CM Magazine: CM Volume 1 Number 7 Print File

Volume 1 Number 7

July 28, 1995

Table of Contents

 From the Editor

 Shall We have More Features?

Book Reviews

 Weird Animals
Bobbie Kalman and Tammy Everts
Review by Brian Rountree
Grades K-3 / Ages 5-10

 Keepers of Life
Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
Review by MaryLynn Gagne
Adult -- Grades 1 - 7 / Ages 5 - 12.

 The Defenders. (Part of the Discovering Canada series.)
Robert Livesey, Illustrated by A.G. Smith.
Review by Dave Jenkinson
Grades 4-8/ Ages 9-13

Video Reviews

 Chore Wars
Review by Lorrie Andersen.
Grades 10 - 13 / Ages 15 - 18.

 Fat Chance
Review by A. Edwardsson.
Grades 11 - 12 / Ages 15+.


 Canadian Children's Book Centre announces short-list for Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.


 The Internet and the Future of Organized Knowledge
Part III
"If knowledge is food for then mind, then for the individual mind to survive in an intellectual environment where exposure to the Human Encyclopedia is greater than ever before, for the first time in the history of thought we desperately need to learn how to balance our diet."

Article by Luciano Floridi

From the Editor

This week marks the last installment in Prof. Luciano Floridi's "The Internet and the Future of Organized Knowledge," and we'd like to hear what you all thought of it.

Of course, I chose to re-publish it in the first place because I found it unusually thought-provoking, even in a time when you can't turn around without hearing pundits declaiming on related subjects on the CBC, or in the pages of Chatelaine, or just in the course of saving the world in a new movie starring Sandra Bullock. (If I have quibbles about Floridi's article they have to do with the notion that putting the humanities on a more "scientific" basis is valuable; I think the very value of the humanities is that they're a kind of knowledge that's not scientific in form. That's a big argument, however, and I promise not to write a feature on it anytime soon.)

The essence of CM will always be reviews that are as timely and comprehensible as possible, and by the end of the summer you can count on having at least half-a-dozen in each issue. But we want to make sure we put flesh on those bones as well: news, a regular column of reader responses to our reviews, and feature articles.

So I know it's summer and you'd rather think about swimming, or sailing, or finally getting your collection of antique telephone-line insulators catalogued, but we're asking for feedback: not only on what you think of individual pieces like the article by Prof. Floridi, but on other topics you'd like to see us cover, or on what you think the place of features in CM should be. In fact, if there's something you'd like to write about yourself, or if you'd like to do a critical round-up of resources related to an issue, please send us a proposal, whether you're already on our list of reviewers or not.

As always, to respond to this or anything else in CM, just send email to the address beneath my name.

-- Duncan Thornton

Book Review

Weird Animals.
Bobbie Kalman and Tammy Everts
Niagara-on-the-Lake: Crabtree, 1994. 32pp.
Cloth, $15.96 (ISBN 0-86505-617-X)
Paper, $7.16 (ISBN 0-86505-171-6)

Grades K - 3 / Ages 5 - 10

Review by Brian Rountree.

What kind of cows swim? What kind of fish climb trees? Which sort of dragon doesn't breathe fire, but just has really bad breath?* The answers to these questions can be found in Weird Animals, a new entry in Bobbie Kalman's Crabapples series of non-fiction `starter' books for young readers.

This entertaining book explains in a clear, simple manner how unusual body parts or habits which may seem strange are really part of the essential life of each animal. The illustrations in this volume are well-defined and the photographs focus on the central animals. The authors explain the territory some animals are restricted to (lemurs are only found in Madagascar, for example), and describe their specialised diets.

Among the sixteen weird animals covered in this book are the star-nosed mole, blue-footed booby, bonobo, and lemur. The book includes a helpful glossary (whose words in the text are in bold print) and an index. Excellent as a book to read for fun, Weird Animals will be useful for children from K to grade 7 who are looking for somewhere to start a research project.

Weird Animals will be a good purchase for any library looking for material on the more unusual animals of our planet.


*the manatee or "sea cow," the mudskipper, and the Komodo dragon

Brian Rountree is a teacher-librarian in Thompson, MB and currently serves as the secretary-treasurer for the Canadian School Library Association.

