Literature/1977/Wilson

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Wilson, Patrick (1977). Public Knowledge, Private Ignorance: Toward a Library and Information Policy. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Excerpts[edit]

  • The public stock of knowledge is not simply the sum of what is known by the separate individuals in the world; it is at once more and less than that. It is less, simply because much of what individuals know has not been and never will be, made public. It is more, because much of what is known may be known to no one at all. A discovery made a hundred years ago, and preserved in the published records of inquiry, may still be a part of what is known about the world, even though no one now alive has ever examined the records in which it is preserved. (pp. 3-4)
  • If I am provided with a complete library, then, I am provided with a collection of documents, most of which are incomprehensible, hence of no benefit to me at all. The portions of the collection that are accessible in all senses and both relevant and usable have to be found and converted into usable inputs to my decision problem by a process that is, in varying degrees, time- and effort-consuming. (p. 91)
  • We can in theory make the whole world's supply of documents available on easy terms: only technical difficulties and lack of money, not theoretical difficulties, prevent us from doing so. But we do not make knowledge available simply by making available documents in which knowledge is represented. It is safe to predict flatly that even the instant availability of every document in the world to everyone would not significantly alter the quality of decisions in a librarian's ideal, but not an ideal with much attraction for anyone else. No more is universal bibliographic access, if that is understood in the sense of an ability to discover everything ever published that fits some topical description .... Librarians, like other enthusiastic purveyors of merchandise, like to think of the good it would do if everyone sought their wares, but they think only of the benefits (which they see obscurely), and not of the costs. They imagine, not the process of acquisition of knowledge, but the condition of its possession; they imagine what it would be like to have, not to acquire, the knowledge they think they have to offer... It is not the difficulty of access, but the time, effort, and difficulty of using documents that are the major deterrents to library use. (pp. 121-123)
  • As a specialist in bibliography, the librarian has two jobs: to assist in the discovery of documents of potential use, and to facilitate physical access to such documents . . . . The librarian's first and most important job is the preliminary one of creating and maintaining collections and arrangements for access to documents in other collections, and for providing means of bibliographical access to materials wherever located. Next in importance is bibliographical assistance to library users, from general instruction to highly specialized individual assistance. In neither the preliminary work nor the work of direct assistance to library users, and in neither the discovery nor the delivery aspect of the work can libraries claim to have reached the limits of their effectiveness. The direction in which improvement lies is not in doubt; it is that of easing the burden of discovery and of physical access to documents.

Reviews[edit]

  • Traue, James Edward (1991). Committed to Print: Selected Essays in Praise of the Common Culture of the Book. Victoria University Press. [^]
    Knowledge, in Wilson's formulation, consists of private knowledge and public knowledge. At any one time a great deal of knowledge is private, an individual's knowledge which is unrecorded, unavailable, private, never revealed. Public knowledge consists of recorded knowledge and other knowledge held by individuals which is publicly available though not necessarily recorded. The detailed knowledge of a doctor or lawyer built up over many years of experience is public knowledge available for a fee; it is similar to the knowledge that a land agent has about property which is available to his or her clients. more...

Keywords[edit]

Adapted from Common terms and phrases
ability action advice American Library Association analysis answer basis bibliographical access body of knowledge claim Communication complete library concern costly ignorance decide decision problem decision situation degree deliberation discover distribution of knowledge documentary research documentary sources evaluation expected field functional individual information gathering information service information supply information-gathering behavior inquiry interest J. D. Bernal John Ziman judgment knowl known lack librarian library reference service library service literature mass media Michael Polanyi occupational structure organization outcomes particular PATRICK WILSON pattern personal information system profes professional public knowledge Public Library recognize reference relevant reorganization representation of public Robert Oppenheimer satisfactory Science seek Seymour Martin Lipset simply social sort sources of information specialists stock of knowledge studious survey surveyor things understand Univ utility World Brain

Wikimedia[edit]

