- Aug 2016
Borgman on the importance of scale in information retrieval. It's an interesting question for the humanities not only does large-scale introduce new methods for example just reading it also makes traditional methods more difficult EG challenges close reading. It is not enough to say (as color and others do) that they don't like distant reading. They also need to say how they propose doing the reading in a million book environment.
data and information have always been both input and output of research. What is new is the scale of the data and information involved. Information management is notoriously subject to problems of scale [bibliography removed]. Retrieval methods designed for small databases declined rapidly ineffectiveness as collections grow in size. For example a typical searcher is willing to browse a set of matches consisting of one percent of a database of 1000 documents (10 documents), maybe willing to browse a 1% set of 10,000 documents (100), rarely is willing to browse 1% of 100,000 documents (1000), and almost never would browse 1% of 1 million or 10 million documents.
Borgman discusses a couple of things that are useful for me. The first is how students discover what they miss from the library after they graduate and no longer have access to journals.
The second is that this passage supplies some evidence for the claim that things that are not online no longer exist as far as such behavior is concerned.
There's some bibliography at the end of the passage covering both of these points in the print book.
Scholars seem to be even more dependent on library services for access to scholarly publications than in the past. Personal subscriptions to journals have declined substantially. Faculty and students have been known to panic when unable to access online library services, whether due to system failures or incorrect authentication settings. Students' dependence on these services becomes especially apparent when they graduate and no longer have access. Librarians learned early in the days of online catalogs that people rely on online sources, even if those sources are incomplete. Older material accessible only via the card catalog was quickly "widowed," which was a primary motivation for libraries to complete the retrospective conversion of card catalogs to digital form. The same phenomenon occurred with online access to journals. The more access that libraries provide, the greater the depth of coverage that users expect. The use of printed indexes in libraries has dropped to near zero, although printed finding aids remain popular in archives.