Book Review

Keepers of Life:
Discovering Plants through Native Stories and Earth Activities for Children
Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1994. 265pp, cloth, $25.95
ISBN 1-895618-48-7. CIP.

Adult -- Grades 1 - 7 / Ages 5 - 12.

Review by MaryLynn Gagne.

This latest addition to the immensely popular "Keeper" series focusses on our relationship with the plant kingdom. Like its predecessors, Keepers of Life uses Native North American stories and myths from diverse cultural groups to introduce a variety of topics relating to our interactions with the natural world.

The book includes information on plant groups such as fungi and flowering plants, explanations of biological processes such as photosynthesis and pollination, and discussions of environmental concerns such as acid rain and the greenhouse effect. This information-packed resource is imbued with the spirit of "Responsible Stewardship" -- a philosophy of empathy for all living things, and consideration of the effects of our actions on future generations.

The guided discussions and activities which grow almost organically out of the carefully selected "lesson stories" are at the heart of Keepers of Life. Wonderful story illustrations by John Kahionhes Fadden and David Kanietakeron Fadden, and richly detailed chapter illustrations by Marjorie C. Leggit and Carol Wood, illuminate the text. Caduto and Bruchac present a wealth of botanical information and fascinating tidbits in a clear and engaging manner. A very minor quibble: a few of the recommended activities appear somewhat complicated. Step-by-step directions notwithstanding, some classroom teachers may baulk at the prospect of undertaking a project such as "Making Earth on Turtle's Back" which involves construction of a plywood and chicken-wire turtle shell base covered with painted papier-mâché "landforms."

In the introduction to Keepers of Life, and in the "Tips and Techniques" section, the authors provide valuable background information on Native knowledge of plants, the multitudinous uses of plants by Native North Americans, and on the attitude of respect for all life forms pervasive in traditional Native culture. Teachers and group leaders will appreciate the numerous and perceptive hints on bringing the stories to life, involving children in the storytelling process, and planning and adapting the suggested activities. Detailed "how-to" instructions are provided for everything from correct breathing techniques to proper procedures for planting trees and shrubs. A separate teacher's guide is available for this title; the book alone certainly affords more than adequate guidance.

Highly recommended for adults, and for use with children ages 5 to 12.

MaryLynn Gagne is a reference librarian in the Education Library, University of Saskatchewan Libraries.

Book Review

The Defenders. (Part of the "Discovering Canada" series.)
Robert Livesey
Illustrated by A.G. Smith.
Toronto: Stoddart, 1994. 90pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-7737-5665-5. CIP.

Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 9 - 13.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.


"Canadians are a peace-loving people.... But Canadians are not weak or timid. If we are attacked, we are quick to defend ourselves."

In The Defenders, Robert Livesey presents an overview of Canada's military involvement in the War of 1812-14 in seven chapters arranged in essentially chronological order. The book's title reflects Livesey's position that Canada has always been a non-belligerent nation, populated by peace-loving people, and that this country's role in that nineteenth-century conflict was simply a defensive, albeit heroic, response to an American invasion of seemingly overwhelming numbers.

Each brief chapter consists of three parts: the "hard," sometimes dry, history; a number of interesting and lively anecdotes, usually about people; and a "fun" history-related student activity. The activities are diverse enough to include a crossword puzzle, an 1812 chocolate fudge recipe, and a pattern for making a shako -- a soldier's hat. The book also contains two chronologies, one of lake battles, the other of land engagements, the latter accompanied by a map.

Some two dozen of Smith's pen-and-ink illustrations, mostly decorative but occasionally functional, are distributed throughout the book so that only rarely will readers find a pair of facing pages which are solid print. An index increases the book's usefulness as an additional resource for middle-school units on Canadian History.


For a fictional treatment of the War of 1812, see Kevin James Block's Without Shedding of Blood, reviewed in issue 5.

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.

Video Review

Chore Wars.
Venus de Lino Productions, 1995. VHS, 48 minutes
Distributed by Moving Images Distribution,
606-402 West Pender St., Vancouver, BC, V6B 1T6.
1-800-684-3014 / fax (604) 684-7165.

Grades 10 - 13 / Ages 15 - 18.

Review by Lorrie Andersen.

