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306 A g r e e m e n t s u p p l e m e n t s Language L1 L0 Conversation Theory is composed of is composed of is composed of Author R. David Lankes Agreement DesCription New librarianship, based on conversation theory, concerns itself with two levels of language being exchanged between conversants: L0 and L1 . L0 is the language exchanged between two conversants where at least one of the parties has little knowledge of the domain being discussed . It tends to be very directional (do this, now do this). Most of the discourse is negotiating meanings and terms at a very simple level. L1 , in contrast, is exchanged between two parties with a high understanding of the domain discussed. Here conversations tend to use special language, explore more “why” questions, and establish structural relationships between concepts. Let’s use a simple example to illustrate the difference in language levels. Take the following sentence: “Our catalog uses MARC to present our users with a great searching experience .” If you are a librarian, this is a meaningful sentence. You might even ask “how can MARC impact a user’s experience?” However, if you are not a librarian, this sentence is a jumble. Are we talking about catalogs like from a store where I pick out sweaters—who is Marc and why is he so helpful—do we really want to make it easy for users—that is people who use drugs? As we saw in our previous word game, preexisting structures and contexts to words matter a lot. The more relationships and contexts of words that are shared by conversants (what we will call agreements), the higher the possible level of discourse. A high level of shared contexts equals L1 . These levels of language have real implications for the systems we present to users. Systems can either attempt to work at differing levels of language, to bring users from L0 to L1 , or bring the system from L0 to L1 (see the example of a search engine interface in figure 166). It does little to educate the user about how to interact using highlevel language. It is built around an assumption that users will be communicating their needs in L0 . The system will use complex algorithms and information-retrieval techniques to make up for the fact lAnguAge mAp loCAtion E, 2 threAD loCAtion Page 33 sCApe Figure 165 A g r e e m e n t s u p p l e m e n t s 307 that the search engine will probably be getting a very anemic query. If you do take the time to learn the language of this system, you can actually use some rather advanced language to improve your results (in this case, using a query language with +, –, ~, and quotes). Help desks and search are often used in systems where there is an anticipated difference in the languages of the users and the system builders. In libraries, for example, reference as a function came about because indexes and classification systems were too complex for many library users. The idea was to provide a human intermediary as a sort of bridge between a person with a question and the complex language used by library systems. The second approach is what Pask would refer to as learning systems that systematically bring users from L0 to L1 . One of the best examples of increasing language levels in systems can be seen in modern games. Where once games came with long and in-depth manuals, today complex games actually incorporate learning into the game itself. The first level is often a form of in-game tutorial, familiarizing players with the basic mechanics of the game while still advancing the game’s narrative. Of course the approach of raising the user’s language level is founded on the rather dubious assumption that a system can change the user. It is also antithetical to the user-centered paradigm dominant in today’s system development world. A third approach is to assume the user is at L1 and it is the system that needs to catch up. The use of tagging and annotations in web systems demonstrates this approach. Here users incorporate their own language. Systems can then look for patterns in language use to provide information. Nobody Is Born Speaking Dewey It is worth stopping here for a moment to explore the real implications of these different languages. Think about the basis of a great deal...


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MARC Record
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