I’ve always enjoyed the metaphor of a library as a garden. The librarian tends the garden by planting and weeding. In Texas, the CREW method (continuous review, evaluation and weeding) proposes an ongoing way to promote a healthy library which Ranganathan defined as a “living organism”.
The Internet may be viewed with a similar metaphor and may certainly be defined as a “living organism”. However, there is no weeding method for maintaining the health of the Internet and one might compare it to a tangled forest of overgrowth or a continually growing monstrosity. Rather than a garden, the web seems more like a garbage dump with treasure buried under mounds of rubbish. Of course, there are reliable databases and sites, such as the Internet Public Library, but how many people go beyond the first page of Google hits or beyond Youtube for how-to’s on just about anything? Close-enough is sufficient and convenience trumps quality, authority, and reliability. With thousands of images at our fingertips, who really cares where they came from (other than librarians and a scholars)?
My son and I once glimpsed something truly stunning outside the window of the parlor car on a train: a junkyard filled with cars, each with the hood up. The sun was shining at a angle that made the cars sparkle in many colors and we thought it looked like a garden. There is beauty everywhere- there are poems hidden under leaves and in my purse. Who am I to question where and how anyone finds what they seek? I suppose, a career in information science for over 20 years allows me just a bit of knowledge on the subject; yet I keep referring in my blog to the “toppling of the information hierarchy”. My professional role has been to help others find the best quality in information resources in any location or format (whether in a garden or a garbage dump?).
The Old and the New
As a thrift store shopper, I understand that the “old” can sometimes be the “new”. I have found lovely clothes and treasures hidden in thrift shops. Often the newer articles are cheaply constructed and not worth the cost. Instead of comparing the Internet to a garbage dump, perhaps a better metaphor is a giant thrift store full of treasures mingled with crazy crafts and user-generated gadgetry.
Currently, I am reading Hello Avatar: the Rise of the Networked Generation by Beth Coleman. The book discusses how we are witnessing the moment of crossover into pervasive media technologies (p. 41). Ubiquitous computing has arrived and we can choose to perceive the change as frightening (Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together) or investigate ways to adapt to the three C’s: communication, community, and collaboration (p.23).
A gardener can work alone among the flora and the weeds; but we need each other to uncover the buried treasure (physical, virtual, digital, and augmented) in the gigantic tangled cyberworld in which we now live.