last week from a book called Media diversity : economics, ownership, and the FCC by Maria Einstein.  She is arguing that conglomeration of power isn’t necessarily the defining force (or at least not the only one) behind lack of diversity in programming.  Posing the social theory side against the economic theory side, she shows that both are equally capable of stifling diversity.  The America/Sweden distinction describes the socialist/economic debate Einstein presents.  Proposing most Americans think about economic power at play (whether they are for or against), what she made me see was that the social theory side is not possible without regulation of content.  This is the key issue in the freedom of access to information and a perfect example of the predicament we find ourselves in surfing the net or the channels of our television, at the grocery store cereal aisle, in the job market, and even when facing presidential elections and decisions of international importance.



Utne, L. (2003, May/June). Life is a smorgasbord. Utne (117), 64-65. Retrieved November 1, 2009 from Proquest Research Library (Document ID: 333748581).

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