Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Internet Love (get your mind out of the gutter!)

I love the internets... I know this is trite, but I really don't know how people functioned before it. I am specifically thinking about how people did science (the whole social aspect of the internet is another issue altogether). Forget how much more difficult it was to create a document (paper, thesis, dissertation) without word processing... I can't imagine trying to do research and find articles without academic search sites like ISI, Science Citation Index, PubMed, or GeoRef. I know that most universities have large paper journal collections for this reason, and that things took longer. Maybe people actually got more out of the articles they looked up because if you took the time to actually go find an article you might do more than just read the abstract, look at the figures, and maybe skim the conclusions. I wonder (and this is something that would be easy to look up... in all my free time) if papers published pre-internet, or even pre- lots of stuff on the internet, had fewer citations. I wonder if there were fewer papers published. If there were fewer papers published I wonder if the average quality was the same, or if all the e-resources have increased, or decreased the average quality of papers. How one would assess average quality of papers, I have no idea. I do wonder about how many new journals have been put out in the last 5, 10, 15 years as compared to the 15 years before that. Clearly, it is too early in the morning for completely comprehensible thought (I had to drop someone off at the airport at 5am), but maybe this January when things are quieter I will look up some of these things.

Thoughts... predictions.. more interesting questions?

Oh, I completely forgot to mention what spurred this: Yesterday I was able to google-chat with a friend who is currently in Antarctica doing research on glacial movements and change over time. She (as I understand it) pours bright red dye into cracks in glaciers and her colleagues, positioned in boats in various bays along the coast, wait to see if they see the dye come out. Sometimes nothing happens and they feel like they have waisted time and resources, but other times they learn incredibly cool stuff about the way water moves through large glaciers (rates, volumes, speeds, distances), which is very difficult to measure any other way. I think this trip is actually taking ice cores, but they may be doing multiple things. Anyhow, the fact that I was able to chat with her while she is in Antarctica doing all this full on burley fieldwork really struck me as amazing which started the "i heart internetz" train of thought.


  1. So we (yes, the royal we of information grad students) actually spend a lot of time thinking about things like publishing in the digital age. I find it fascinating too. Like how the word "browsing" has changed meaning over time. I can recommend a few scholars if you really want to geek out about it.