October 22, 2006

Hunting and Gathering on the Internet

Category: Academic,Pharma,Politics,Research,Tech — Biella @ 11:13 am

This morning I got back to an article that has been on and off my work-plate for a year now, one that I have to turn in to a discussant for my 4S panel as well for an edited collection of articles on the intersection between art, activism, and biopoltics.

Part of my efforts meant attacking a virtual “stack” of articles and one of them was one of best journalistic articles I have read in a long time. Exceedingly clear prose is combined with good references, hard numbers and just the right amount of passionate verve to make reading actually fun and not just another nameless, faceless cog in the academic research wheel. The article mentioned a couple of interesting studies that while sadly not linked from the article (but I am going to take that was an editorial and not authorial decision), they were pretty much cake to find by doing a little poking and prodding on the Internet.

So for example, one of them was published on PLoS Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature and stands pretty strongly on its own right. But what is even better are the long list of citations (many with links) that would otherwise be frankly, a *total* time consuming bitch to find like the correspondence between the FDA and pharmaceutical companies:

# Food and Drug Administration Division of Drug Marketing Advertising and Communications (1997) Effexor warning letter. Rockville (Maryland): Food and Drug Administration. Available: http://www.fda.gov/cder/warn/june97/effexor.pdf. Accessed 14 October 2005.

Total gems given to you right there on a silver plate. That is what I love about Internet based research…

On the other hand, this extreme access is not always so peachy. The amount of data now available can be experienced as a totally mind-numbing, frightening, chaotic infolanche (as one of my old adivsors liked to call it), which translates into a lot of academic “hunting and gathering” not to mention all the sorting, sifting, cataloging, and then of course trying to remember what the heck you have just amassed in the first place, even with the aid of tags and all

I am not sure if things have gotten easier or harder because this is all I personally know but what I do know is that there are times when I just love the hunt, losing myself for hours, following links, gathering articles, enlivened, exicted about research and there are others when the woolly mammoth of infomartion gets the better of me.


  1. i have this issue too. I will go out and grab a ton of useful things and read them and then they’ll get lost in the deluge of other information that i’m working with at the same time. I use devonthinkpro and bookends to control some of it as a huge external memory tool, but over time i’m beginning to think that i need something far more like ted nelson’s xanadu, or perhaps i should go back to tinderbox… I don’t know.

    Comment by jeremy — November 6, 2006 @ 8:15 am

  2. Thank You

    Comment by Mark — April 17, 2007 @ 11:25 pm

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