A while ago I linked to Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation and asked â€œwhat is this? anyone know?â€ Mary Ghikas replied and said, â€œWhat you are linking to is a paper done by R. David Lankes and colleagues at Syracuse University for the American Library Associationâ€™s Office for Information Technology Policy on impact of participatory technologies on libraries â€” â€˜the library as conversation.â€™ Iâ€™d be interested in your feedback on the concepts discussed.â€ And then I went to a conference, graduated, and bought a house. Iâ€™m just now getting back around to looking at the siteâ€”and Iâ€™m glad I did! Iâ€™m about to email Mary, and Iâ€™m summarizing and commenting here, too.
First, there are three parts: the summary (for those who just want highlights), the paper (for those who want the details), and the area to discuss the paper (for those who are really interested in conversation). The three are in that order on the site. I know itâ€™s labeled that way, but I didnâ€™t really â€œgetâ€ what the site was doing until I looked at each section.
The whole idea focuses on conversation theoryâ€”a fascinating idea that I do not have a background in. This is strange to me, as it seems to touch on both social epistemology and communicationâ€”two of my main areas of interests. After I read the article, I checked out some of my favorite sources to find more about conversation theory. Not as much out there as Iâ€™d hoped, but still really interesting ground!
My favorite line on the site was â€œConversation Theory posits that individuals, organizations, and even societies build knowledge through conversation; specifically, by interacting and building commonly held agreementsâ€ (Executive Summary). The paper explains that â€œdifferent communities have different standards for conversations, from the scientific communityâ€™s rigorous formalisms to the religious communityâ€™s embedded meaning in scripture to the sometimes impenetrable dialect of teens. The point remains, however, that different actors establish meaning through determining common definitions and building upon shared conceptsâ€ (Page 6 PDF).
The argument that follows is that libraries strive to create an environment that is ideal for knowledge-creating conversation. This is by having an excellent collection, book clubs, lecture series, etc. The paper discusses the disconnect from our conversationally focused library-as-place and the one-way communication of most libraryâ€™s web presences. So true. The paper makes good arguments (that readers of this blog might find familiar) for libraries hosting blogs and wikis for their community and makes the case for changing the OPAC as finding aid-alone to another conversation location.
Overall the paper was a bit repetitive, but I liked the content so much that I didnâ€™t mind. It did a great job of creating a theoretical underpinning for why weâ€™re so interested in some of these Library 2.0 concepts. From my perspective the technologies part was a little old hat, but if you were trying to make the case for starting to use the technologies in a library thatâ€™s just beginning to experiment, I think it was appropriate.
Really, the entire site is a good one. I really recommend reading through it!