13.0571 colour catalogue & arts of memory

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 07:16:30 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 571.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com> (10)
             Subject: Re: 13.0569 being had, liking it, but an impractical

       [2] From: "P. T. Rourke" <ptrourke@mediaone.net> (30)
             Subject: Being had: Color catalogue not that impractical

       [3] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (37)
             Subject: how people remember things

             Date: Tue, 02 May 2000 08:12:05 +0100
             From: "Norman D. Hinton" <hinton@springnet1.com>
             Subject: Re: 13.0569 being had, liking it, but an impractical idea

    Having a list of books by color reminds me of one of my graduate
    teachers, Ruth Wallerstein. Professor Wallerstein had an encyclopedic
    memory -- except for authors and titles. And she didn't like hauling
    her note cards to lectures. So it was quite normal, in Miss
    Wallerstein's class, to hear her say "There's a recent book on John
    Donne that's absolutely central to this discussion, and you'll need to
    consult it for just about any paper you want to write for this course
    It's blue and somewhere near the top shelf...."

    Librarians' dislike of this had nothing whatever to do with her
    teaching. And I don't see that it would take more than one keypress to
    enter the information if there's a slot for color in the DB.

             Date: Tue, 02 May 2000 08:12:59 +0100
             From: "P. T. Rourke" <ptrourke@mediaone.net>
             Subject: Being had: Color catalogue not that impractical

    > As a practicing reference librarian for a large academic collection, I can
    > tell you that cataloging books by color would be a disaster! Books
    > change color with edition

    This is a good argument. One would have to have a different catalogue entry
    for each copy a library has of a given book, with the color information
    indicated for each (of course, libraries are supposed to have different
    catalogue entries for each edition, aren't they?). It's also logistically
    difficult to achieve - one would in effect have to catalogue each book
    again. Perhaps one could have the circulation desk enter color information
    for each book as it is checked out, and the color database would be
    populated gradually.

    > . . . not to mention the problems created by
    > such a scheme for those of our patrons who are color-blind . . .
    > and for the reference librarian trying to find the red book that's really
    > not.

    Certainly color blind patrons simply would not use the color information in
    the catalogue, as those who can't decode OCLC numbers mean don't use them.
    Certainly no one is so foolish as to imagine that a color catalog could be
    anything but an additional resource, supplemental to all the other resources
    and catalogs available to patrons. So I don't see that such a scheme would
    create any problems for color-blind patrons that they don't already have.

    I also don't see that questions about red books that aren't really red, or
    the like, would be any different from questions about books for which the
    patron provides the wrong title or author, etc. If the "red book that's
    really not" doesn't show up in a subject search cross-referenced by color,
    then that's that. The "it's red" question isn't enough, it would have to be
    "it's red, and about torts reform" which should give almost the same
    narrowness to a search as "it's by Davis, and about torts reform." Such a
    catalogue would provide an additional solution, not an additional problem.

    Patrick Rourke

             Date: Tue, 02 May 2000 08:13:30 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: how people remember things

    I would suppose that research has been done into how people actually
    remember things and so I wonder, in the faked but useful light of the
    recall-by-colour scheme, how much of that might now be relevant to the
    design of automated systems. I'd suppose further that work on the "art of
    memory" might be relevant too.

    Spatial memory has always, I would guess, been central to those who use an
    open-stacks library (including their own). Few have the keen spatial memory
    of a now retired friend, professor of Chinese and Mongolian at Toronto, who
    remembered where even the thinnest pamphlets were in his office library by
    their exact location, through an immediate and quite physical sense, but
    we've all depended on that kind of memory to some degree. As we all know
    too, location on the page is a common way of recalling a passage within a
    book. Sometimes I'm helped by the book's own physical "memory" -- the
    tendency of a book that's been opened to a particular place to fall open to
    that place again. Colour, yes, too, as well as the thickness of the book
    and other visual cues help me find it sometimes.

    What particularly intrigues me are those times when I cannot say, even
    silently to myself, what the characteristics of the book I am remembering
    are, yet I know with certainty that there's a particular book I need, and
    its particularity is defined by a strong yet inarticulate sense. Passages
    trigger associations, these spread, a sense develops, perhaps?

    A kind of memory record I've found very useful is the one implemented by
    amazon.com, the list of those items which others who bought the current
    item also have bought. The list can help one get a grip on subject- or
    style-relations; I've used it with CDs to develop my musical interests in
    particular directions. The mechanism is, I'd suppose, a simple one, and
    could be implemented by libraries -- "Those who borrowed this book also
    borrowed...". Has anyone tried such a thing? The other, sometimes spooky
    mechanism amazon.com uses, the list of recommended items based on your own
    buying habits, could also easily be implemented for libraries. New things
    we can do with computerised records.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)20 7848 2784 fax: +44 (0)20 7848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratias agere

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