NPR logo The Thrill of the Goose Chase

Probing Issues

The Thrill of the Goose Chase

One thing I enjoy about this job is all the stuff I find while not actually finding what I set out to get. Ok, so maybe that's a little frustrating, but it makes one a better trivia player. For instance, I won't complain if I'm looking for tape related to the Rockefeller Foundation's agricultural assistance programs and instead find myself viewing the fine film "Unhooking the Hookworm" (not for the squeamish). Wow, who knew that hookworm was making little Jeffy tired? I always thought he was just lazy.

Not long ago I read an article in the Boston Globe (which itself was based on a study in the journal Science) about the internet as a narrowing force in current scholarship. It would seem that more access to more publications would broaden one's view, but the article points out that the ranking mechanisms of most search engines often rely on some measure of popularity, which could have the effect of "tighten[ing] consensus, posing the risk that good ideas may be ignored and lost." It's an interesting problem, who would have guessed that the information superhighway has a carpool lane? So my question is, is my scatterbrain (described above) now an evolutionary advantage? Also, was human indexing any more fair to obscure texts and ideas?