The Joyful Side of Translation

The New York Times • October 28, 2011

Ode to multilinguists. A good translation is a work of art—and David Bellos' new book, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, celebrates this complex skill that we all take for granted. Bellos reminds us how much we rely on translators to understand and appreciate the world around us.

An interesting essay that forces one to think about the range of difficulties and the art involved in translating. It was on my mind already because of a recent trip to Japan where I gave a conference presentation that was translated inter-linearly. It squeezes out all personality and entertainment value by demanding strict exposition and a straight narrative drive. Even then it's a marvel to watch the interpreters do their work. And apropos Japan I was happy to read the cover article in a recent NY Times magazine about one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami. There it's said that "When Murakami sat down to write his first novel, he struggled until he came up with an unorthodox solution: he wrote the book's opening in English, then translated it back into Japanese. This, he says, is how he found his voice. Murakami's longstanding translator, Jay Rubin, told me that a distinctive feature of Murakami's Japanese is that it often reads, in the original, as if it has been translated from English."
Oh, this Murakami book features a plot in which a library figures prominently because as the narrator explains, "On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library." And he does. ( Michalko)

On Lies, Infographics, and Unverified Numbers

ComMetrics • October 23, 2011

A picture is worth . . . Just as people tend to mindlessly parrot oversimplified "facts" (like the claim we use only 10% of our brains), they also are too easily seduced by a pretty picture. This article dissects several examples of misleading infographics and urges us to cast a more critical eye on visual representations of data. As data visualization tools become increasingly available to non-statisticians, information curation efforts must address the accuracy of graphic representations of data.

I have a weak spot for these kinds of critical deconstruction of visualized statistics and quantitative data. This is a good example. It's also true that clear presentation and representations of complex data are just hard to do. Take a look at this example. Made my head spin. ( Michalko)

Paul J.H. Schoemaker's "Brilliant Mistakes": Finding Opportunity in Failures

Knowledge @ Wharton • November 9, 2011

More lemons into lemonade. Paul Schoemaker's new book, Brilliant Mistakes, urges companies to make the most of their mistakes and identifies two ways to do that: 1) being open to learning from errors that can point to new opportunities; and 2) deliberately challenging conventional wisdom to jumpstart new thinking within the organization. Check out this interview for more advice on how to make good mistakes.

A short and engaging interview on the cleverly-named topic. I was interested to see that the Wharton School is running a contest in conjunction with the release of this book soliciting businesses for examples (in 300 words or less please) of "brilliant mistakes" which are nicely defined here using the inevitable business school quadrant analysis. ( Michalko)

Difference Engine: Luddite Legacy

The Economist • November 4, 2011

The future is now. Researchers predict that many of the jobs that disappeared during the Great Recession are never coming back and warn that white-collar knowledge jobs may be next, thanks to rapid increases in AI capabilities such as pattern recognition. Read what people are saying about the next wave of work disruption and how you may be able to provide services that computers can't.

Pretty depressing and seemingly inevitable. Certainly what we've experienced in libraries with the "deskilling" of reference work and collection building mirrors the patterns explored here. As interesting as the article is the comment string. Either the comments are heavily edited or The Economist readers are just a civilized, thoughtful bunch. ( Michalko)

The Internet, Peer-Reviewed

Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence • October 28, 2011

Reality check. If you haven't seen it yet, check out this description of the Open Annotation Collaboration's platform, which would enable collaborative evaluation of online information. The Internet is notorious for dishing up false or misleading information—perhaps this is one way to patrol it.

I would like this to happen. I don't know if it will but I got in there and reserved my username. Maybe you should as well. ( Michalko)

P.S. I've set up alerts so that when libraries are mentioned in various magazines and newspapers I'll get notified. I was excited to click on this mention and then I wasn't. ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, in a recent survey, what did ARL directors identify as the number one area that ARL should emphasize on behalf of its members?

Get the answer.