Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One Dimensional Society: Library Talk and Michael Gorman

I read this post through Library Talk this morning.

It pointed to a post by Michael Gorman ranting about 2.0 thought is the sleep of reason. It is a blog post in two parts, and a third related one on wikipedia due out soon. Here are some of the highlights:
Part I here:

These reference works were not only created by scholars and published by reputable publishers but also contained the paratextual elements (subject headings, indexes, bibliographies, content lists, etc.) also created by professionals that enabled me to find the recorded knowledge and information I wanted in seconds.

This small example typifies the difference between the print world of scholarly and educational publishing and the often-anarchic world of the Internet. The difference is in the authenticity and fixity of the former (that its creator is reputable and it is what it says it is), the expertise that has given it credibility, and the scholarly apparatus that makes the recorded knowledge accessible on the one hand and the lack of authenticity, expertise, and complex finding aids in the latter.

and Part II here:

Publishers, developers of publishing projects, editors, fact-checkers, proofreaders, and the other people necessary to the publication of authoritative texts are all mustache-twirling villains to the digital collectivist. Such people see “gatekeepers” as antidemocratic agencies that stunt human development rather than as persons or entities seeking to promote intellectual development by exercising judgment and expertise to make the task of the seeker of knowledge easier.

The flight from expertise is accompanied by the opposite of expertise—the phenomenon that Andrew Keen has called, in his new book of the same name, “the cult of the amateur.” This cult, says Keen, “worships the creative amateur: the self-taught filmmaker, the dorm-room musician, the unpublished writer. It suggests that everyone—even the most poorly educated and inarticulate amongst us—can and should use digital media to express and realize themselves.” He is referring to the impulse behind Web 2.0, but his words have a wider resonance—a world in which everyone is an expert in a world devoid of expertise.

I have my own opinions (of course) on this topic. I agree and disagree with what Michael Gorman is saying and understand where he is coming from. However, there are some very true statements here and very false statements and assumptions here.


The hive mind may not always be the best mind.

There is a subtle difference between the crowd shouting that you are wrong, or just shouting.

Expertise is lost

This is true; someone who thinks they are an expert can become more popular than the actual expert. This would be the difference between a Google search and a librarian. You can come across any old site and the information may or may not be true; the average person doesn't know the difference. A librarian will make sure the information is as accurate as possible. There is a difference.

You are not an expert, artist, whatever because you say you are.

These items are proven. There is an undeniable level of what good is. This can be found in looking at a library's collection. People can pick good books from bad. The good ones circulate without any promotion or attention; good is good, and most people can determine that. Bad is bad and most people can determine that.

Our current society is undergoing a sleep of reason from web 2.0 concepts.

We may have a sleep of reason due to other things (depending on your politics), but 2.0 is not doing that. 2.0 is awakening the minds of many who may have thought something, but have never expressed it. This is good; more opinions and thought provide a great dialogue. One could also find a "diamond in the rough" within all the cacophony of 2.0 tools. Individuals posting their opinions is healthy for a democracy. Sometimes they are wrong. Well, we all are at some point, even "experts."

Wikipedia is inaccurate.

This is strange, but the more I look at articles on Wikipedia, the more amazed I am. At first I thought, it's not verifiable, you shouldn't trust it. I still think that. However, every piece of information is cited, just like any encyclopedia entry. There is a source to every statement; it is footnoted and linked to the bottom. If nothing else you can find great resources you wouldn't even find, even if you knew what you were looking for. The information is fast, not necessarily 100% accurate at first. The point is to get it up fast, then hone its accuracy later. Often times for the latest news, Wikipedia will have the quickest information (on major news stories).


Our society is a one-dimensional society
I still subscribe to Herbert Marcuse's theory on society. There are trends that come which would seem to change the whole make-up of our society, but they don't. These ideas become absorbed and part of the culture. Think of someone with a mohawk; in 1982 they were changing our culture. Now, it doesn't really surprise anyone. Think of how many times people said "this will change our society," or "this will destroy our society." It didn't.  It just became absorbed. Not even revolutions really change our society; it helps spark a slow evolutionary change, usually for the better. Think about the 1960s; it brought about great change, but not overnight, and not due to the protests.

Today you can take youtube for example. People were creating their own videos and putting them up there. Now big companies are figuring it out and putting up their own content on their websites. Before you would not see tv online as much; now it is becoming part of the mainstream. Many blog writers are being picked up by the big industry; these are the diamonds. They are being absorbed; it is a natural evolutionary process. You have a revolution, people react, it changes nothing at first. Later, it is slowly absorbed into our society, making it better. That is our society today, in my opinion.

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