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Christina's LIS Rant
Sunday, May 17, 2009
  Comps readings this week
Don't have time what with working at the public library this afternoon to do another test essay so I'm re-reading some additional pieces. Some of these came up as things I needed to check on when I was doing the last two mini essays.


Tracy, K., & Naughton, J. (1994). The identity work of questioning in intellectual discussion. Communication Monographs, 61(4), 281-302.
I like this article - as one who went through several Navy boards and even before that was conscious of what questions meant in physics class (being afraid of being seen as "not even wrong") - I can really identify with it. The authors looked at a series of colloquia - they taped them over the course of 18 months - as well as interviews with participants. The participants wanted to appear knowledgeable but reasonably so. They knew that speakers couldn't know everything. Question askers formulated the questions to show if they thought it was reasonable that the recipient of the question know the information being asked. It's interesting that the questioners in these cases do a lot of repairs and modifications to their questions to make it ok for the recipient to not know the answer - this is completely the opposite of Navy situations in which questions are phrased to build up the questioner and tear down the recipient.

Besides knowledgeability, there's novelty - the presenters have to link to previous research but show that their work is new. Reminds me a of a group in Neal Stephenson's Anathem, the Laurites (spelling might be off because I heard this as an audiobook). Their whole purpose was to point out connections to older work - they were really well-read and steeped in older research, so for any "new" idea they would say, "sounds like... ". (sometimes I wish we had a group like that I could join!). The participants in this study were much less gentle on the novelty front than they were in the knowledge front. The third part was about intellectual sophistication somehow this doesn't seem as obvious to me.


Clark, H. H., & Brennan, S. E. (1993). Grounding in communication. In R. M. Baecker (Ed.), Readings in groupware and computer-supported cooperative work: Assisting human-human collaboration (pp. 222-233). San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
(I forgot the name of this in my last test essay so time for a review!) There are copies of this online if you search in google by the authors' names.
Common ground is sharing mutual beliefs, knowledge, and assumptions - it's a necessity if communication is going to take place. This article starts by reviewing how people get to common ground (grounding) by looking at "adjacency pairs" of presentations and responses. One person says something, another provides evidence that he or she understands or doesn't. People try for least collaborative effort - but due to time pressure, errors, ignorance (not knowing your conversation partner), they have to do a little fixing of their own and their partner's "utterances." Then there's the whole deal about making sure you're referring to the same thing.

So that's all fine, but the reason this was assigned in my doctoral seminar was the second half - how this changes with the medium. Some of the techniques to get to common ground may not exist in some media, and even if they do, they may require more effort. They mention 8 constraints: copresence, visibility, audibility, cotemporality, simultaneity, sequentiality, reviewability, and revisability. (huh, I got these from reviewing Jenny's book, forgot about them being here). There are all kinds of grounding costs: formulation costs, production costs, reception costs, understanding costs, start-up costs, delay costs, asynchrony costs, speaker change costs, display costs, fault costs, and repair costs. People trade off costs based on their purpose.

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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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