If it’s boring, it’s important

bored statue

Hurrah for reading week!!

I’m sure I share the sentiment with my fellow #citylis students and here’s hoping we’ll all get our  heads down and thinking caps on to help digest the last five weeks of feasting on library science.

Within this time it’s DITA which I have found the most challenging, having come to it with no experience of digital technologies other than that of a user the concepts have been a bit tricky to get my head round. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, I have also found it the most rewarding. I’m beginning slowly but surely to get an ‘in’ on this very strange and alien language of computers, which is ever increasingly surrounding me and becoming harder to side-step. Ernesto tweeted after his showing of The Internet’s Own Boy, a quote from Aaron Schwartz which had particularly resonated with him:

It’s easy to understand why and I think his timing couldn’t have been better. After just five weeks of participating in his module, I know I am not the only person on the course who has come to realise how little they knew about a subject which is so fundamentally entwined with our social and cultural identity. It’s almost embarrassing to think that as somebody who uses the internet every day of her life, I have never felt motivated enough to invest time and energy into beginning to gain a sound understanding of how it works. I think of it in a similar vain as I do about taxes. I don’t really understand how the system works, which is complicated to understand (no doubt intentionally) with acronyms and jargon and formulas for calculations that make my eyes bleed. Plus it’s incredibly dull. So, I’ve largely left it in the hands of the powers that be and trusted that they’re getting it right, which can only be deemed a reckless abandonment of the responsibility I have over my own finances.

The internet is the same. It’s only on beginning to scratch the surface of comprehension that you realise that what you see on a screen is only the tip of the iceberg and every tweet, facebook update, shop item clicked does something in the world-wide-web like a pebble thrown into water. The consequences of which, when brought to light, can be pretty eye-watering. Fortunately, there is this motivating factor when being introduced to the building blocks of the web as we have been during the first half of term, becoming familiar with the likes of HTML, XML and JSON. A motivating factor which I’m finding essential when attempting to grapple with – yes I hate to say it- boring material. I’ve never been attracted to anything remotely mathematics based and have always favoured words over numbers or patterns so this new venture into coding does feel more effortful than most.

Luckily my approach to subjects which I have had little interest in up until now has definitely changed, as I’ve come to realise increasingly that boring = important. If I’m struggling with an idea and being ever more strongly tempted to procrastinate, I feel all the more seriousness of the task at hand. Ten months of working in a corporate law firm has a lot to do with it, having had out of necessity to learn about the financial world and all the mind-numbing details entailed with insolvency, private equity, capital markets and hedge funds to offer a taster (don’t chew, just hold your nose and swallow). With every brain-melting article I read came a stronger realisation of how shocking it was to me that I didn’t already know this stuff which dictated how the economy worked and how I was a player in it.

In the same way understanding digital technology shouldn’t be seen as pursuing an interest, but taking rather as carrying out a duty of self-education. The importance is too great and the risks of not doing so too high and as librarians making people aware of that duty is an important part of our role.

So despite my lack of excitement about databases and mark-up language and the like, I know I won’t waste this reading week. With the help of coffee on tap and a very uncomfortable chair I am quite ready to let myself be bored over the next couple of days, because I know the pay-off will be too important to be missed.

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2 thoughts on “If it’s boring, it’s important

  1. Your post really resonated with me: I worry about all the boring-yet-important things that I can’t seem to stay awake to read about! But I also agree that the approach being taken in teaching us DITA is clearing a pathway through all that, and I am genuinely enjoying learning about things I wouldn’t have touched with a bargepole before! Your post reminded me of Charlie Brooker’s article a while back, about DRIP “the most tedious outrage ever” 🙂 http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/14/drip-government-data-retention-investigatory-powers-bill-horrors.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Learning to love the digital in order to understand the world | Melissa Steiner: DITA and me

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