DATA DITA Everywhere Time to Stop and Think

 My Personal Learning Journey within the DITA DATA Conversation

Sink or swim? I am drowning in Library Information Science (LIS).

Questions about data, information about data, relevance and efficacy of data. Messy data, tidy data, historical data, personal data and much more in a constant loop of information that is melding with the other modules in a battle to make sense of it all within the context of LIS.  Now I am not sure how you process information but I do it via questioning. I may not always find the answers but we do all have to start somewhere. So:

What constitutes data?

Who is using our data?

Is it all relevant?

How do we store and retrieve data?

What are the ethical concerns?

Is there even such thing as information overload?

Did Paul Otelet have a quality of life outside of his collection and cataloguing obsession?

Will I ever reach a less than a basic understanding of Floridi’s philosophical themes and does it matter as long as I have advanced my understanding just a little?

Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) going to make me less relevant and what invisible algorithms are watching over me?

Via City LIS lectures, we are absorbing information at a rate of knots, but for me at least, the processing of it and making it relevant takes time. I to have those subconscious ‘eureka moments’ when things slot into place like a jigsaw puzzle and funnily enough, some are on the train, bus or simply out walking!  No moments of clarity and genius on the Einstein scale however.

My own homegrown computer, my brain, is waking up at night buzzing with ideas and concepts that it has been working on, processing if you will, whilst I sleep. I tend to have light bulb moments in the early hours and have to get up and explore them before I return to a state of slumber or lose them in a fog.  I also find myself arguing with my judgements whilst I sleep.  Now, if I was a computer I wouldn’t need to do that, as long as the power was on I could continue softly buzzing away and working on all of those questions.  Drawing upon all the accumulated stored information those personalised algorithmic patterns would have a spreadsheet of ideas or statistics ready in the morning. Genius!

For all its shortcomings in the processing and speed competition with a computer, the human brain is still astonishing. It has the ability to learn and make new pathways is astounding.  Here, I accept that an argument could be made that our brains also degenerate as we age but so does a computer as it needs to be maintained, debugged, upgraded or becomes obsolete as a newer model takes over. So I believe perhaps we break even there.

Every little step we take is relevant and needs to be celebrated, with wine if you wish, for me a coffee will do.  Learning is an incremental process building upon themes and if scaffolded well (Piaget’s theories) and environment willing, will engage with the brain and take us to actualization (Maslow).  Asking questions and making mistakes is a  necessary step not just for children but also for adults and understanding how we personally process information is every bit as valid as understanding how technology does.  For if we don’t understand ourselves how can we move past our preconceptions, impasses and ignorance?

I have gone from being previously blissfully oblivious or not engaged with some of the subject matter we discuss in our classes to intrigued, concerned, informed and inspired. All things that AI cannot yet emulate.  This learning journey that I am on is intellectually, culturally and socially relevant and becoming addictive. My internal dialogue is constantly coming up with questions although whether they are all pertinent is another matter, it is engaging in the conversation at least.

Here Comes the Learning Segment

In brief, or as brief as I can make it, is some of what we have learned to date: metadata is data about data. That data must be genuine, meaningful, and make sense. Well, that is clear enough. Yet under that metadata umbrella comes the variety of processes such as; user ability, learned information, knowledge of a variety of storage systems, cataloguing and retrieval all of which can be abundant and complicated (Bawden and Robinson. 2012).  For what use is data if we cannot find it?  Much like a misplaced book on a library shelf it is lost, there but not there.

Otelet believed that the catalogue was at the central core of a library and became overwhelmed with the massive task he had set himself (Wright. 2014). Just imagine what he could have done with the technology and Linked Data. Today, Linked Data has had a huge impact on how libraries manage their processes in an engaging way that captures users interests. Like a blood transfusion, it ensured library efficacy remained modern and relevant as, ‘Linked Data enables better experiences, future-proof library records management, preservation and serving by being in the heart of technologies’ (Petkova. 2017).

Libary information needs for storing and utilising data, both structured and unstructured will drive the requirement for newer systems operated by faster processing systems and software. These systems need to be programmed and coded correctly in-order for data retrieval to be efficient and relevant. Searches need to be concise and appropriate as does the metadata criteria. In addition, the cataloguing and retrieval knowledge of the information user is vital in the process and making sense of the jumble of cornucopia that can flow their way is a skillset in itself.

Yet more questions: Finding DATA. Is it all the data relevant? Have I found the most pertinent data? How will I know what I have missed? Answers: No. Maybe but probably not.  You won’t unless your search is boundless.

‘Information overload’ in an ‘information society’ is not considered to be a new phenomenon, simply the formats to access it, volume and speed have changed and increased over time (Bawden and Robinson 2012). Today, at a click of a button, we can see a plethora of options for our searches and receive an abundance of options.  We do however make a personal choice as to whether we allow ourselves to be overloaded or not so if you find yourself overwhelmed switch the power off for a while or tighten your search criteria.

Next questions, have we become lazy researchers and are we happy with just looking at the first few pages of the search results? I am probably guilty of this at times, are you? The abundance of information and the complexity of storage technologies will require constantly updated custodian knowledge. Sifting through pertinent data may perhaps be where many of us will find or have already found our niche.

AI  One major thing I have learned is that the constant evolution of AI is not as alarming as one might first perceive. Until the computer becomes a sentient being with traits such as empathy and learns the nuances of human problem-solving and interactions on its many levels, computers will remain an aid/tool within our lives and not replace us. Well according to Professor Richard Baldwin not in this century at least. His interview gives some interesting insights into the connections between AI and globalisation. It will, however, alter our work status or role.  We will need to upgrade and seek training and further education to diversify our skill set and remain relevant.

Social Issues  Our children are already undergoing the social upgrade in order to keep relevant to the world of the web, internet, complexities of technologies and informatics, or are they?  Taylor (2012) argues that more screen time will produce less technology savvy citizens that ‘knowing where to look has become more valid than knowing something‘ (2012).  Yet, that not having to retain so much information could lead to higher order thinking. Here we have an interesting juxtaposition of which is better? Would you rather your child knows information or knows where to find it? Moreover, if they don’t know something until they find it will they know how best to use what they have found?

Philosophy is embedded in much of what we learn and reading (not that I profess to understand it all) Luciano Floridi’s books has allowed me to engage with the topic from a different stance.  I have always asked questions, it is a process that gets my brain from A to B and philosophical debate allows me to do this.  One of the comments on my undergrad dissertation was that at times I delved into the realms of philosophy without backing it up. I was a little surprised at this as I have never studied or intentionally used it.  Lesson: Philosophy is within all of us and everywhere you only need to seek it out.  However, what merits does it have and what purpose does it serve? That is simple, isn’t it? Engagement with the subject in order to think upon it critically, to expand concepts and turn them on their head. As Poirot would say, ‘to engage the little grey cells’.

Before I close one last point. The connectivity between modules grows with each week. Like a tenacious spiders web, it captures us and draws us in and once caught you cannot escape it. There is constant overlap between theories, processes and concepts.  Nothing remains in the vacuums of the modules but they all bleed into each other much like paint on a wet canvas. 

Once again I thank you for your time.


Bawden, D and Robinson L (2012) Introduction to Information Studies. London: Facet Publishing.

Bowler, T. (2017) Will globalisation take away your job?. BBC News [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].

Petkova, T. (2017)  Linked Data for Libraries: Our New Librarians. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov. 2017].

Taylor, J. (2012) How Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus. Are your Children prepared to think and focus for success in 21st century Life? Psychology Today [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Nov. 2017].

Wright, A. (2014) Cataloging the World. Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



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