ProQuest = NoQuest?

Reading Johnson’s “Information Infrastructure as Rhetoric” definitely made me reflect on my years in high school and past two years of college. Using databases like Jstor, ProQuest and Gale, I always felt technologically savvy and efficient. Being able to search by keywords, years of publication, specific journals–so much easier than the ways of the past: maneuvering through stacks trying to locate single sentences amongst billions of words of research. But in Johnson’s article, the suggestion that databases are antiquated had me taken aback for quite a while. It’s true that the mere size and extant complexity of databases often makes them seemingly impenetrable when it comes to research, however it confuses me that he claims they are in dire need of restructuring. I think the idea that he presented which appealed to me the most was the idea of “protocological hacking,” especially the example of having search technologies tailored to the users and not the creators. Often times I think one thing that websites/apps/”gardens” overlook is the ease of use for those who haven’t written the code or designed the interface. If tools could be tailored/fine-tuned or run by/modeled after those who were most apt to use them, wouldn’t that make the transition from invention to reality much more seamless?

Another thing that stood out to me this week was in Baron’s “From Pencils to Pixels,” when discussing the technology of writing. In another class I talked about the development of writing in this manner, and I remember me and my peers shocked to hear that writing was deemed unnatural, untrustworthy. When examined as a “cognitive revolution” writing definitely becomes congruous to things like the development of computers and the internet, or the development of wearable tech in recent years. It’s interesting that things can shift from being eccentric to accepted in a matter of time. It will be interesting to see the developments that are being made in wearable tech, especially with the recent disappearance of GoogleGlass from the market, and the proliferation of cardboard Virtual Reality glasses (especially touted by the New York Times)

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2 Responses to ProQuest = NoQuest?

  1. Nicole Martin says:

    Hi Gabriella,

    I found your post, particularly your discussion of databases, quite interesting as I, too, have long relied on resources such as JSTOR to research various topics. Not only do I find these online collections of articles more convenient than browsing through mountains of print journals, but I until reading Johnson’s article, I had naively assumed that the sheer volume of texts available through databases equated to a greater diversity of sources. This conception, however, was shaken by for me by the author’s assertion that database creators organize information based on how they believe that knowledge “should be organized” (2). It is my fear that in relying upon potentially outdated models of education, scholarly materials will be filtered through the white, hetero-patriarchal lens which has dominated university discourse for so long, thus hindering access to minority arguments and creating a dangerously biased research environment.

    For this reason, I really like your suggestion that developers reach out to users in pursuit of assistance in organizing their data, although I don’t know how practical that would be given the technical constraints of such as a task. But, I definitely believe that companies should consider assembling diverse data-organizing teams so that no view of knowledge is given preference. Additionally, I would add that Johnson’s suggestion that researchers of rhetoric go behind the scenes to understand the process of databases and the larger online infrastructures is crucial because it would enable an analysis of whether or not biased approaches are currently being employed in these areas.

  2. Makiah Belk says:

    The opening immediately grasped my attention. I had a similar experience, however upon reading regarding the antiquity of it, I realized something: with innovation there is an inevitable need to “let go” of outdated things. It’s funny to think about in terms of some psychological dependency disorder– but that seems to be just what it is on a very very small and shallow scale. The contrast of such deep appreciation for something (what you described as scholarly and superior to all else) with a general “thats in the past” disregard is something to be noted for sure.

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