The words “community” and “informatics”

March 26, 2008 § 2 Comments

My last post about not being fan of the term “community informatics” created quite a hullabaloo in the blogosphere. That is, if you believe, as I do, that one innocuous comment makes a hullabaloo (I did get another comment with advice on how to make my lady happy… I found it insightful, but off-topic).

Basically, it has to do with my daughter. She’s three and she’s known to consort with people who aren’t there… Imaginary friends, they’re called. Yes, it was weird at first, but apparently it’s perfectly normal. The relevant bit here is that, despite the fact that they are imaginary, my daughter has given these friends rather unimaginative names: Nice Guy, Bad Guy, Best Friend, New Friend, and Nobody. You pretty much know what to expect from this crew. Bad guy will always take your last M&M, Nice Guy will give you his, Best Friend will bite hers in half and share it with you, and you can always take Nobody’s last M&M without much fuss. With names like these, the imaginary play is a bit easier when dad is asked to interact with them.

But my rather simple-minded point is simply that I don’t know what to expect from the words “community” and “informatics.” Would a toddler named Informatics (would that be Mattie or Max?) wanna take my last M&M or share one with me?

Informatics is a cool-sounding word. The library tribute album, whenever that comes out, is pretty much guaranteed to have a song by a band called The Informatics. Or maybe use the Russian term, drop the “the” and call the band, Informatika. Something kinda geek-prog, maybe a cross between They Might Be Giants and Rush. Song titles might include “Library Science (Not Constantinople)” or “New World Informatician.” Wow, I think I’m digressing…

The library school at the university where I work was, until quite recently, called a School of Informatics. I liked it, it was unique and drew your attention. But it’s also a word that needs explaining and as Wikipedia tells me, it’s a word that is commonly misunderstood. It has different meanings in different countries.

And these days, the word “community” has gotten watered down. It has become synonymous with social network. There are communities of all sorts and a lot of them have nothing to do local, place-based communities: ABBA fans, knitters, librarians, new moms, furries, whatever. People don’t have to look locally for community, especially on the Internet.  So, my issue is that community is not necessarily interchangeable with local.

Well, basically I’ve spent my lunch time trying to say that I find the words community and informatics a little vague. Could have saved us all some time and just written that, I guess.  And for some reason, now I’m craving M&M’s…

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§ 2 Responses to The words “community” and “informatics”

  • Mike says:

    Mike here again – author of the last hullabaloo. I see where you’re coming from. And while I do value things local, I’m not sure that whatever is represented by the term “community informatics” should be restricted to things local. I think it’s fine and well to develop those ideas in other communities of practice…

  • m says:

    LOVED your story about the imaginary characters with archetypal names…don’t know if you are familiar with the Dramatica theory of film characters…?? They have the idea that there is a thing called the Storymind in your head, made up of all points of view that one could take on any given problem. The subjective character (the self-analogue) is trying to solve a problem, but all the other characters are variously opposing, helping, hindering, advising, etc…Sounds like Storymind is proved true with your daughter’s imaginary friends.

    I came upon your blog through the wordpress randomizer and I love it – now bookmarked, thanks!

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