For the last few weeks, i’ve been trying to appreciate the information retrieval material that is being thrown my way in my classes. For those who don’t know, i’m housed in a department called “Information Management and Systems” (i.e. what happened to librarian sciences as it evolved).
I’m utterly fascinated by how people construct and maintain information, most notably *social* information. What categories do we create to relate to others? How do we construct models of social information in our heads? How do we access this?
Needless to say, this isn’t the focus of my classes, but i’m trying to overlay my goals onto the material and find some sort of appreciation for them. [My efforts remind me of my experiences with history classes in middle school. I despised history because i couldn’t make it relevant. At one point, a friend of mine told me to twist my perspective, to think of history as one giant storybook with fascinating characters. He suggested that i tried to figure out the motives and goals of the characters. Although my school focused on dates and memorization, i latched on to the material simply because i fell in love with the storybook.]
All the same, i’m finding myself utterly frustrated. All of the information retrieval work focuses on this external data, how to categorize it, create meta-data around it, access it, etc. In the process, it gets further and further removed from the structures of the mind. The goal is efficiency and the approach is often to create systems that seem most computationally logical and than to figure out how to make humans be able to access it. While these researchers acknowledge that people need to have immense skills to follow this protocol, their approaches still seem so foreign to me.
Of course, i find myself trapped to this as well. I had to critique SecureId the other day for a fellow researcher. This was a wonderful task because i’m a bit embarrassed by my naivety on that project. People are dreadful external categorizers. But, i just keep getting stuck on how bad people are at externalizing what they do so effectively internally that i cannot appreciate these attempts to do so. I need to figure out the proper “story” so that i can find this material interesting instead of just getting caught up in my irritation at their attempts.