Wednesday, July 04, 2007

From the stack of magazines beside my desk

There is a hole in the city since you’ve been gone – John Doe

I have been reading some interesting stuff.

The June/July 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind has some articles that could apply to librarians:

“The Science of Team Success” by Steve W. Jo Kozlowski and Daniel R. Ilgen sums up recent research on work teams. Reading it, I wanted to work in a library organized according to its insights. I have never felt comfortable with the idea that people should be hired because they fit in—fit in to what I always thought. I did have a problem with the idea of strong ties among co-workers. I am nervous about my co-workers being included in my private life (I need a lot of privacy), but that may say more that I have been in many work situations not supportive of my interests and goals. Or maybe I am not a team player.

Something for us to be aware as we librarians promote cyber-services is Kyle Lewis’s discovery: [he] “found that the development of a team’s ability to access distributed knowledge required face-to-face interaction. In groups that communicated exclusively by phone or e-mail, this skill did not emerge—an observation of increasing importance, given the rise of teams that operate remotely and coordinate sometimes only through computer interactions. …”

“Getting Good Advice” by Yvonne Raley is about how to evaluate experts. Since we librarians are supposed to evaluate resources without subject expertise and a lot of legal reasoning requires evaluating, this article is intriguing. It didn’t offer much that was new, but it was fun to see our concerns in a major publication.

Evaluating experts leads into questions of authority. Narration relies on expectations. With all the law reviews of constructing legal narratives, we librarians should be ready to challenge those assertions. “Dog Bites Dog Story” in Steve Mirsky’s Anti Gravity column in the July Scientific American should be read by those of us who like to quote Sergeant Friday, “Just the facts.” Mirsky describes two types of sciences: experimental (chemistry) and then the historical and observational sciences like journalism and crime scene investigation. I thought of legal research because the attorney like “ a reporter gathers facts and then constructs one or more possible narratives to explain those facts. Alternative narratives then fight it out, and the most parsimonious wins. Sometimes.”

Those evidence chains need to be questioned.

Another great article is “Insights: Data Protection: A little Privacy, Please.” Latanya Sweeney is a computer scientist we need to follow. She runs the Data Privacy Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon. Privacy, the sense of a self with rights, is important to our legal system. Because of it, we don’t sacrifice women in cenotes, and we hold wrong-doers accountable.

In my experience with Filipino and Latino in-laws, privacy does not exist in a clan based culture. In such cultures, grievances are mediated, which usually means that the weakest person has to publicly accept the apology of the stronger. There is no real restitution or change, just a public performance that fulfills protocol. This was brought out again in a recent incident reported in the New York Times(Pakistani Papers Are Snatched, And Their Publishers Warned, June 10, 2007.)

The article closed with the publisher Mr. Faroogi saying, “'I am from a tribal society and I don't want to live in a tribal society here, too,'' he said. ''I don't want to hug each other and resolve the problem like that. I want to go to court.”

Mr. Faroogi is a brave man and he points out a strength of the US, its legal system. The Law Library Journal “Legal Information as Social Capital” applies here. It is a wonderful article. Its theme needs to be brought into our daily practice.

The August issue of “Seed” has an article by Jonah Lehree on “The Living City.” Cities run under their own scientific laws! “They are free from the constraints of ordinary living things and are instead subject to an entirely new set of requirements.” “As life grows, it develops enormous economics of scale.” Cities are the reason behind innovation: face time (like the finding that teams don’t work well electronically) the exchange of ideas creates more ideas.

Libraries can be a part of that.

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