Creating an Inventory, Revealing (or Hiding) a Story

What the data collection process reveals:  At first I thought the data collection process would be relatively simple; I don’t have many books with me at school, mostly those that I need for my classes, so it couldn’t be that difficult to record the information, right? Wrong. As I was gathering each bit of information I found myself wondering what other information could have been collected. We already created a long list, but there’s so much more that could be discovered. While this may be the case, it would be very difficult, and overwhelming, to record every bit of information possible. While it was much easier to focus on the books at school, this process also reveals how important it is for a book historian to acknowledge that some information is left out. When forming a story from a data inventory, a book historian needs to be mindful of the conclusions being drawn or take the risk of telling a false story. This process shows how challenging and important the data collection process is for a book historian. By collecting a sufficient amount of meaningful data, the better and more believable story can be told.

What the data collection process conceals: The data conceals so much about me as a reader. As the data only includes books that I have at school, I feel like many of the details of my reading history and preferences are concealed. I only bring a few leisure books with me, as my focus at school is placed on the books I have to read for school. From this data set, it would seem that I mostly read nonfiction books, but looking at my library at home would show that that is not the case. While collecting information from my entire collection would be daunting, it would give a better representation of myself as a reader; this data only reveals information about me as a student. It becomes even more difficult when analyzing others’ data, as I don’t know them or their reading habits that well. I have to make my best observations from the data I’m given, while still keeping in mind that this data only comes from a set selection of books. When it comes to collecting data, it’s difficult deciding what information is most important to the story. Do you choose and evaluate data based on the story you want to tell or the story you should tell? Something we should all keep in mind when drafting our first essays.

How the process can be changed to tell a different story: The data collection process overall was very eye-opening. While I was aware of the information contained on the opening pages of a book, such as the publication date and city, I didn’t fully comprehend or appreciate the differences that exist among all these details. With this in mind, there are so many different stories that can be told just by looking at the different details a book contains. There’s so much more to a book than what’s written on a page. It would be interesting to see, for example, the different types of fonts that are used and if that reveals anything about the reader. Perhaps a reader only likes larger fonts, or fonts that are easy to read, or maybe it doesn’t reveal anything at all. And what about how worn a book is? Does the wear and tear of a book reveal something about the reader, perhaps one’s favorite books? And on that note, what about collecting data based on a list of a reader’s favorite books, perhaps a list of the top twenty or so? Would it reveal a more meaningful, personal story of the reader? It’s crazy to think about how much a book can reveal, even crazier to consider how a certain combination of data can tell a unique story. There are so many stories that can be told, how it unfolds is simply up to the book historian’s statistical decisions.

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3 thoughts on “Creating an Inventory, Revealing (or Hiding) a Story

  1. I am as curious as you are when it comes to my data and other peoples’ data. I liked your questions concerning what the wear and tear of a book signifies, or perhaps what the readers favorites were and how that lends to the meaning of the data. I believe in my own blog post I mentioned that just because a book has a place in my collection, that does not mean I wish for it to be there. We don’t necessarily keep only the books we like, so drawing conclusions about a reader based on his/her data certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.

  2. “Do you choose and evaluate data based on the story you want to tell or the story you should tell? Something we should all keep in mind when drafting our first essays.” This line was especially convicting for me. I’m curious what you mean by “the story you should tell”. Perhaps we can discuss it in class. This does raise some interesting questions though, about the data collecting process: Since we are both the collectors and analyzers, what is to keep any one of us from skewing our “story” however we like? Sorry, that sounds far to conspiratorial. My concern is not with our personal data sets, but those we might encounter outside of our class… I suppose these are the natural limitations of self-reporting.

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