Sunday, January 13, 2008

A mall of information

I was watching Adaptation again last night (what a film!) and wanted to know the name of an actor who played a certain role. So I went to imdb, typed in the title and found out without ever having to leave the room.

Earlier, I wanted to find the lyrics to a somewhat obscure musical by Jules Feiffer I'd seen at a university cabaret, did a quick search, and sure enough there they were.

It wasn't so long ago that we had to rely on our memories or 'look something up' in a book or at the library.

Now, we have a virtual 'mall of information' available at our fingertips anytime we're online. Certainly there are gaps and we still have to research, process and analyse the results. But it still amazes me that we have so much 'all under one roof'.

3 comments:

Judy Gombita said...

I've been a user/fan of the Internet Movie Database for years (maybe even since its launch year), citing information from it (plot descriptions, forum comments) several times, on blogs or in correspondence. Now, of course, as a film buff (and Adaptation fan) I want to know which actor you looked up on imdb!

I've also copied and pasted (modified a wee bit) much of the comment I left on a Melcrum blog post back in the spring ("Avoiding the pitfalls of social networking"), about how the Internet has freed up our research time so that we can (or at least should) devote more time to *analysis*:

"This past Friday my association sponsored a symposium for accounting academics from across Ontario (an experiential-learning "Knowledge Cafe"), with the objective of determining the most effective ways to teach competency-based accounting and financial studies (plus related curriculum) at the undergraduate level, now and in the future.

In his introductory segment the facilitator, Dr. Nick Bontis, made two important points that I think might be relevant for the launch of The Communicators' Network.

1. The nature of education is changing dramatically in terms of the percentage of time spent on search (i.e., research) and critical analysis/synthesis. Whereas students used to spend disproportionate amounts of time in the library, looking up books, making use of "reference-only" materials or waiting for items to come back from other students, now almost everything is available within a few minutes via search engines and fast/inexpensive document orders. Whereas search used to take up something like 65 to 75 per cent of a student's time, now it is in the area of five to 10 per cent. What this means is that the time that is freed up can be devoted to the ANALYSIS of the materials, as well as the synthesis of original and critical thoughts and ideas. If you are moving the already "search-friendly" platform towards being a ready-made depository of useful and targeted materials, I think this could prove to be a tremendous resource for communicators and related disciplines of all stripes. (I think the senior practitioners will also appreciate the "peer-review" aspect.) Anything that will save us time, yet produce relevant and applicable materials, should be heartily welcomed by all.

2. The other point that Nick brought up...is that the unilingual Anglophones in the various disciplines are missing out on all kinds of tremendous documents and research published in other languages. [What would be ideal would be for web platforms] to build in a basic translator tool (or widget). Alternatively, for registrants whose first language is something other than English, to translate their own (or their peers') documents into a second langauge.

(The related story told by Nick Bontis is that he presented what he thought was a bleeding-edge paper on knowledge management--his specialty--at a conference in South Africa. Afterwards, a German colleague asked if they could have coffee and chat. The German pulled out an abstract he had written 15 years prior on the same topic. When requested, he translated it. Nick indicated that the scholar's thoughts of 15 years ago were more advanced than the paper he had just presented as being ground-breaking.)

Cheers,
Judy Gombita

Martin Waxman said...

Thanks for your perspective Judy.

The actor is Cara Seymour, who played Charlie's almost girlfriend: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0786806/

(Sorry, I don't know how to place a hyperlink in comments.)

James said...

I've been thinking about this for a while and I wonder how this may be changing our brain chemistry. Kids growing up may not have to actually "remember" anything and I wonder if that might not be a good thing.

By the way, I thought the actress you were referring to from Adaptation was Judy Greer? I guess she's another of Charlie's "almost" girlfriends!

p.s. started reading your blog after Talk is Cheap.