It was Record Store Day on Saturday and I did my part to support record stores. This year, thanks to my friend Dave C., I was flipping through bins of records at BJ’s Records and Nostalgia up in Barrie. This activity brings back many happy memories of my once annual pilgrimage to Sam the Record Man every Boxing Day. I absolutely love the physical process of search and discovery, finding a new or unknown album that sparks an inspiration to try looking down a new path.
I like vinyl records too and not just because of the perceived quality of sound. I’m from that generation: I love the artefact. For me it’s much more satisfying to find myself in the middle of all of those records each with its own musical potential. There’s a great line from a book called, ‘Hunting and Gathering on the Information Savanna‘, where the authors refer to the “tactile delight of dealing with card drawers.” (p. 7)
This is a reference to searching in library card catalogues but it’s true that, along with all of its faults, the card catalogue also provided library users with a reasonable representation of the information space and their place within it. This passage from the same book sums it up nicely:
“Fairly rigid categories and constrained assumptions about seeking behavior … arose over the centuries of modern librarianship both from world views of the dominant players and the constraints of physical documents. Within this environment, until recently, library users have operated within a physical environment hospitable to their hunter-gatherer heritage. They walked through stacks, they pulled drawers from cabinets, they knew; I am in the C’s now and the W’s are over there.” (p. -138) [original emphasis]
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately especially in relation to how we will navigate within a linked data environment. An environment where it will be so easy to traverse the billions of triples presented in a three dimensional linked data graph in any direction our hearts desire. We will no longer have a “physical connection with or sense of the size or arrangement of the document space.”
Maybe we don’t need that physical connection. All I know is I’m much more comfortable browsing through a stack of records than trying to find music in a collection of MP3’s. I also like to stroll through the stacks in libraries and book stores browsing and pulling down books to look for inspiration. But, as I said, I am from that generation. The physical side of things may not be as important to the so-called “digital native” generation. I do think about it though.