But you're an information professional, aren't you?

At seven or eight years ago a friend who also works with information technologies reported to me that people who turned to him for help in finding information on various topics were always surprised when he told them it was hard for him to help them. "But you're a professional at searching for information on the internet!" they'd exclaim. He would tell them that he was well versed in the few fields that he had studied, and could probably find materials on those subjects quite readily and successfully, but that because he didn't know much about the other topics that he was being asked to help find information about, he didn't even know where to start looking for such information. His attempts at explaining that each field had its own organizing principles, it's own particular keywords, and more, just didn't seem to help. People simply assumed that searching for information was little more than typing a term into a search field and clicking on <ENTER>.

But of course that's pretty much precisely what it's become. And it's probably on the way toward becoming even simpler. Today in schools we try to teach pupils to use search engines, pretty much to the exclusion of any other search tools or methods. Yet chances are good that by the time they've become truly adept at this the technology will have advanced to a stage at which instead of typing a query, all they'll have to do is vocalize their request into a microphone in order to get passable results. We're sort of caught in a bind, a sort of time warp. On the one hand, search has became the dominant metaphor in our information-dominated lives. On the other, chances are good that better and simpler methods of accessing information are already sneaking up on us as we train pupils in present-day search techniques.

Go to: The tyranny of search.