Chore Wars is a frank and amusing look at the division of labour in Canadian homes, where, apparently, the tasks and responsibilities still largely fall to the women. Several couples and families, young, old, with children, without children, same-sex, and remarried, share their frustrations, coping mechanisms, and practical solutions to the ways and means of accomplishing household chores. Much discussion is focussed on who cleans the toilet and how.

Men and women fantasize about their ideal way to achieve a clean, neat house -- fantasies that provoke some comic reactions from their spouses. A vacuum-cleaner salesman tells how his sales pitch is now no longer exlusively directed to the woman of the house; in his demonstration he now proffers the vaccuum between the couple, acknowledging that the man might do this chore. In another segment the video explores with some levity the relationship between male participation in household chores and the frequency of sexual activity.

Professional opinions on the subject are also presented, including comparisons to primate behaviour, findings that men who engage in housework are physically healthier because they are also more emotionally engaged in their marriages, and the research of Dr. Arlie Hochschild, author of The Second Shift, which documents how women still perform the majority of household tasks.

Chore Wars is a light-hearted look at a serious subject that uses archival footage of ads for various cleaning products, commentary by academics, dramatizations, and a a variety of honest assessments by a cross-section of real people. Although it's not clear the film has a natural place in a high-school curriculum, without a doubt, housework remains a bone of contention in homes across the country, and the battles rage on.

Recommended with reservations -- for public libraries wherer there is a demand.

A librarian by training, Lorrie Andersen is Collection Development Consultant, Instructional Resources, for Manitoba Education and Training.

Video Review

Fat Chance
National Film Board, 1994.
72 minutes, $34.95.
Order number: 9194 042.

(Note: the NFB has a new educational pricing policy in effect; phone 1-800-267-7710 for details.)

Parental Guidance rating (suitable for children aged 13 and older).
Grades 11 - 12 / Ages 15+.

Review by A. Edwardsson.


"If I could meet God and say, `I'll give you three years of my life, just make me thin,' I'd do it... My life is on hold until I lose this weight."

In Winnipeg, four-hundred-pound Rick Zakowich is ready for a change. This documentary invites viewers along the the amusing, touching, and eye-opening ride.

Zakowich begins by seeking medical help, where he jokes with the the tecnicians through a series of embarassing tests. Then we flash back in time to his Ukrainian childhood in Winnipeg's North End, viewing photos of young Rick and hearing about the history of his family's weight. Poignant moments abound in the video: he tells how as a child he played the clown to try to make people laugh with rather than at him; and he talks about marrying young and how in trying to lose weight, he lost the marriage.

Six months into Rick's journey he has lost 30 pounds, but has become sceptical of the the doctors' "just do it" attitude. Rick realizes others are focussed only on how he looks, and not how he feels -- unhappy.

But viewers discover the internal Rick, Rick the person -- a sensitive guy who works and connects with troubled kids. There's a moving segment where he talks with a pre-teen named Eric. Eric is the son of separated parents who fears his absent dad will return to beat up his mother again. Rick records an empowering cassette tape for Eric; it has a heavy-metal beat and Eric's name is in the lyrics.

The film shifts to a wider focus as Rick "comes out" as a large person: he begins a support group for fat men and attends a conference for obese people. Each person has their own heart-wrenching story -- like the doctor who worries that his legs will give out and feels his life is a sham: "It's not living," he says. Although these people try to desensitize themselves to insults, they have been left with almost no feelings of self-worth.

Rick grows to become an activist in the cause of acceptance for large people: he appears on an open-line radio show; confronts the Winnipeg Sun about their coverage of an overweight golfer's victory. He helps design a pictograph (similar to symbols for the handicapped) to designate fat-friendly places that have all-size access chairs, washrooms, and so on.

By this point, Rick has fallen off his diet treadmill, but viewers can't help but cheer his growing self-worth. He and the other large people on screen wish others could see that worth too. This powerful, well-crafted documentary tries and succeeds to gain viewers' acceptance and compassion for large people.

The message, content, and pacing of the film make it best-suited for a senior high audience. But be prepared -- there are several artsy, nude photos of large women taken by a photographer who's trying to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This documentary will provoke lively discussion and debate and would certainly enhance a unit on prejudice.

Fat Chance is the winner of numerous awards, including a Genie nominee for Best Canadian Documentary, and a 1995 George Foster Peabody Award (New York) for Broadcast and Cable Excellence.

Highly Recommended.

