Monday, June 23, 2008

Information, News, Libraries

One day I found a squeal sheet that was so good —it combined rape and murder—that I went straight to the homicide squad instead of reporting first to the poker game. When I showed it to the lieutenant on duty, he looked at me in disgust: "Don't you see this, kid?" he said, pointing to a B in parentheses after the names of the victim and the suspect. Only then did I notice that every name was followed by a B or a W. I did not know that crimes involving black people did not qualify as news.


So the defeat at Brandywine turned into a case of miswritten and misread news—a media non-event whose meaning was determined by the process of its transmission, like the blogging about the convertible dome and the filtering of crime reports in Newark's police headquarters.
Robert Darnton, The Library in the New Age, musing on the stability of information, the lies we call news, and, very oddly and seemingly without an equal degree of provocative percipience, Google Book Search.

What new age? It seems to me the library as we know it (there is but one) arrived via the death of Alexander's cosmopolitic vision -- Alexandria as the site of the body and of the muses' hymn to its former inhabitant. Nothing about the digital network changes that in the slightest, despite the worries of bibliophiles and the economic wagers of JSTORians and other profiteers of scarcity.

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