Category Archives: Technology

Bias Bound?

Photo 3

So, I was constructing a child’s bishop dress over the weekend and became introspective (as you do).

As a librarian, I teach people how to evaluate content for its credibility, which often translates into the author not showing bias or opinion. While some professors do allow non-objective sources in their assignments (as long as the point of view is noted), most want their students to rely on peer-review articles that have no bias, or slant.

One of the last things you do on a bishop is apply the neckband. This is made from a strip of fabric cut on the bias, on the diagonal of the fabric’s weave. Because the threads cross on an “x” instead of a “+”, it has flexibility and elasticity.

In sewing, knowing if your fabric is on-grain or on-bias is essential to creating something beautiful, lasting, and functional. A grainline marking can be found on every commercially-produced pattern piece.

Given that fabric can be distorted by pulling on the bias, I can understand perhaps why this word was chosen to denote personal opinion that might sway or influence a writer toward a certain conclusion.

The thing is, bias is as beneficial to sewing as on-grain. It allows binding to curve around necklines and armholes. It creates gorgeous evening gowns that flow around the body.

The dress that started this all, if not a curvy evening gown…

Look inside the collar of your favorite button-down shirt. Odds are good that one side of that neckband is on-grain, while the other is on bias. That gorgeous pointed collar stands up and curves around your neck because of the bias side. The grain side keeps it in-form and undistorted. In women’s trousers (and many men’s), you’ll find the same thing on your waistband. Bias has flexibility; grain has strength. By laying them against each other, you can have the benefits of each without weakness.

Which brings me back to research and information literacy. It’s so easy to default to the idea that opinion, or bias, is bad, objective is good. That’s only showing half the picture. We rarely talk about the value of opinion and that it can also be credible, if you evaluate the source just like a journal author.

I don’t know how to go about this. In the end, we help patrons (students, in my case) fulfill their information needs, often outlined by a professor.

But are we truly making them information literate, or just teaching a bias against opinion?

In over my head

There’s this idea that’s been percolating for a few months, and I might finally have real way to create it. I want to take identifiers from the item page a patron is viewing and pass that information into the chat screen when the patron clicks on a new chat session. Big Brother, you ask? Perhaps, but it would cut down on a lot of mistakes when chasing down citations.

Here’s the catch: I have almost no experience coding whatsoever. I can read it (kind of), paste it into boxes, and compliment its pretty blue eyes. But create it? Yeah, right.

Enter the Link Resolver. We’re implementing a new link resolver, and our electronic resources librarian asked about adding our new chat button to the screen. No problem, Springshare has this magical machine that generates JavaScript code to my heart’s content. And what would be better than if that first message a librarian sees is the bibliographic data included in the link resolver’s URL? By nature, there’s plenty of information there – title, journal, doi, etc. I just (JUST) have to figure out how to parse it into key:value pairs that the script can interpret and display.

Once it works for this, it can be adapted for WorldCat, EDS, pretty much any database, I’d imagine. Especially with the Schema.org standards, as Karen Coombs recently advised me.

 

message: “???”

 

Can you help?

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Yes, I got an iPad for my birthday. The new one. And it is awesome. Not only did I use it as a remote for Netflix last night, but I just used the Webex app to attend an EBSCO conference call. Seamless.

Now, before anyone starts thinking anything too snarky, I do have an Android phone, which I love. I use Google everything, privacy policies notwithstanding. And I did try an Android tablet. The ergonomics and user interface were simply too frustrating.

I am quite looking forward to opportunities to use this device in other ways in my workplace, whether it is in library instruction or testing out a model of roaming reference services. Or just checking out how our mobile website looks and functions. Conferences, especially, are going to be much happier.

The only thing left is to name my little friend, to truly make it part of my Apple electronic family.

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