Archive for October, 2007

I like (and ramble about) science.

Now that one of my assignments (not the lit review) is off my back for the time being, I feel like I can think freely again. It’s nice! And when paired with tea, I managed to have some reinforcing thoughts on science, social science research, and my “going through life with love” plan.

(For background, I just did a group lit review.) Social science research is great, and difficult. I like that it’s a significant influence in information science research. I think we call them user studies here, and sure I’m biased (B.A. Sociology) but I want more. We had a hard time finding some user studies (and not query data mining) regarding digital image search results, which was a bit frustrating after a while, but I can understand. I think there are two big factors that produce research intended to help improve services to people but that don’t talk to those people, which I will set out forthwith.

  • Technical (by which I mean financial) limitations: These sorts of things are expensive. Finding people, finding people to talk to people, paying people, paying people to talk to people, paying people to record instances of these conversations, paying people to interpret/code/whatever. They take a lot of time and money. Also there’s a good deal of administrative hurdles to get through (and rightfully so). I mean, if you have to produce something on a deadline, it kind of is easier to theorize and publish that.
  • Belief in a unified theory of everything at all times: I think there exist people who hold this belief who still value social styles of research, but still. Coming from this perspective, I can really see why one would think it’s not that important to consult actual people when constructing services/systems for their use. People do this, people do that. They want this, they want that. The general user this, the general user that. One can’t actually armchair hypothesize about “general users” without coming from the belief that people act according to grand principles that we can imagine, pursue, and implement.
    • And there are plenty of people who hold pretty strongly to the unified theory of everything at all times, and they end up not liking social research, and qualitative research more specifically. Secretly (okay, not so secretly) I think it’s because they (like me) find theorizing really fun, and that joy informs their belief systems.

Luckily, we have science! (For background, I don’t use science in a strict sense.) So we didn’t solve the world in one research effort? Try it again, this time with a different angle. Have we maybe defined some part of the world in a particular study? Test it out again, this time with a different angle. Tinker with methodology and see what comes out! To adapt the text on a shirt I really want but would feel embarrassed to wear in public: Science. It’s iterative, bitches! Maybe I should add Science to the list of concepts/deceased persons I would date if they had living human form.

And finally: lit reviews, professional conferences, etc. shouldn’t be about tearing projects and ideas down. I’ve been a mean tearer, and I’m largely over it. It’s not fun, not satisfying. I guess it’s like potato chips. Anyway, while I have periods where I’m tired of deliverables and I just want to sit and think, I do love that I get to dip into building things in my courses. This is hard work, and makes me respect and sympathize with other people who do hard project-based work. I can’t tear that stuff down, as if someone didn’t think of this or that or the other and their project it worthless or totally not applicable to me. Not anymore.

Interestingly, I also feel less and less like I can tear down critics as well. One of my cohort’s hypothetical replies to a critic was “Well what did you do?” and my first thought was “That’s not going-through-life-with-love.” (as in, the plan; not this person’s general life attitude.) A couple of weeks ago I read (via Lifehacker) a post on how to take criticism well, and it was good but it required a certain personal shift that neither I nor the post seemed to really define. Maybe I’m making that shift, and I call it my going-through-life-with-love plan? Regardless, the plan seems to be working for me. I’m much less of a tearer, but I’m no less a breaker. I still like to look at models, ideas, and some software apps and try and break them. And I see how, when I…how do I say this…inhabit my plan, I can work towards construction of a better model, offer assistance in areas that want refinement, or adapt a model for my needs. How very Wikipedia of me.

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My main computer

I am scanning articles for a lit review. My eyes are not bleeding yet, but give it time! (really though, I like it. People research neat things)

Anyway, I ran across another phrase that struck me, from:

Social bookmarking, folksonomies, and Web 2.0 tools. By: Gordon-Murnane L

With respect to social bookmarking, Gordon-Murnane L says

“Links become portable. Users are no longer tied to their desks or even their laptops to access their links. As long as you have access to the Web, you have access to the links and sites you consider valuable. Not only can you access your links, you can also easily update, add, and edit new links while away from your main computer.”

I think I’m just a sliver away from not even having what I would term a “main computer.” My lappy (name: Hermes) has the furthest extent of all customizations I want, so I suppose that makes it my main computer, but I’m developing quite a set of resources on my user profile at school which I can access via SHTP, and I also have a distinct set of resources at the work computer that have certain access restrictions specific to the software on that computer. And if I had the dollars for an iphone like gadget, I’d probably make that as customized and focused as my laptop, but more focused on truly mobile apps like navigation resources, podcasts, and IM. (I’d do news/headlines but I get carsick really easily.)

This makes me curious as to what “main computer” means for other people. Funny how many of my off-the-cuff research ideas are primarily ontological and semantic. How did I manage not to major in linguistics as an undergrad? :)

Salient KM reading

Source: Dominique Foray, “A New Organizational Capability: Knowledge Management,” in The Economics of Knowledge, by Dominique Foray, The MIT Press, 2004

p. 214:  “The paradox of productivity can be expressed very simply as the delay between the appearance of new knowledge tools and instruments and the persistence of old forms of organization.”

This is textual academese expressing the content of the college education video. For srs!

Okay, back to work!

So productive!

What happens when I need to do some research methods reading, but I’ve had a grande mocha? I’ve finally started putting up a blogroll!

When I started this blog I had committed myself to not having everything I wanted on the site up and perfect at launch, and the blogroll was one of those things I decided to pass on until “a later date.” I’ve finally got it there, but it’s still not quite what I want it to be.

I’ve also started futzing around with the recent tags/categories distinction implementation, but I’m still not quite comfortable with it. It’s cool though, it’ll come.

As for research methods, I’ve tutored undergrads on social science research methodology (and I really enjoy it), so I’m just not very concerned. I am looking forward to dipping into stats though, as that’s a weak point for me right now.

And I’m getting very familiar with one of my personal/professional interests: computer/internet skills instruction. I had a job a few years ago where I got to do this and I found I really loved it, and the people I helped really appreciated me, sought me out, and talked to me about how their projects (which they were able to conduct with their newfound skills) were going. And this quarter (and probably for the rest of the academic year) I’m going to be volunteering with SPL on computer skills instruction. I’m really looking forward to it! Talking to people about what they want to do, and helping them become familiar with an environment in which they can achieve their goals…so great!

It was stuff like this that made me think I wanted to be a reference librarian: to save the world with individual assistance and skills instruction. Then I learned a little more about what reference is, and decided it wasn’t for me. I still really like things like instruction, tutoring, and consultation (though I could use more experience with this), just not in the reference package.

Totally unrelatedly: I’ve found that Pandora can be very predictive for some of my musical interests, as can Last.fm, particularly when I can’t express them in terms of a specific artist. However, my Daft Punk Pandora station, which I’ve seeded with Daft Punk and Justice, isn’t really producing much (though I’ve found a couple goodies on there). Same with Last.fm, except for the fact that I can’t seed a station with multiple artists (I think). What’s really strange is that recently, when I try out an artist-based station, it keeps feeding me Chromeo. And I don’t know how I feel about that (or them).

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Now playing on Last.fm: Justice Vs Simian – We Are Your Friends (Radio Edit)
via FoxyTunes