Thursday, February 5, 2009

Internet research versus the good old book

I have mixed feelings about using internet research and by doing so, replacing what I consider to be "proper" book research. Perhaps I am mired in the past to some extent, but it still doesn't feel like I've done very much work if all I have to do is a perfunctory Google search to pull up the information I need. I have the same attitude with my students, sadly for them. "Proper" research involves going to libraries and looking things up, even if you do need a computer to look most things up even in a library these days.

I don't want to lose the desire or ability to crack open a book and do research. To me, that's at least half the joy of reading, is being able to read a book. Books are extraordinary, and their magic is lost by doing work online. That doesn't mean that there isn't the same level of wisdom to be found online, because entire books exist in online resources such as the Archimedes Palimpsest, Encyclopedia Mythica, and Perseus Digital Library, as well as many, many others, which have been carefully and diligently composed by librarians and researchers across the world. 

Yet the desire I have to hold a book in my hands and know, kinesthetically, that I am touching knowledge, is important to me.  My online Oxford American dictionary tells me 'kinesthetically' is not a word. It took me a few seconds to look that up, and it saved me getting up off my couch to find my real dictionary. Soon we will have a lexicon to differentiate between books you can hold and books you can't, but for now, one just feels more real. 

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