Friday, September 30, 2005

Well I suppose I'd better explain the title.

Short story: .... no, I really like long stories better.

Long story: I've just begun the new school year. I'm in a master's program to get my master's in Library and Information Science. This is something I've been working toward for years. Perhaps I'll share that background another time.
The first day of class was yesterday - an eight-hour class, if you can believe that. Actually, with a few breaks thrown in, it was more like 5 1/2 hours. I thought it would be unbelievably intense and overwhelming but the professors kept it moving along and it felt, at times, fun and relaxing.

Anyway, back to the story. We had a couple readings for class, "Information as Thing," and "What are Documents?" Both articles tried to define information and documents. A simple thing you would think, but not so. One part really stood out to me:

A French documentalist defined "document" as "any concrete or symbolic indication, preserved or recorded, for reconstructing or for proving a phenomenon, whether physical or mental." ("Tout indice concret ou symbolique, conserve ou enregistre, aux fins de representer ou de prouver un phenomene ou physique ou intellectual" (Briet, 1951, p.7)). On this view objects are not ordinarily documents but become so if they are processed for informational purposes. A wild antelope woulod not be a document, but a captured specimen of a newly discovered species that was being studied, described, and exhibited in a zoo would not only have become a document, but "the catalogued antelope is a primary document and other documents are secondary and derived. ("L'antilope cataloguee est un document initial et les autres documents sont seconds ou derives." (Briet, 1951, p.8)).
An antelope a document!? You have to be kidding me! This is about as crazy as it gets. Are these people sitting around in their offices too much, not getting out into the real world? Who knows. But it was definitely eye-catching.

During class we were split up into groups and asked to draw on a large piece of paper a representation of The Lifecycle of Information. This, by the way, is the title of our class. Thank goodness, my group started talking about the antelope right away. But we also got bogged down a bit, as did other groups, in 'just what is information?"

I'll describe what we drew, but hopefully I'll be able to put a picture in here eventually so it will make more sense.

To represent the process we drew three intersecting circles. "Things" moved around on these lines, infinitely. For instance, an antelope. So we drew an antelope in the middle of our circles. Around the outside we drew these weird squiggly blobs that represented brains with eyes. These represented perceivers/receivers. At each intersecting line we drew a large dot. These were information points. We were trying to show that 'things' traveled along and at certain points they became information.
Something can be informational for a time and then not be. Perhaps I can say the mug sitting on my desk is information. It says the words "Saint Alban's Episcopal Church," so I know where it came from. But if breaks tomorrow and I throw it in the trash, it isn't information anymore. But if someone excavates a dumb 100 years from now and pieces together the mug, it will be information to them.

I think. I've only had one class so far and it was a bit overwhelming. Perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about.

Anway, as the professor was going around getting groups to explain their posters, she came to ours and said, 'And here we have an atomic antelope." And then I had a name for my new blog!

This blog will probably just be musings for the next two years on this whole grad school thing. I'm sure you'll all be bored to tears to read it, but if it helps me process a bit - then it's worth it.

Until next time...