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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Sunday, February 26, 2006

    Does re-use = reduce?

    Since yesterday's posting on Library 2.0, with its implicit message that re-combining, re-packaging, and re-presenting (the mash up) are a Good Thing, I have read an interesting entry on Tom Wilson's Information Research weblog on eText and the need to reduce it to the lowest common denominator when it is reused - thus removing much of its value. The author, Garth Buchholz, asks, "Are we making content re-cyclable — or disposable?" -
    One of the most practical yet ultimately counter-productive trends is toward the re-use of content, which usually means structuring eText content so that each chunk of data in it and each aspect of it can be extracted from its original form and redeployed in another context using dynamic publishing. This reductionist approach essentially treats the code of language as simply a quantifiable mass of data that can be carved up without losing any intrinsic value...
    This is something that I have not seen discussed within the great Library 2.0 debates. Certainly, in most cases that I have seen so far the 'mash up' does not involve much eText - possibly an abstract or a bibliographic record - so perhaps there is not much chance of loss of layered forms of content: code (formal language), object (visual and spatial aspects), and design (fonts, styles, colours).
    I don't think that the kind of re-use envisioned in Library 2.0 applications will necessarily mean any loss of the subtleties of meaning inherent in the original - but I do think this is something that Library 2.0 evangelists need to think about. Automatic or programatic re-use of data should take account of the original intent.

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