Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Censored libraries and non-existent blackmailers

HIV and information behaviour
Robinah's talk last month provided yet another reminder of how important information behaviour can be in helping people come to terms with terrible circumstances. 

In the discussion, as well as discussing positive aspects of information behaviour, she talked about more negative ones, which are rarely considered in models of information behaviour.  In particular, she referred to the concealment and destruction of information by HIV victims who have either still to come to terms with their circumstances, or who feel stigmatised by their condition .  These parallel other situations.  The denial experienced by many bereaved people may lead them to refuse or destroy information relating to a situation which they refuse to recognize.  Similarly, unemployed people, wishing to conceal their status, may hide documents relating to their welfare claims.

Some interesting points were raised in the course of the discussion.  One of those attending talked about her response to books dealing with alternative medicine.  Suppose, for example, she worked in a library containing books that claimed to control HIV by crystal healing.  She would not feel able to point them out to anyone who came in and asked for information about treatments of HIV.  Arguably therefore, she was hiding information.  Similarly, old books on HIV treatment could well be out of date and so should be destroyed.

Rival detectives
After Robinah's presentation, we enjoyed a lively discussion based on the G.K Chesterton story "The Absence of Mr Glass".  Two detectives who featured in the story: Dr Hood and Father Brown.  Both were confronted with a situation that appeared suspicious.  Dr Hood made several deductions based on theories he held, while, by contrast, Father Brown induced a theory specific to the circumstances.  The relative merits of the two approaches were explored.  Clearly the author's sympathies lay with Father Brown, but Liz C noted that he was guilty of not explaining the working that led to his conclusion.  However, it was noted that research is a creative act and sometimes it can be hard to make explicit the thinking that leads to a creation.

iSchool skill set
It is always a pleasure to gain new insights into the skills of colleagues within the department.  Mark Hall's explanation of the offside rule was impressive, but did not answer the question that gave rise to his explanation, which was - "Does the offside rule exist in subbuteo?"  The answer, it seems, is yes.

Future discussions
Two suggestions for future discussions include Second Life, and the nature of academic writing (does it have to be so dry?)

Hope to see you on 14 July.

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