“This Idea Must Die”: A cautionary tale for librarians

A friendly reminder that basically everything we categorize in this world is done more for convenience than based on some sort of underlying, fundamental truth about the world. Whether it’s things as seemingly simple as food groups (we all know most of the things we call vegetables colloquially technically don’t meet the botanical definition, right? but who cares?) or more complex social concepts like race or gender (which can be important for explaining different experience, and power dynamics that exist in society). They’re really all more guidelines than actual rules, and over-reliance on them can prevent us from seeing the world, and humanity, in all its real diversity and awesomeness.

Learnin', or: Learning, Informally

book coverI just finished reading This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress, a collection of almost 175 responses from scientist and thinkers in a variety of disciplines to the 2014 Edge Question: “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”

This was a very interesting read, and I can’t say I fully understood everything the writers had to say – there are more than a few gaps in my foundational knowledge in the scope of all academic fields, after all. But there was one recurring theme that I couldn’t help but be struck by, and that is of the utmost importance to librarianship.
A huge number of the responses were less concerned with actual ideas and theories, and more concerned with the way ideas are organized and/or expressed, and the ways that classification and labeling of ideas limited people’s imaginations, and ultimately their understanding, of the fields to…

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