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Oct. 9th, 2005 @ 02:10 pm so-shall kon-struk-shun (deconstructed)

I.Grad school meditations continued
a. 20 years of grad school
b. My options
II.Affective behavior folded into the cognitive model of information seeking
a. Carol Kuhlthau
b. Transposing the model to graduate school and classes in general
III.The term paper
a. Assignment and original thoughts
b. The challenge, the doubts
IV.Grad school mediations resolved?
a. Why I made the choice I did
b. Why I am still filled with doubt.

I.Grad school meditations, continued – this is the continuation of a discussion with Lilia earlier this semester, but which I’ve been having with myself since the late 80s.

a. 20 years of grad school – In the mid-80s I was a chef in San Francisco who had two problems: dissatisfaction with my career path and feet that hurt like hell. In the first case I realized that I’d gotten about as far as I was going to get as a chef for some time, and that although I might make many job moves in the upcoming decades they’d all be lateral. Although I enjoyed what I was doing I couldn’t see myself doing essentially the same thing in 20, even 30 years. A change was in order.

b. I chose history because I liked reading about the past. I chose labor history because I worked for a living and belonged to a union. I chose Binghamton because a famous labor historian whose work I’d enjoyed was a professor there. I didn’t like BU because it was too intensely political, though I learned a lot and of course met my wife there. I’d do it again if only for meeting Molly – but that’s a different story. The coursework went well but I got interested in technology and lost my way in the dissertation and never finished it. I’ll always feel bad about that; I let down Mel, Molly, and of course myself.

Years pass I finally give up on the dissertation then wonder what next? I work in academics where one’s degree is sometimes more important that one’s competence (oh the stories I could tell . . . ) but what was I interested in? Did I want an Ed D in whatever I could get the degree in? I could do it easily enough and nearly did until I realized that I wasn’t excited about the degree. That was my problem with the dissertation, so why put myself through that again? Suddenly during a re-reading of Stephenson’s Crytonomicon it occurred to me I was interested in information – it all came together: searching, metadata, digitalization – it was all part of a whole that could be expressed through information science. So I began to look at library school. The question at this point was: MLIS or PhD? I’ll come back to this below.

II. All of the information seeking studies we’ve read this semester have deprecated systems -centered models in favor of those that put the user at the center of the process. How users fit into the process is the point of contention, with each succeeding school of thought arguing against the “tradition” that preceded it. This week Carol Kuhlthau doesn’t sniff at the cognitive model as much as suggesting that we layer affective behavior onto it, that is, considering a user’s feelings as being important as his/her intellectual understanding.

Kuhlthau, Carol. (1991). Inside the Search Process: Information Seeking from the User’s Perspective. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42:5, 361-271.

This is the part that I’ve found missing in the models we’ve read so far, though I was never able to articulate it. It fits in beautifully with the stuff Molly is doing with emotions in her work as a women’s studies historian. (One of the other readings was a brave attempt to rehabilitate the long-discredited Foucauldian claptrap that doesn’t deserve even the space I’ve already accorded it).

Kuhlthau’s analysis is predicated on the empirical observation of five different studies. She posits six stages of emotional development in the information seeking process, shortly explicated below.

The six stages include 1) initiation, when person first becomes aware of an information need; 2) selection, when one selects a general topic; 3) exploration, “characterized by feelings of confusion, uncertainty, and doubt which frequently increase (during this period). 366; 4) formulation, the turning point at which one begins to feel that progress is being made; 5) collection, when the user is at the center of the learning groove; and 6) presentation, when one feels good that the process has gone well, or bad if it has not.
One of the great beauties of this model is that it transposes to any number of different processes. Including but certainly not limited to a) graduate school and b) any given course in graduate school.

