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Above the Fold

A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

February 22, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 7
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


Easy = True  (External site)

The Boston Globe   •  January 31, 2010

Truthiness explained. The human brain is wired to prefer things that are easy to pronounce, printed in easy-to-read typeface or are familiar in some way. The concept—"cognitive fluency"—can be used to design more appealing Web sites and marketing materials. As journalist Drake Bennett notes, "The human brain, for all its power, is suspicious of difficulty, but perhaps we can learn to use that."

Familiarity does not breed contempt. It breeds preference according to this article. I found the idea that cognitive fluency explains the experience of déjà vu comforting. I haven't really been there nor done that. I've just processed sufficiently similar circumstances before. ( Michalko)


Changing History  (External site)

The Boston Globe   •  February 7, 2010

Re-viewing the past. Historians are using the environment, neurology, marine studies and a blend of archeology and other sciences to gain new insight into past events. "The past is a whole, it's a three-dimensional object that we're looking at from different windows, and you can see different facets depending on what window you're looking from," says Harvard historian and avid archeoscientist Michael McCormick.

This is a comfortable fly-over of some new vantage points being brought to bear on our examinations and understanding of the past. I particularly enjoyed the neurohistorical observation that "in 17th- and 18th-century Europe, all sorts of behaviors—from theater-going to novel-reading to political revolution—were described as addictions and disorders of the brain." Perhaps all the discussions we are now having about networked, computer-assisted experiences is merely another cycle in the ongoing evolution of the brain based on the cultural inputs received. ( Michalko)


Contextualizing the Copyright Debate: Reward vs. Creativity  (External site)

Ars Technica   •  February 8, 2010

Copy wrong? This debate over the founders' intentions behind copyright law illustrates the chasm between popular perception and legal and historical foundations.

The brief original blog posts to which this article refers are worth scanning. But the real revealed nugget is the link to Thomas Macaulay's speech delivered to the House of Commons in 1841. I'm sure this is well-known to students of copyright (of whom there seem these days to be many) but I had never read it. Worth it: "The question of copyright, Sir, like most questions of civil prudence, is neither black nor white, but grey. The system of copyright has great advantages and great disadvantages; and it is our business to ascertain what these are, and then to make an arrangement under which the advantages may be as far as possible secured, and the disadvantages as far as possible excluded." ( Michalko)


The Problem with the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom Hierarchy  (External site)

Harvard Business Publishing   •  February 2, 2010

Bah! Humbug! David Weinberger says you can't filter your way to wisdom, as suggested in the pyramid scheme proposed by Russell Ackoff in 1989. Although raw data can be distilled to reveal useable information, that's a far cry from creating knowledge, much less wisdom.

He's right. Talk about having the word "knowledge" hijacked—the European Committee for Standardization's official "Guide to Good Practice in Knowledge Management" has an official definition. It's in CWA 14924-1. ( Michalko)


The Fascinating World of Forgotten Information  (External site)

American Society of News Editors     

Data Central. The number of municipal and state Web sites is expanding and there's a lot of useful information out there, if you're willing to poke around a bit. Fortunately, ASNE has provided a shortcut with this overview of public record resources.

This is an exceptional piece of work done by the Society. It's an attempt to survey newspaper Web sites and see how they use public records data. They discovered that there are an enormous number of databases accessible via newspaper Web sites not just public records. Many of them offering a variety of processed searching. You get critical and trivial information as well as lots of useful stuff. I've bookmarked my local newspaper Web site. Never know when I'll need to update how many millionaires are within our office zip code or shark attacks in California or dogs named Abby in San Jose. ( Michalko)


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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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