A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree and Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba Branch of the Canadian Author's Association.


The Canadian Childen's Book Centre is pleased to announce the short-list for the eighth annual

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.

On the short-list for 1995 are:

The Bilson Award was established in 1988 in memory of Geoffrey Bilson, a respected historian and children's author. This annual prize of $1,000 has been made possible by the Canadian children's publishing industry, and is awarded to a Canadian author for an outstanding work of historical fiction for young people.

The winner of the 1994 award was Kit Pearson for The Lights Go On Again, published by Viking. The 1995 winner will be announced this fall at the launch of Canadian Children's Book Week on November 18th at the Queens Quay Terminal, Toronto.


The Internet & the Future of Organized Knowledge:
Part III of III

by Luciano Floridi

[Note: we thank Professor Floridi for kind permission to reprint this material, which is a shortened version of a paper he gave at a UNESCO Conference in Paris, March 14-17, 1995. Parts I & II were published in the previous two issues of Canadian Materials.]

Part Three: The Problems

In the previous two parts of this article, I argued for an understanding of the Internet as a new stage in the growth of the Human Encyclopedia, and showed how it allows us to do new kinds of research by asking third-level (ideometric) questions about our data. Here, we turn to new problems that the growth of a network of information and communication has already caused or soon will give rise to.

There are at least ten principal issues worthy of attention. I shall deal with them in what I take to be their approximate order of importance.

(1) The Devaluation of The Book --

We have already entered the stage where digital information is preferred over non-digital, not because of its quality, but simply because it is available online. However, the more resources that undergo the conversion, the less serious this problem will become.

(2) The Devaluation of Information Processes --

The Internet helps to satisfy an ever-growing demand for information. In this process, the use value of information has increased steadily, in parallel with the complexity of the system, but its exchange value has been subject to a radical modification. Because of the great and rapid availability of data, the Internet has caused a devaluation of some intellectual enterprises -- such as compilations, collections of images, bibliographical volumes and so forth -- whose original high value depended mainly on the correspondingly high degree of inaccessibility that afflicted information in the book era.

Today, much of the raw data that in the past had to be collected at great expense of time and energy are freely available on the Internet. The result is that the era of the great collections on paper is practically over.

(3) Failure to Acknowledge New Scholarly Enterprise --

So far, Academe has been slow in recognizing that new forms of scholarly activity have appeared, like moderating a discussion list, keeping an online bibliography constantly updated, or publishing a paper in an electronic journal. The sooner such activities are properly recognized and evaluated, the easier it will become for individuals to dedicate more time and effort to the digital encyclopedia, and the more the encyclopedia will improve.

(4) Too Much Knowledge to Access --

A fundamental imbalance -- between the extraordinary breadth of the system and the limited amount of knowledge that can be accessed by an individual mind at any one time -- arises because the quantity of information potentially available on Internet has increased beyond control, whereas the technology whereby the network actually allows us to retrieve our data has improved much more slowly. The result is that we are once again far from being capable of taking full advantage of the full extent of our digital encyclopedia.

The challenge of the next few years will consist in narrowing the gap between quantity of information and speed of access, even as the former increases. Projects like the American Information Superhighway, or SuperJANET in Great Britain, are of the highest importance in this regard. However, we should keep in mind that closing the gap completely is impossible because of the very nature of the Encyclopedia.

(5) Too Much Accessible Knowledge to Manage --

This is the problem of "infoglut," as BYTE has called it. Throughout past history there was always a shortage of data, which led to a voracious attitude towards information. Today, we face the opposite risk of being overwhelmed by an unrestrained, and sometimes superfluous, profusion of data. No longer is "the more the better." If knowledge is food for then mind, then for the individual mind to survive in an intellectual environment where exposure to the Human Encyclopedia is greater than ever before, for the first time in the history of thought we desperately need to learn how to balance our diet.

Without a new culture of selection -- and tools that can help us filter, select, and refine what we are looking for -- the Internet will become a labyrinth which researchers will either refrain from entering or in which they will lose themselves. One can only hope that the care exercised today during the conversion of organized knowledge into a digital macrocosm will soon be paralleled by equally close attention to the development of efficient and economical ways to select and retrieve the information we need. In data-retrieval, brute force does not work any longer: we need intelligence. The Internet needs to be improved by the inclusion of expert systems.