a) deciding to enroll in graduate school
b) deciding to enroll in a course

a) selecting a program
b) enrolling in the class

a) learning the basics of the discipline
b) learning the basics of the course

a) deciding on a sub-specialty
b) deciding on a final project

a) doing the course-work
b) researching the final project

a) thesis/dissertation
b) final project

III. Which brings me to the term paper. The question, broadly stated, is to find a group one wants to serve and explicate it’s information seeking behavior. Being married to an historian my first thought was to find what it was historians wanted from the information seeking process, and I proposed a number of of sources:

Buchanan, George, & Ann Blandford, Jonathan Rimmer, Clair Warwick. (n.d.). Usability Challenges in Digital Libraries for the Humanities. Retrieved 10.05.2005, from http://www.dlese.org/cms/qdl/jcdl05/04_buchanan/document_view.

Cullen, Charles T. (2000). Authentication of Digital Objects: Lessons from a Historian's Research. Council on Library and Information Resources. Retrieved 10.05.2005, from http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub92/cullen.html

Jantz, Ronald, & Michael Giarlo. (2005). Digital Preservation: Architecture and Technology for Trusted Digital Repositories. D-Lib Magazine 11:6. Retrieved 10.05.2005, from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/june05/jantz/06jantz.html

Meghini, Carlo, & Thomas Risse. (2005). BRICKS: A Digital Library Management System for Cultural Heritage. ERCIM News No. 61. Retrieved 10.05.2005, from http://www.ercim.org/publication/Ercim_News/enw61/meghini.html.

Seely, Bruce. (1995). Libraries, Printing, and Infrastructure: A Historian’s Perspective. Association of Research Libraries, Proceedings of the 126th Annual Meeting. Retrieved 10.05.2005, from http://www.arl.org/arl/proceedings/126/seeley2.html.

Unsworth, John. Supporting Digital Scholarship. (1999). Retrieved 10.05.2005, from http://www.dlese.org/cms/qdl/jcdl05/04_buchanan/document_view.

Which the professor initially rejected as being too systems-oriented. I took from that that I should be looking at information-science theory first. Molly of course rolled her eyes and said something to the effect of “that’s what’s wrong with all academics; people want to talk to each other and not to the subjects of the inquiry.” She suggested that historians were frustrated with librarians because sometimes librarians seem more interested in their own theories that what it is historians need. It is worth noting that when I re-presented both Cullen and Seely in the context of the “historian’s eye view” the professor semi-relented, urging me to keep my options open.

So where does that leave me with the paper? I’ll use the template provided by the Week 12 readings in Information and the Humanities to re-cast my sources, but in the meantime see Kuhlthau’s third stage – uncertainty, confusion, constipation, yada yada.

IV.Grad school meditations resolved?

a. Speaking of confusion, where does that leave me with grad school? So I decided on Information Science – that isn’t enough. The next question is: which degree, MLIS or PhD? Or both? After some initial research I decided that while the PhD might be the ultimate goal there were advantages to the MLIS:

1.I’d learn the groundwork – searching, cataloging, etc, that would be essential for a PhD. One would not do a history PhD until s/he had the theoretical and content grounding provided by the MA, for example.

2.The content work looked interesting enough (human information behavior? Bring it on!)

3.Even if I didn’t get the PhD the MLIS is considered “terminal.”

b. This is all sound reasoning. No huhu. Right? Well, I’m beginning to wonder. First off they’re not even planning on offering metadata to the distance “digital library” students. What’s that all about? Why not just not offer MARC to anyone?! Second, does the MLIS really lay the groundwork to the PhD, or are they different animals? Is one designed for public and school librarians and the other for academics? And third, haven’t I already been through the MA rigmarole once? Discipline-to-discipline the MA involves coming to grips with many of the same intellectual issues, and if my ultimate goal is the PhD do I really need to jump through these hoops again?

There is no answer here. Much of the reasoning in IV a. still seems sound to me, so I don’t anticipate any changes right off. But re-cast in the context of Kuhlthau’s six stages I can be comforted that my intellectual and emotional processes are not isolated, but can be seen as part of a natural progression.
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punts, oxford