Re: Commentary on Eco: "Authors andAuthority"

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_PRINCETON.EDU>
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 13:07:58 -0500

Stevan, as expected, has explained our differences more clearly than I
I note, though:

Stevan Harnad wrote:
> On Wed, 13 Mar 2002, David Goodman wrote:
> Here might be a new question: There is a problem finding and identifying
> the authoritative scientific and scholarly research on the web today
> (mainly because there is too little of it up there, and what there is
> is not clearly tagged as such). Will adding the full 20,000, reliably
> tagged as such, solve this problem, or will there still be a residual
> problem because of the web's overall signal/noise ratio? I'm inclined
> to think the former, but perhaps David thinks otherwise (and perhaps he
> is right).

I think it depends on the field. In much of the physical sciences, the
noise level is already very low. In biology it depends upon how esoteric
the subject is -- there are plenty of examples to demonstrate either
position. In medicine it's high--so high that the web is not a useful
search tool now and might still not be after the reform. In the social
sciences ...

> > ... I think the markers of what
> > is worth reading, by whom and at what time, are more subtle than you
> > realize. I and other librarians (and teachers know them), and can teach
> > them by example, but can't really formalize rules.
> This is something that should be clarified immediately: Inasmuch as the
> "filtration/authority" problem of Umberto Eco and others is in reality
> the reference-librarian problem -- i.e., the same problem that would be
> and was faced in navigating the terrestrial library literature on paper
> -- of course it is a problem (the same problem as before, scaled up to
> an entire planet of users, and based on a good deal more noise and -- so
> far -- a lot less signal). But it is not the problem of authority, and
> only the problem of filtering inasmuch as we are ready to call the
> traditional contribution of the reference librarian "filtering."

Yes, I do call the "traditional contribution of the reference librarian
'filtering.'" And it is applicable to a very wide range of
problems--both in academic work and in ordinary life. The main problem
facing my profession
is that we now have the technical capability in principle to make this
contribution available generally where needed, and merely have to figure
out how to do so; technologically, socially, and financially.

David Goodman
Research Librarian and
Biological Science Bibliographer
Princeton University Library
Princeton, NJ 08544-0001
phone: 609-258-7785
fax: 609-258-2627
Received on Thu Mar 14 2002 - 18:52:43 GMT

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