Weekly Response #1, Alana Mohamed

I was struck by David Levy’s investigation into the intricacies of the catalog in “Cataloging in the Digital Order.”  It’s my first semester and SLIS and I had heard the catalog mentioned several times before, but never quite understood what it was.  Levy’s description of cataloging as “a highly skilled interpretative activity by which the properties of items are not simply described, but stabilized and even created,” seemed to point to what we were discussing in last week’s class.  It is our job as librarians or information specialists to seek out resources for the patron by examining the different uses of material.  That certainly doesn’t seem like something a computer can do at this point.  Even with all our technology, search engines seem based primarily on text and keywords.  To find information on the web, there still must be a human tagging online resources with relevant keywords, and there must be a human on the other end trying various search terms to get the best possible material for their research.

I was very interested in Levy’s ideas of search engines and “personal hotlists” (which I am equating, maybe falsely, to things like twitter feeds now).  Within that frame Levy questions what information will be shared and what won’t.  It reminded me of Zeynep Tufecki’s article “What happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” in which she discusses why #ferguson was present on some social media sites and not others and the political implications of these sites algorithmic filtration systems.  It seems to reinforce Levy’s belief that computers can’t quite yet fill the role of the cataloger.


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