(6) The Threat to Paper --

Some libraries are destroying their card catalogues after having replaced them with OPACs (online public access catalogs). This is as unacceptable as would have been the practice of destroying medieval manuscripts after an editio princeps was printed during the Renaissance. We need to preserve the sources of information after the digitalization in order to keep our memory alive. The development of a digital encyclopedia should not represent a parricide.

(7) Some Knowledge Exists Only Digitally --

Because for large sectors of the new encyclopedia there will be no paper epiphany, access to the network will have to be universally granted in order to avoid the rise of a new technological elite.

(8) The New Illiteracy --

Information Technology is the new language of organized knowledge. Therefore elements of that language must become part of the minimal literacy of any human being, if free access to information is to remain a universal right.

(9) The Internet as Rubbish Heap --

Because the Internet is a free space where anybody can post anything, organized knowledge could easily get corrupted, lost in a sea of junk data. In the book age, the relation between writer and reader was and is still clear and mediated by cultural and economic filters -- e.g., you won't get published if what you say isn't somehow "true." For all their faults, such filters do provide some positive selection. On the Internet, the relation between producer and consumer of information is direct, so nothing protects the latter from corrupt information.

Now, there is much to be said in favor of the free exchange of information on the network, and I believe that any producer of data should be free to make it available online. But I think every user should also be protected from corrupt knowledge by an intermediary service, if she wishes. Unless academic and cultural institutions provide some form of quality control, we may no longer be able to distinguish between the intellectual space of knowledge and a polluted environment of junk.

(10) Decentralization Means Fragmentation --

By converting the Encyclopedia into an electronic space, we risk transforming the new body of knowledge into a disjointed monster, rather than an efficient and flexible system. The Internet has developed in a chaotic (if dynamic) way, and today suffers from a regrettable lack of global organization, uniformity, and strategic planning. While we entrust ever more vast regions of the Human Encyclopedia to the global network, we are also leaving the Internet itself in a thoroughly anarchic state. Efforts at coordination are left to occasional initiatives by commendable individuals, or to important volunteer organizations, but this is insufficient to guarantee that in a few decades organized knowledge will not be lost in a labyrinth of millions of virtual repositories, while energies and funds have been wasted in overlapping projects.

The Internet has been described as a library where at the moment there is no catalogue, books on the shelves keep moving, and an extra truckload of books is dumped in the entrance hall every hour. Unless it is properly structured and constantly monitored, the positive feature of radical decentralization of knowledge will degenerate into a medieval fragmentation of the body of knowledge, which in turn means a virtual loss of information. Already it is no longer possible to rely on the speed of our networked tools to browse the whole space of knowledge and collect our information in a reasonably short time. If global plans are disregarded or postponed and financial commitments delayed, the risk is that information may well become no easier to find on the network than the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Some people have compared the invention of the computer to the invention of printing. To some extent the comparison is misleading: the appearance of the printed book belongs to the process of consolidation and enlargement of our intellectual space, whereas the revolutionary character of Information Technology has rested on making possible a new way of navigating through such a space. But in one important sense they are similar: in the same way as the invention of printing led to the constitution of national copyright libraries to coordinate and organize the production of knowledge in each country, so Internet needs a coordinated info-structure.

The Info-Structure --

The info-structure would consist of centers making coordinated efforts to fulfill the following five tasks:

I'm not advocating the creation of some international bureau for the management of the Internet, a sort of digital Big Brother. Nor have I any wish to see national organisms take control of our new electronic frontier. Such projects, besides being impossible to realize, would be contrary to fundamental rights of freedom of communication, of thought, and of information. Far from it, I believe in the complete liberty and refreshing anarchy of the network.

What I'm suggesting is that Internet is like a new country, with a growing population of millions of well-educated citizens, and that as such it does not need a highway patrol. However, it will have to provide itself with a kind of Virtual National Library system (which could be as dynamic as the world of information) if it wants to keep track of its own cultural achievements in real time, and hence be able to advance into the third millennium in full control of its own potential. It is to be hoped that non-national institutions (such as UNESCO) may soon be willing to promote and coordinate such a global service, which is essential in order to make possible an efficient management of human knowledge on a global scale.

Reprinted with permission from the electronic journal TidBITS, #283. Email for more information.

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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