Catching up on my reading, I found this post by Jonah Bossewitch: Pick a Corpus, Any Corpus and was particularly struck by his clear articulation of the growing information gulf between organizations and individuals.
I have since been thinking about the contrast between our localised knowledge organization systems and the semantic super-trawlers of the information oceans that are only affordable – let alone accessible – to the megawealthy. It is hard not to see this as a huge disempowerment of ordinary people, swamping the democratizing promise of the web as a connector of individuals. The theme has also cropped up in KIDMM discussions about the fragmentation of the information professions. The problem goes far beyond the familiar digital divide, beyond just keeping our personal data safe, to how we can render such meta-industrial scale technologies open for ordinary people to use. Perhaps we need public data mines to replace public libraries? It seems particularly bad timing that our public institutions – our libraries and universities – are under political and financial attack just at the point when we need them to be at the technological (and expensive) cutting edge.
We rely on scientists and experts to advise us on how to use, store and transport potentially hazardous but generally useful chemicals, radioactive substances, even weapons, and information professionals need to step up to the challenges of handling our new potentially hazardous data and data analysis tools and systems. I am reassured that there are smart people like Jonah rising to the call, but we all need to engage with the issues.