Mental Schemes and Grocery Stores and Future Librarians – Small Group Reflection

The idea of this exercise seems fun.  For someone that truly hates grocery shopping, however, I was reminded repeatedly of the reasons for my acrimony.  At the same time, I did learn a few things (good thing, since we’re supposed to be learning things). 

First, as we were building the collaborative script, it became pretty obvious how similar we all are.  As humans, we tend to focus on our individual qualities – what makes us different from the rest of the pack.  Doing this exercise went the other way and pointed out the patterns in our collective behavior and even our though processes.  And even though we might differ on minor things, these differences were generally….well….minor. 

The next thing I learned was that in building a general script or collaborative mental scheme, we HAD to remove “self” from the equation.  In doing that, in removing the individual, we came up with a product that did indeed reflect the individual, but only in part.  The generality would be much like describing the features of a person as having two arms, two legs, a head with a face, and a brain capable of making creative decisions and recognizing itself.  I could apply that generality to myself and nearly every other human being.  At the same time, this general description would not allow me to differentiate between human beings.  In the same way, the general script we created doesn’t allow for differentiation between shopping trips.  Within the scheme, an endless number of shopping trips could fit.

Finally, I could see how these collaborative scripts lead into classification systems and how this can be a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s a good thing to have a general idea of what should go where, but there is a huge danger of relying on inadequate scripts and classification systems as build these mental boxes.  This isn’t really a fully formed thought yet, but going back to our discussions about the shortcomings of Library of Congress Classification and Dewey Decimal Classification, but these classification systems are built on schemes that were not necessarily general enough to stand the test of time.  Rather than being able to continually add emerging information to appropriate classifications, new things have been added in an ad hoc, “almost fits” manner.  Systems that probably made perfect sense to their creators in the beginning are now behemoth messes.

It will be interesting to see what we all come up with next.

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