July 21, 2009 by
This post is brought to you today by the letter A.
I was listening to Weekend All Things Considered on Sunday, and caught a wonderful, insightful interview with the creator of a new web 2.0 information-seeking application. It’s called Aardvark, and maybe you’ve already heard of it.
Here’s how it works: the Aardvark app taps your social network on facebook to figure out who you know (or who you don’t know you know, or who knows someone you know, or, oh this always makes me dizzy) who knows about something you wanna know. Get it?
It’s like this: I’m wondering, gee, does anybody know of a good holistic doctor in Southeast Michigan?
And I ask that question via IM or email to Aardvark. The friendly rodent then does some fancy algorithmics and sends the question to people who might know about things related to the words in my question. Then they have the opportunity to send an answer back through Aardvark, who sends it to me. They self-describe as a “hub”.
1. This is really cool! However, it raises the age-old information literacy issue of source authority. Why should I trust my uncleji’s cousin without knowing the guy? The idea is that someone who cares about the subject will answer, and I don’t dispute that. I’m not suggesting people will just send made-up answers to troll around. However, everybody’s got an agenda, all the time, and I don’t think Aardvark gives me sufficient metadata about the responders for me to adequately assess the authority of my sources. It’s probably better for “factual” kinds of information, but we all know that facticity is itself a tool of hegemonic dominance.
2. One lady’s “hub” is another one’s “goddamn meddling middleman who can collect my goddamn data on the frigging internet”.
3. I was happily surprised with the All Things Considered interview, because for once it wasn’t a mainstream media outlet going, “OMG YOU GUYS CHECK OUT THIS FREAKY THING ON THE INTERNET. IT MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE SOME SOCIAL UTILITY! STOP THE PRESSES! IT MIGHT KILL US ALL OR SAVE US ALL OR MAKE US ADDICTED TO THE SHINY COMPUTER BOX! I’M SO HIP RIGHT NOW.”
Anyway, so I was happily enjoying the interview until Guy Raz (the host) asked the annoying neoliberal question I suppose many people wanted to hear: why would anyone participate when they don’t “get anything” out of it?
Now, I was in the car listening to the radio, and I have a habit of talking back to it anyway. At the particular moment that I heard this, I was pulling into my driveway with all my windows down, and my strait-laced neighbors were out in their backyard (adjacent to the driveway) arguing about their grill.
And as I mentioned in my profile, I’m an angry librarian (I have my reasons). So, when Guy Raz pushed that “oh golly, isn’t money the only thing that matters in this world?” button, I blew a fuse, and yelled at a rather high fraction of my lungs: “IT’S BECAUSE THEY’RE LIBRARIANS, A$$H***!”
And there you have it, kids: A is for Anand, Adultery, Aardvark, and Asshole.
Bottom line: Aardvark gets an A for concept, but I have to play with it more to evaluate the execution.