Social dimension of knowledge
Personal dimension of knowledge

Comments[edit]

public knowledge public ignorance
private knowledge private ignorance
  • The author's argument around public knowledge and private ignorance, centering around the tall library as a center for published knowledge may be too fundamental, traditional, commonsensical, and partial to be really exciting or thought-provoking. Then the public need to know here what he critically ignores, misses or mistakes.
  • Needed indeed in this regard is an argument for information policy against problematic private knowledge and public ignorance, e.g., obscurantism, conspiracy, for-profit publication, peer review, censorship, etc., especially regardless of the social responsibility of scientists. [2]
  • Such a policy has been invisible but highly effective in fact since the late 1970s, as may be symbolized by the Internet Protocol Suite, as may have culminated in the dramatic emergence of the Pirate Party, WikiLeaks, and Twitter in 2006, in three decades.

See also[edit]

Public knowledge
in and for society
  • Wilson, Patrick (1977). Public Knowledge, Private Ignorance: Toward a Library and Information Policy. Greenwood Publishing Group. [^]
  • Belkin, Nicholas J. & Stephen E. Robertson (1976). "Information Science and the Phenomenon of Information," Journal of the American Society for Information Science (Jul-Aug 1976) 27 (4): 197-204. [^]
  • Wersig, G. & U. Neveling (1975). "The Phenomena of Interest to Information Science." The Information Scientist. 9 (4): 127-140. [^]
  • Collins, H. M. (1974). "The TEA Set: Tacit Knowledge and Scientific Networks." Science Study, 4 (2):165-186. [^]
  • Merton, Robert K. (1973). The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. University of Chicago Press. [^]
  • Shera, Jesse (1972). The Foundations of Education for Librarianship. New York: Becker and Hayes. [^]
  • Shera, Jesse (1970). Sociological Foundations of Librarianship. New York: Asia Pub. House. [^] [1]
  • Garfield, Eugene (1964). "Science Citation Indexing -- A New Dimension in Indexing." Science 144 (3619): 649-654. [^]
  • Kessler, M. M. (1963), "Bibliographic Coupling between Scientific Papers." American Documentation, 14 (1): 10-25. [^]
  • Kuhn, Thomas (1962), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press. [^]
  • Garfield, Eugene (1955). "Citation Indexes for Science: A New Dimension in Documentation through Association of Ideas." Science, 122(3159): 108-111. [^]
  • Bernal, J. D. (1939). The Social Function of Science. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. [^]
  • Wells, H. G. (1938). World Brain. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co. [^]
Private knowledge
varying from user to user

Comments[edit]


Notes[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Perhaps the first use of the phrase "social epistemology" appears in the writings of a library scientist, Jesse Shera, who in turn credits his associate Margaret Egan. "[S]ocial epistemology," says Shera, "is the study of knowledge in society.... The focus of this discipline should be upon the production, flow, integration, and consumption of all forms of communicated thought throughout the entire social fabric" (1970: 86). Shera was particularly interested in the affinity between social epistemology and librarianship. He did not, however, construct a conception of social epistemology with very definite philosophical or social-scientific contours. What might such contours be? -- Social Epistemology @ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. See also w: Talk:Information science#Eurekas since 1975.
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Gradient-optical-illusion.svg
The shade of the bar looks invariant in isolation but variant in context, in (favor of) sharp contrast with the color gradient background, hence an innate illusion we have to reasonably interpret and overcome as well as the mirage. Such variance appearing seasonably from context to context may not only be the case with our vision but worldview in general in practice indeed, whether a priori or a posteriori. Perhaps no worldview from nowhere, without any point of view or prejudice at all!

Ogden & Richards (1923) said, "All experience ... is either enjoyed or interpreted ... or both, and very little of it escapes some degree of interpretation."

H. G. Wells (1938) said, "The human individual is born now to live in a society for which his fundamental instincts are altogether inadequate."