Book Inventory

Collecting and inventorying all of the books I have at school was much a more complex process than I had anticipated. I never realized how different books are in terms of the set up of their basic information–genre, page number, city of publication, ect. Rather than being uniform (as I had expected), each book had its own unique pattern of distributing these fact from cover to cover. These pages of a book are ones that I normally skip over when reading, so maybe it was my own naivety that led me astray, but I was genuinely perplexed by how complicated the individual formations of books could be. I also found it challenging to then take these facts, and present them in a uniform way. I found this especially difficult with older books/books that have had more than one publication. For these titles I often felt that I was having to choose between options (and even trying to choose between options in a consistent way was hard). Laments aside though, I found this inventory really insightful. I’ve always prided myself as a reader, and strive to own more and more texts, so being able to sift back through them was a rewarding process.

What does the data collection process reveal?

In overview then, this process reveals the challenges in data collection. Having gone through this exercise, I now have a better understanding of the challenging that face a modern book historian. The lack of data, the inconsistencies between texts, the tiresome process of literally flipping pages (which did get a bet boring…)–all of these issues make the study of books a daunting task. This process also revealed the vast number of things than can be studied while looking at texts. For our collection we only focused on a limited number of attributes, however, while searching for those I kept coming across other qualities that I thought would be equally interesting to study. Books are complex, and the study of them can be equally as complex.

There are also many specific claims that can be made about my individual data. I haven’t noticed anything concrete just yet (hopefully this will change with more close, and comparative analysis), but I am thinking that there might be some interesting trends in genre shifts, city of publication, and new/used purchases. I’m excited to see what kind of conclusions I can draw over the next few days!

What does it conceal?

As stated above, in focusing only on specific attributes of text, we are disregarding many other aspects of books. It seems then, that our data inherently conceals certain aspects of books in promotion of others. However, I don’t take much issue with this concealment because if we had chosen to look at all aspects of books it would have been an extremely overwhelming process. There just would have been too much information.

However, one concealment I am interesting in studying the implications of is the scope of our inventory–ie. only looking at the books we have at school. I know that I personally only have a small portion of the books I own at school with me. While they are my favorites (and as such might give the best overall representation of my reading habits), in choosing to inventory only these we are definitely concealing major portions of data. Again, I take little issue with this because, again, inventorying every book we own would be overwhelming and almost impossible (I really have no way of getting home right now). The concealments in our data do not seem hugely problematic, however, I think they are interesting biases to keep in mind while analyzing and conjecturing for Essay One.

How might the process be changed to tell a different story?

Having gone through the inventorying process, it seems that the information being collected most directly dictates the story being told. In looking only at the books in our rooms, the story told is manipulated by connivence, school, and the physical limitations of travel and movement (amongst many other factors). However, it also reveals many interesting social ideas–what books we find most important to bring with us, the books we read for school vs. pleasure, ect. There seems to be a give & take in results when choosing the specific data to analyze.

That said, in order to tell a different story we would need to change the trajectory of the data we collected. Maybe to tell an economic story we could look at the how much each book cost, or if we bought them with cash or a gift card (though that might be too hard to remember?). Or maybe we want to tell a literacy story–which books have we completed, and at what age did we complete them. Again, these facts might be too far removed to go back and remember, but I think that they would be interesting to study nonetheless. The story told is dependent upon the data collected, so in changing the data collected is seems that we could change the story, too.

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