Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"The Library in the New Age" (Darnton)

Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library, has a piece in the June 12th issue of the New York Review of Books called "The Library in the New Age".

He writes: "Information is exploding so furiously around us and information technology is changing at such bewildering speed that we face a fundamental problem: How to orient ourselves in the new landscape? What, for example, will become of research libraries in the face of technological marvels such as Google?"

He reminds us, though, that, going back to the invention of writing ca. 4,000 BC, through innovations like the alphabet, the codex, movable type, and now the Internet, there's been the persistent illusion that knowledge can be captured in inert objects. The printed word, in particular, tends to exaggerate the authority of authors and publishers, and the accuracy of their knowledge claims.

Just as Wikipedia invites readers to question its own reliability, however, the new information paradigm is an opportunity "to rethink the notion of information itself. It should not be understood," Darnton argues, "as if it took the form of hard facts or nuggets of reality ready to be quarried out of newspapers, archives, and libraries, but rather as messages that are constantly being reshaped in the process of transmission. Instead of firmly fixed documents, we must deal with multiple, mutable texts. "

No comments:

Post a Comment