Archive for the ‘hypertext’ category

The Library As Text Part III: Or The Finest Possible Communication Apparatus in Public Life

May 31, 2007

Part 1/2

“But quite apart from the dubiousness of its functions, radio is one-sided when it should be two. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication. The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organize its listeners as suppliers.” (Brecht, p616, The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication () in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook first published in 1932).

The heart wants what the heart wants. Woody Allen

Back to the title of this series: The Library As text. This is not a completely original characterization of the library, in fact it was suggested before in an interesting article by John Budd (“An Epistemological Foundation for Library and Information Science,” Library Quarterly, 65:3, 295-318). The article jives quite well with the “wrought manifesto” vibe I’m going for here, in that it calls for the Library and Information Science (LIS) community to consider engaging in a more intellectually textured way of looking at what we do, moving away from our positivistic roots and adopting a more playful, perhaps meaningful, approach in the direction hermeneutics and phenomenology (pick up a reader on Heidegger, Gadamer or Ricoeur and you’ll catch his drift). (more…)

The Library as Text: Part 2 (transition)

May 14, 2007

“Information storage and retrieval by means of data banks and computers are far more than technical devices. They constitute little less than a new way of organizing human knowledge and the relations of present inquiry to past work. All taxonomies are, in essence, philosophical. Any library system, whether by size or Dewey, enacts a formalized vision of how the world is put together, of what are the optimal sight-lines between the human mind and phenomenological totality.” George Steiner, “After The Book.” in Disch, R. (1973). The Future of Literacy. 154-155

All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street-corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door. “ Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

I wanted to put up a provisional/transitional post, as I continue with the “library as text” idea. I mentioned FRBR and intimacy (in the same sentence no less!) in my last post, and I’m getting there, but for now, I’m bringing in Steiner and Camus for backup here as I continue to probe around the philosophical underpinnings of the “library,” explore the apparent pragmatism of library work, and to put forth an idea that will inform the rest: Practice is never more than an extension of theory.  For humorous foreshadowing, I also came across an image collage type thing (above) that I created to accompany a talk I once gave at a faculty research luncheon a couple years back, which I entitled, “Finding Another Way Down: Detraditionalization, Privatization and the Problem of Boundaries,” which was my first introduction to the psychological hazards and risks that accompany an intemperate and vulnerable exposure of my GenX roots, when, in the format of a “scholarly” presentation that, I naively thought, put forth a radically new philosophy of librarianship, I began speculating that meaning, not information, is the librarian’s gig, all the while trying to synthesize a new analysis of library and information science, in a pastiche, rock-star wannabe multimedia overload, through the works/ideas of Adorno, George Jefferson, Gramsci, Camus, Weber, T.S. Eliot, Fat Albert, Heidegger, Dewey (Melville and John), Brian Eno, David Bowie, Brecht, De Tocqueville, and Marshall McLuhan, to name just a few! Aahh, young, idealist librarian without a library. I can probably find the presentation, if anyone is interested. Even if it is easy to dismiss this serialized “essay” as a philosophical train-wreck, which I am always prepared to do myself, at the very least, it is the continuation of a wrought manifesto of sorts, an invitation to explore and expand library work in an imaginative direction, expose librarianship as fundamentally pre-occupied with creating milieu that provoke, awaken, refine and support the authorial intentions of “users,” and to fluently move in directions that are as expansive as the human mind, and as perilous as the human heart. More to come on FRBR and intimacy, I promise.

Library of / Library As Text – Part 1

March 30, 2007

Myron Tuman in Word Perfect: Literacy in the Computer Age (1993) asks a provocative and interesting question: “Is it possible for the ascendancy of hypertext to do anything but push literacy in the direction of information management?” (78). Since I’m coming from a particular professional “place,” (academic librarianship) which I often characterize as a cultural practice that, historically, has been devoted to establishing and tweaking curatorial roles in relationship to texts, but also coming from a place where I’m attempting to manage and direct a multimedia production space as an experientially significant library service, I find questions like Tuman’s stir up deeper waters that submerge, maybe even drown, contemporary professional debates about scholarly communication, the nature of authorship, the economics of publishing, and the broadening notions of what constitutes a text and what it means to be literate. Tuman’s interesting book was published at a time when all sorts of challenges to the traditional “book” were ramped up, most particularly the event-driven phenomena of playful textual interaction and navigation metaphorically characterized as “hypertext.” Although some of Tuman’s (and others) remarks seem, on the surface, a tad dismissive, what’s clear is that the ascendancy of “hypertext” (or perhaps we can insert another anything 2.0 here) challenged deeply entrenched and romanticized notions of authorship and signaled the need to articulate a more expansive notion of “author” in order for one to characterize the writing of “hypertext” (or any interactive, technology dependent learning event) as more than just an exercise in “information management.” And while the professional literature of library and information studies abounds with discussions that attempt to understand, dismiss or promote the vocational challenges posed by and captured in such extravagant metaphors as the information society or postindustrial society, students arrive each year, less interested in the reading of books in the library and more interested in reading (and writing) their own texts.

Where might “the library” fit into a discussion of texts and of textuality? It’s clear that as a repository of texts, the modern academic library is a place where the reader and text intersect, but it is also a place where readers intersect, but it should also be a place where the texts themselves are encouraged and expected to interact with each other. These “conversations” are made possible by evolving (I hope) conventions of “bibliographic” control and description (metadata) that in their own right, I’d like to suggest, generate “texts” or new and intentional textual genres for our users. Although a university’s research library plays an often unquestioned (and, at times, uncritical) role in the preservation and access to a university’s institutional and cultural record, more interesting to consider is how the cluster of activities that situate librarianship as a cultural practice devoted to hypertextualizing or intertextualizing the entire bibliographic universe can be appreciated for and identified by their non-neutral and generative contributions to the discussion of what constitutes a text and thus what might constitute literacy. (Troy Davis)

Part II: FRBR: Intentionality and Intimacy in a Universe of Entities…