Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Tail Actually Is Not So Long (Boston Globe online?) ran an article entitled Group Think that reports on studies that the Internet may actually make it harder for ideas that challenge the scholarly consensus to gain a hearing. The reporter writes:

This study adds weight to concerns, shared by other Internet analysts, that the rise of online research has costs as well as benefits. Internet search tools are not neutral: they tend to privilege the new and the popular. And for all the frustrations of older research methods, their very inefficiency may have yielded rewards. Leafing through print journals or browsing the stacks can expose researchers to a context that is missing in the highly targeted searches of PubMed or PsychInfo. The old-fashioned style of browsing, some say, can provide academics with more background knowledge, and lead to serendipitous insights when they stumble upon articles or books they weren't necessarily looking for.
Personally, I'm not sure that it was the potential for serendipity that resulted in "old-fashioned" research having more width, as the discipline to track down every lead which seemed to be more prized in the print libraries of yesterday, but now seems pointless when confronted with all the keyword generated hits.

The relation of technology to knowledge is a very complicated one and this article reminds us to be cautious and think critically about the hype.

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  • At 12:09 PM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    This makes sense - especially since people tend to only look at the first few web pages in their results, which also are the most popular sites. And the more people look at them, the higher they're ranked. It's a vicious circle!


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