Philobiblon: Essential reading

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Essential reading

There's been much talk of the usefulness of the web in research, and it certainly is invaluable in making easily accessible many forms of texts previously rare or hard to reach, but in many ways I can't help feeling we're still about the stage they were on radio when they read out the newspapers for "news" bulletins. Our habitus, to use Bourdieu's invaluable concept, has yet to catch up with our technology.

So I was interested to see a site on research into the effects of the reservations for women of seats in India's local government, the panchayats. The authors say: We seek your inputs regarding the sort of questions we need to ask: Perspectives; Any research studies that may have been done; Questionnaires; Experience at the field level; Anything………"

I can't imagine that too many of the women on the panchayats would have internet access - although I bet there would be a few - but it is easy to see how this model might be used to encourage participation by the subjects of studies in the design of the studies on them, potentially a revolution.

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If you are at all interested in science, then you have to read a physics professor's argument for radical science, which addresses, if does not answer, the fascinating question: Where do hypotheses come from?

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Iraq as the new Iran? This excellent Washington Post article on Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has some frightening input into this possibility, although is scrupulously fair. And it points out that you can see for yourself at Sistani.org, with his writings available in English, French, Urdu and Arabic. A sample:

Question:I want to ask about talking to ones fiancee on telephone, is it permissible or not?
Answer:If talking is free of provocative words and if there is no fear of falling in sin, there is no objection.

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And if you need to find hope for sanity in that other great fundamentalist state, read this account of how to bring up an atheist child in America.

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