A reference-librarian friend recently forwarded to me a copy of Angelo Fernando's article "Google Intelligence! Sure, Search Engines Deliver, But What About the Off-line World?" (Communication World, January 2005). It's a splendid rant; as the author observes:
... the Internet keeps us happy with superficial or inadequate knowledge gleaned from homepages. It makes us very lazy when it comes to digging deep for information, even though information on a search engine is increasingly managed and massaged before it ends up online. ...
Fernando presents a great example of the Omniscient Net Fallacy from John Lenger's "If a Tree Doesn't Fall on the Internet, Does It Really Exist?" (Columbia Journalism Review, Sept/Oct 2002, at ). Journalism students researching the Morroiconog Neck ownership dispute involving Harvard in the year 1732 were warned that they had to consult offline sources. Few of them did, or appreciated why, or could figure out how --- even though Lenger notes, "Harvard University has an extraordinary archive that dates back to its 1636 founding. Harvard also has the world's largest academic library. To get to class, the students had to walk past both the university's main library and the archives."
Fernando quotes Bernard Robertson, a vice president of Daimler/Chrysler Corporation, in the memorable aphorism:
|Access to information doesn't make you well-informed any more than a library card makes you well-read.|