Monday, November 05, 2012

Searching questions

When I started out in academic lresearch I learned about two important things: one was how to locate information and the other was how to keep my references. The first was, for the most part, achieved by cruising round the library stacks, finding where what interested me was to be found, and the second involved writing down the relevant details of what I'd read on index cards and stowing them away more or less in alphabetical order. I used journals a lot, but nearly always relied on the journals the University of Nottingham subscribed to. Inter-library loans were slow and cumbersome, and often involved a lot of form-filling and repeated trips to the library building. Rapidly, almost imperceptibly, that's all gone and most things are just a click away. For me the real decisions now are about whether stuff is worth printing out or not. And my greatest friend is Google Scholar, but often, and perhaps for more general things JFGI (ordinary googling) is the approach. And in all this my whole approach to information has actually radically re-organised without me having to spare it a thought. It's all so convenient, so quick. Yet, despite this - you might think bad/ mindless victim of technology - my general feeling is very positive. There are downsides to Google culture (some of them simply because it's Google, and hence corporate) but mostly I think its down to us to adapt, and to apply our critical faculties. As should be pretty clear to us, we've all been googled, and ‘we are all the Google generation, the young and the old, the professor and the student and the teacher and the child’(Rowlands, Nicholas et al 2008: 308). So good old Pew - despite all its well-rehearsed methodological shortcomings it regularly tells us what we already know, with authority. The scare headlines are now research=googling. But please, less of the hand-wringing. Look it up? Yeah, JFGI, we all do it: and maybe there's the solution to the problem - thinking about how expert-users or maybe simply ordinary users manage to avoid getting duped. The world keeps on turning, we're OK. That's the sort of apprenticeship needed by the young.

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