18.369 Google Scholar, scholars and googles

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2004 09:37:05 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 369.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Norman Hinton <hinton_at_springnet1.com> (11)
         Subject: Re: 18.366 Google Scholar; Innovate-Live Portal

   [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (33)
         Subject: scholars and googles

         Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2004 09:11:48 +0000
         From: Norman Hinton <hinton_at_springnet1.com>
         Subject: Re: 18.366 Google Scholar; Innovate-Live Portal

Here's part of a note Janice Bogstad wrote on Mediev-L, the Medieval
History List, about "Google Scholar" --

"Just so people don't get the wrong idea,
I suggest that they try some of their favorite
searches on this service. It's not very accurate
and not at all comprehensive. Clunky search
engine too.

Please don't advertise it to colleagues or students
as a legitimate research tool. We've only done
spot-checks at our library and found many
cases of under- or mis-reporting."

         Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2004 09:31:18 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: scholars and googles

Some time ago, Terry Winograd had the following to say about Google:

"What surprised me, which Google was part of, is that superficial search
techniques over large bodies of stuff could get you what you wanted. I grew
up in the AI tradition, where you have a complete conceptual model, and the
information retrieval tradition, where you have complex vectors of key
terms and Boolean queries. The idea that you can index billions of pages
and look for a word and get what you want is quite a trick. To put it in
more abstract terms, it's the power of using simple techniques over very
large numbers versus doing carefully constructed systematic analysis."
("Convergence, ambient technology, and success in innovation: Talking with
Terry Winograd", Ubiquity 3.23, 23-9 July 2002.

To my mind, the emergence of Google Scholar raises the question of why we
need such things, or at least why scholars need to pay these developments
so much attention. Where the attention should really be, I think, is on
teaching students and colleagues how to find things online with Google, A9
etc., and how to go about discovering what sort of knowledge any given Web
page has to offer. In my experience students (who have, unless they are
older ones, grown up surfing the Web) often cannot find what is easily
discovered and haven't much of a clue how to figure out what each page has
to say to them. Is part of the problem that we are still thinking in terms
of the authoritative source rather than in terms of sampling and sifting?

Winograd refers to getting "what you want". I'm remembering the old piece
of wisdom about being careful about what you want, since you may just get
it. I'm thinking that our wanting may need an imaginative overhaul.



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Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
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Received on Sat Nov 20 2004 - 04:46:27 EST

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