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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bowling alone, how more or less comfortable?

In the arena where forces, individuals, institutions, and other factors interplay, in what ways do you see libraries fit in the interplay among dynamic factors, according to Putnam, social changes, civic engagement, social capital, and social bonds. Thanks to Kate, I will check to see what thoughts Jean Preer offers in "Where Are Libraries in Bowling Alone?" Also, I think that we have our roles in strengthening the bonds in both social world and virtual world since we, librarians and information professions, exist in both physical and electronic information environment. I am wondering how can we make use of the advantages we have including library outreach programs in order to turn the declining situation into another direction? There are lots of potentials that our professions can uphold the declines of civic engagement as well as social capital.

Another thought is on “capital”, since Putnam mentioned “social capital” many times throughout this book. I think that we, librarians, are involved in social capital in both economic and cultural aspects. To me, cultural capital is challenging to our professions as well as others, and I think it involves everyone in the arena. How can it be so true that we gained more power by more capitals we possess? This leads to recognition of so-called elites in the society, or a particular arena so to speak. I think theories we learned in class inter-related to each other. I think “gatekeeping” also comes into play. Why? I think those elites in both micro and macro levels have power to push and pull individuals. Bill Gates, for example, and his technology has so much impact on social world and its development. It is true, to me, that online technology makes people more and more physically isolated . Younger generations are those who become “natives” to technology, and they might be more and more comfortable to be in a virtual community. Also, it is related to the comfort to express and communicate in a setting where identity is not important. How does technology have to do with "communication apprehension"? Also, regarding values such as lies, do people do more lies or is it only the fact that they are “protective” in the virtual world? This is just my thoughts, and it scares me – an immigrant to technology!

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