20 February 2009


The joke about how spam "used to be a luncheon meat" has definitely become passe. Partly because anyone not living under a rock knows that Spam still is a lunch meat, and also because the currently retiring are tech savvy enough to know the slang term for unsolicited email.

There was an interesting debate over the MLIS listserv at UWO over whether or not the listserv itself should be used as a forum for debate. The whole thing is summed up quite nicely by this fellow, who invited people to continue the debate over on his blog. It appears there haven't been any takers, but kudos to him for trying.

His argument is that information overload squelches intellectual freedom. I'm not sure that I agree. I think this particular incident was about location and intellectual freedom. Thinking of Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, these debates were also unsolicited and in a public forum. However, people had the option of bypassing Speaker's Corner entirely, or walking away from the debate when they tired of it.

When it comes to the MLIS listserv, the option to walk away is less available. These are emails that we are expected to read as MLIS students, and there are an awful lot of them. Really, our choice to avoid debate is taken away from us by virtue of the nature of the forum. Shouldn't intellectual freedom also include the freedom to not engage?

I exercised my right to not engage by closing (and eventually deleting) the email. Others protested for their right to not engage by responding. Oddly enough, before I had made the decision to delete the email, gmail interpreted the thread as being Spam and relegated it to the same fate as male enhancement tools and work from home scams.

I don't think intellectual freedom was in any way squelched here. The debate just took a different direction than the presence of Timmy Ho's on the lower floor.

12 February 2009

It are fact. I know it because of my learnings.

Having been plunged back into academia unexpectedly, I am finding it slightly difficult to adjust to a few of the quirks of intellectualism. In fact, I think I'm feeling ever so slightly anti-intellectual. Or am I?

I have this one class which is highly theoretical, and taught by a very nearly growed-up PhD (I don't mean that disrespectfully, only to say he is nearing completion of that honour). It is the class, he asserts, that is supposed to make us think - amongst the rest of our highly practical learnings. In this class we are supposed to give a lot of thought to very thoughtful things, and give definitions to things that defy definition. We're suppose to gain insight into the broader, and perhaps idealistic, scope of what the library is all about.

In other words, we are navel gazing. Which I get, being a champion navel gazer myself.

But this class I don't get. Yes, we get into some interesting quagmires about information ethics, plunge into the blurry gray areas spawned by intellectual freedom's conflict with societal norms, and run amok in the vast planes of definitions for information. And I can see the value in pitting my little grey cells against the dragons that in there be. However we seem to spend a lot of time getting to the dragon. And when we do, it seems that we never actually slay the dragon. And, while I don't neccessarily think that we always can slay the dragon, it seems that we also never acknowledge that we haven't slayed the dragon, or even explore ways of maybe tricking the dragon into having a snooze, or getting stuck in a cave.

Even if we could maybe talk about the dragon actually not being a dragon and being something else completely might help me out. But as it is we seem to spend more time arguing about the sword... or whether it is actually a sword... or what it might mean to be a sword and why not a crossbow or one of those spiky balls attached to a stick with a chain.

And the class is on a Monday. I've never gotten the hang of Mondays.

So this week, my challenge should I accept it is to write an essay for this class about whether or not we live in an information society by analyzing the arguments for and against. The thing is, these arguments don't seem to actually be for and against... they seem to be more about whether it is good or not (which maybe is for and against, only in a different way). So now, instead of arguing about the sword, they are arguing about whether the sword makes the dragon good or bad. Personally, I think if we keep this up, the dragon is just going to skewer us WITH the sword, and use its firey breath to cook us for dinner - happy to not only have something to eat, but also to be rid of the chatter.

So, I'm going to argue my case as I see it (that is, that both sides say that we do live in an information society, they just don't agree on how we arrived here, whether it is good or not, or what we should actually call it), and hope that the dragon is on my side.

But the whole exercise has made me realize how tethered I am to practicality. I like an intellectual exercise as long as I can eventually find a way to integrate it into my day-to-day and make it practical. So far, I'm not finding it in this class. And maybe I won't... or maybe the tether is just way longer than I'm accustomed to. Either way, I hope that I don't reach the end of it by April.

01 February 2009


Check out my new mug. Got it at this cute little art shop today. The artist has some really funky designs... they can be seen at her website: http://www.kettodesign.com