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5/24/2006

Conversation … Discussion … Dialogue … and reality

Among the few comments posted in the last few days were these two insightful entries related to my post on the socialization of information

"The problem that electronic media always face in terms of giving people access to information is that of vetting and quality control.

For an article to be accessible through a resource like EBSCO, it has to be vetted by an editor, and published in a journal or periodical of sufficient stature and track record that it is subscribed to by a large journal archive. This means that it takes quite a long time for these resources to become available, and thus the first articles on a new trend may not appear for quite some time after those in the know about the trend have begun to find out about it. However, it also means that for an article to appear it will have to pass muster with a professional editor, which acts as something of a quality control. …

For an article to be accessible through Technorati, it has to be written and published in a blog. The more popular the blog, the higher the chance of Technorati bringing the article up, but nonetheless it can be a cery short period of time between someone wanting to write an article and a search of technorati pulling that article up. This has the positive effect of meaning that the latest communication and commentary on different issues are instantly available, but has the disadvantage that this information does not have to be reviewed, edited or otherwise checked. This can lead to inaccuracy…

Certainly, we should embrace the speed with which communication and discussion can now proceed, but at the same time we should recognize that accuracy takes time. In a medium as crowded with information as the Internet, authority becomes even more important."

While I completely agree that authority and accuracy are extremely important -- This is certainly an opportunity for Libraries to help fill an education roll within the community -- I’m also consonant of the fact that studies show that with the advent of the Internet (& searching skills) users feel empowered and knowledgeable to make their own conclusions. Granted, whether or not they actually can distinguish authority sources from non-authority sources may be debatable. But this point is mute. For if users already have the perception that they have the skills they need to evaluate information and make an informed decision on their own, then like it or not I have to agree in many ways with this other comment…

"While there may be a negative correlation between speed and accuracy, we need to recognize that accuracy is as much defined by the user of the source as the source itself. We also need to accept that technology has enabled the user to be authority, rather than the content provider. Accuracy and authority is a mirage in libraries today."


Although some may think this statement seems harsh, from a public perception viewpoint I think the observation is spot on! Accuracy and authority are perceptions defined as much by the consumers of information as the provider. And if history has taught us anything, it’s that even when information is blessed and backed by authority, it isn’t always accurate.

Regardless of which side of the fence you lean towards on this issue, the underlying reality of it all is this …

Information. Is. Time. Sensitive.


PS: Thanks Ian & Susan for excellently sharing both sides to the perspective. I think we need more critical thinkers like you to way-in and challenge/support ideals -- especially as technology continues to propell libraries to move forward.

1 comment:

Librarian at Large said...

This posting truly makes me sad...mainly because I'm afraid that many of the conclusions drawn here are correct. While Web 2.0 (and Library 2.0 too, I suppose) both open up so many possibilities for the user, I feel that they also have the potential to make us...well, dumber. As is pointed out here (in a round about way)simply because a user perceives that their information need has been met does not make it so. For instance, let's say that a diabetic comes across the website of some wacko who declares that rubbing tea leaves on their ankles will cure them. The user, assuming that if this information is on the internet, it MUST be true, believes this website and begins daily tea rubbings in lieu of her daily insulin pills. Have the information needs of this person truly been met? Not at all. However, Web 2.0 is the way of the future...misguided user perceptions and all.