“The map is not the territory.”
That phrase is probably the best-known quote of Alfred Korzybski, the famous Polish-American semantic scholar. He was making the seemingly obvious point that the words we use to describe something are not the thing itself. Nor does a description change the thing itself. Why does this matter? Well, the more layers of abstraction we put between ourselves and actual things, the harder it becomes to relate them back to the “nonverbal domain” as he called it. We can fall down a rabbit hole of concepts and constructs that, while interesting, may not be, well…useful.
That’s why, as we’ve spread the word about our “Digital Visitors and Residents” work, I’ve been gratified to see librarians and institutions look at our tools not as clever metaphors or abstractions. Instead, they are using them in a variety of ways to make real, valuable changes in how they interact with their library users and potential users at the point-of-need.
In short, as long as you look up from the map often to take in your surroundings, it can function as a useful guide rather than