Monday evening I had the honor of granting two people the authority to be addressed as Doctor. I have sat on 10 or so dissertation defense committees for the European Graduate School, and each one is fascinating and inspiring. Monday’s was no different. Congratulations to new PhDs Lorella Di Cintio and Micah White!
White’s dissertation particularly stayed with me. (Now) Dr. White, Senior Editor at Ad Busters Magazine, and one of the founders of the Occupy Wall Street movement, chose the topic of information distribution and the future of the library . Among his poignant observations was one in which he categorizes information into the types: the one that we search for (i.e. libraries, Google) and the kind that is pushed at us (Twitter, mobile) got my attention.
“Push and Pull” marketing strategies, “inbound” and “outbound” type buzzwords, etc., etc. whizzed through my head as he spoke, and I had flashbacks to the past week’s activities of research where I was swimming in the teen Twitter stream. This onslaught of fragmented information and real time expression becoming part of the record of humanity was something that I was trying not to dwell on all week long in the business world, but was now sitting right in front of me. Are we what we tweet? Is what we pick and choose to absorb in the info stream what shapes our understanding of culture?
It is no surprise in this ocean of information that aggregators, collectors, and curators are fast emerging right on trend, but in the face of “push information” what has happened to the librarian? I could no longer contain myself…
“Is this the death of the librarian?” I asked Micah. And right on cue, Prof. Dr. Fredrich Ulfers piped in referencing Roland Bathes’ Death of the Author. Eventually Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schirmacher brought out a dialog from Heidegger on searching. And so the conversation continued in good theoretical form, concluding somewhere nearer to cultural authenticity but with more questions than answers and with all of us hungry. We congratulated the new PhD and went to eat.