[Humanist] 26.678 evils of convenience (& problems of volume)

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Jan 14 10:20:18 CET 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 678.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2013 09:07:48 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the evils of convenience

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, has warned in 
today's Financial Times, "Beware the Google convenience store: PhD 
students are limiting their analytical abilities", that online resources 
are seducing researchers away from primary sources. He cites,

> the findings of a study last year which reveal that today’s
> generation of doctoral students are working in a research environment
> increasingly dominated by online journal articles and other published
> research materials, rather than primary resources such as newspapers,
> data sets, archives and manuscripts.

This is damaging their analytical abilities, he says.

See (prepare yourself)
for more.

Mr Keating overlooks the fact that the meaning of the term "primary 
sources" varies rather significantly by discipline, indeed that for some 
disciplines the primary/secondary distinction doesn't work terribly well 
if at all. But more important, more widely affective if less obvious in 
its immediacy, I would think, is the superabundance of these (secondary) 
sources. When, given how easy it is to find worthy things to read, and 
how easily one's interests can spread into several disciplines, do you 
call a halt to the collection of materials to be read? More importantly, 
does this situation of superabundance signal a new way of thinking about 
being well informed?


Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Humanities and Communication Arts,
University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
(www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

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