THING ONE: Well? Which is it?

THING TWO: Shhh. I’m busy trying to remember what I used to know about Hegel.

THING ONE: No, I won’t shush. Which is it??

THING TWO: Which is what? No, wait, you know what? I don’t even wanna know.

THING ONE: Yes, you do, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

THING TWO: Honey, the only reason we’re having this conversation is because we both agree that we’re not really in the mood to write a blog post right now.

THING ONE: Well then.


THING ONE: Sooooooooo, which is it? Is Lankes crazy or did he get it right?

THING TWO: That’s what you were on about? That’s not even what he meant by that sentence. He said, “That’s why two different people reading this can come to different conclusions: Lankes is crazy or Lankes got it right”  (Lankes, 2011, p.33). It’s an example of an aspect of conversation theory: he’s just exploring how someone who is using an artifact to learn things is really building agreements with themselves, not with the person who committed those ideas to paper. He’s not asking you to make a decision!

THING ONE: So he mostly got it right then?

THING TWO: Sure, I guess. Is that really all you wanted to talk about?

THING ONE: No, not really, I mostly wanted to talk about what you just said.

THING TWO: I don’t see how that can be, when I only just now said it. But go ahead.

THING ONE: Um, duh, we’re the same person. So, anyway,  if someone in conversation with an artifact is really in a conversation with their own imago of the author (or painter or programmer or what have you) … what happens if the author somehow joins the conversation? What if the first person writes down her conversation, or, ooh! ooh! the conversation she’s having with herself about that conversation, and posts it online or something, and then the author comes along and has a conversation in his head with his imago of the conversants in her conversation, and then he writes something down and passes that writing along to the person who wrote down the conversation about the conversation, so then she has a conversation with the author’s conversation about the conversa-

THING TWO: Breathe!

THING ONE: Phew.  OK, sorry.  But do you understand what I mean? It’s dizzying!

THING TWO: Yeah, and at the end of it all you have to wonder: are two people  ever really in conversation even when they are talking face-to-face?  Or are they always just talking to an ever-closer imaginary approximation of the other person?  Does conversation theory break the entire idea of having a conversation?

THING ONE: Dude. Not helping.

THING TWO: Fine.  You’re the one that wanted to talk about all this stuff!  I wanted to talk about Lankes’ work on the Scapes project, how it resembles and surpasses some of the daydreams I used to have when I was first exploring the ‘Net, and how the reference librarians where we work are already demonstrating their agreement with its underlying premises when they walk over to a student’s work area, or encourage students to use their own laptops at the reference desk.  But we’ve already written too much!  Thanks a lot!

THING ONE: What, you think I planned this?

THING ONE and THING TWO grin slyly at each other, link arms, and  disappear.


Lankes, R. D. (2011).  The Atlas of New Librarianship.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Note: I am writing a series of six posts about the six threads of The Atlas of New Librarianship as I read through them sequentially, pausing after each one. Thus, my opinions of the work itself are only informed by however many threads I’ve read so far; when I say “what about THIS, though?” in my writing, it is entirely possible that a trenchant answer to my question lies in the pages I’ve yet to read. Nobody can contain the whole of a work in each piece of the work, and I usually prefer to discuss books after I’ve read them all the way through… but for the purposes of this assignment, it’s important to record my reflections as I experience them.

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