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Efficiency vs. Meaning

Efficiency doesn’t equal meaning. That’s the essence of Nick Carr’s comments on Google. I tend to agree. Knowing involves work – and while search is certainly part of the work, the result doesn’t yield knowing other than at the most basic level.

"It’s not what you know," writes Google’s Marissa Mayer, "it’s what you can find out." That’s as succinct a statement of Google’s intellectual ethic as I’ve come across. Forget "I think, therefore I am." It’s now "I search, therefore I am." It’s better to have access to knowledge than to have knowledge. "The Internet empowers," writes Mayer, with a clumsiness of expression that bespeaks formulaic thought, "better decision-making and a more efficient use of time."

…It’s not what you can find out, Frost and James and Poirier told us; it’s what you know. Truth is self-created through labor, through the hard, inefficient, unscripted work of the mind, through the indirection of dream and reverie. What matters is what cannot be rendered as code. Google can give you everything but meaning.

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Great Reads & Feeds

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Great Reads & Feeds

  • Is this really the death of journalism or just plagiarism?
  • Random acts of traction… hugh nails it… “I put stuff out there- cartoons, prints, a book, a blog post, whatever. Some of it flies, some of it goes nowhere… Eight years of pretty successful blogging later, and I STILL have no way of predicting what will work, and what will fail.”
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  • Malcom Gladwell’s new book… The Outliers: “Outliers is at once Gladwell’s least and most ambitious book. Unlike The Tipping Point and Blink, which took their counterintuitiveness to extremes, the conventional wisdom Gladwell seeks to demolish in Outliers isn’t even really CW anymore. Is there anyone who still believes that “success is exclusively a matter of individual merit,” which is how Gladwell describes his straw man? And yet, as Gladwell examines all the things other than individual merit—the “hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies”—that produce hockey stars and software billionaires and math geniuses, he builds a brief for a massive reorganization of social structures and institutions that will give people who don’t have those advantages and opportunities and legacies an equal shot at success.” Preorder on Amazon.
  • The Internet vs. books: Peaceful coexistence…
  • Dean Kaman’s next thing…
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the Internet makes us superficial

Definitely plan to write more on this… Nick points to A recent edition of Science featured a worrying paper by University of Chicago sociologist James A. Evans titled Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship.

Seeking to learn more about how research is conducted online, Evans scoured a database of 34 million articles from science journals. He discovered a paradox: as journals begin publishing online, making it easier for researchers to find and search their contents, research tends to become more superficial.

Evans summarizes his findings in a new post on the Britannica Blog:

[My study] showed that as more journals and articles came online, the actual number of them cited in research decreased, and those that were cited tended to be of more recent vintage. This proved true for virtually all fields of science … Moreover, the easy online availability of sources has channeled researcher attention from the periphery to the core—to the most high-status journals. In short, searching online is more efficient, and hyperlinks quickly put researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but they may also accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas grappled with by scholars.

If part of the Carr thesis [in "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"] is that we are lazier online, and if efficiency is laziness (more results for less energy expended), then in professional science and scholarship, researchers yearn to be lazy…they want to produce more for less.

Ironically, my research suggests that one of the chief values of print library research is its poor indexing. Poor indexing—indexing by titles and authors, primarily within journals—likely had the unintended consequence of actually helping the integration of science and scholarship. By drawing researchers into a wider array of articles, print browsing and perusal may have facilitated broader comparisons and scholarship.

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