This blog is mostly professional, but may have some personal notes in it as well, as it affects my professional activities.

Its namesake stems from my PhD research into regional identities in the late eighteenth century in what is now southern Bavaria.

I blog about issues related to information literacy, access to library resources, the environment, and the Historical Geography of Rupertsland.

Some sources regarding his life and work.

Fischer, H. (1988) ‘Schön und vortrefflich’: die ‘Charte von Schwaben’: Ein kartengeschichtlich bedeutsames Werk zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts, in: Beiträge zur Landeskunde: Regelmässige Beilage zum Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Juni 1988, 3:1–8.

Fischer, H. (1988) Die ‘Charte von Schwaben’ im Massstab 1:86,400: Erläuterungen, in the series: Reproduktionen alter Karten, Stuttgart.

Fischer, H. (1993) Die ‘Charte von Schwaben’ 1:86,400, Cartographica Helvetica 7 (1993) 1–10.Gradmann, J.J. (1802) Das gelehrte Schwaben: oder Lexicon der jetzt lebenden schwäbischen Schriftsteller, Ravensburg.

Günther, Siegmund (1922) Eine Kartierung Oberschwabens um die Wende des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, Sitzungsberichte der mathematisch-physikalischen Klasse der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München, Jahrgang 1921 315–330, 317n.

Wolfart, P. (2008) Mapping the Early Modern State: the Work of Ignaz Ambros Amman, 1782–1812, Journal of Historical Geography, 34(1):1-23.

"Ignaz Ambros von Amman" in Wikipedia [short entry but cites Wolfart (2008).]

Indigenous Studies Portal News

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

discovery services

Been trying to get my head around these, and articulate why intuitively they make me very uncomfortable.

I think it is down to two reasons:

1) they think they are clever; they attempt to generate search results based on a variety of data, not just what the searcher may have entered into the search box, including such unhelpful things as a user profile, and what you were searching for the last time. At one level it is unnerving as hell; at another its like holding a conversation with somebody who keeps finishing your sentences, but long before they could possibly know what you're going to say. It is a flaw based on the assumption that you couldn't possibly be researching two completely different topics. Consider that during the week, I'm researching the native role in the French Indian wars, and on the weekend I'm shopping for a used car. So in both cases I may search for Pontiac, and will get gibberish in both cases.

2) Pedagogically, they're asking for trouble. In the tradition of google, they will give answers. In the tradition of google, there is no way of knowing if they are useful answers. Moreover, if for example I'm researching a particular topic as a geographer, I expect my results, the articles I find on the Industrial Revolution, to use a geographical approach, and discuss in some detail the Geography of that event. These are important nuances that a first year student might not get, but a prof could / should challenge the students on. They should have been looking through the geographical literature, a known subset of the whole of global knowledge that the discovery layer would give them. This is actually likely to make the work more difficult than it needs to be for the student at this stage. Like google, it seems to me that such searches should be carried out as a last resort, but with the false ease that they offer, almost certainly they will be used a first resort, produce some results that the researcher can live with, and preclude the more in depth and specialised searching we should encourage at the University level.

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