On the distribution of word forms

Envisioning Information Access Systems: What Makes for Good Tools and a Healthy Web?

Emily Bender's latest article with Chirag Shah is an interesting read for anyone interested in what librarians would call discovery tools, and what place generative AI might (but mostly doesn't) have in them. For those who insist that LLMs are generating “answers” based on “understanding” questions, Linguistics professor Bender has this to say:

Information is not knowledge, and that is even more true when the information is only information about the distribution of word forms.

As to the impact of “now with AI” web search:

An ecosystem is a collection of interdependent entities standing in relationship to each other. On the Web, one key type of relationship is that between information providers and information accessors. In this relationship, information accessors desire to find information sources they can trust; information providers desire to show themselves to be trustworthy. Synthetic media break these relationships of trust and trustworthiness, making it harder for people seeking to access information to find sources that are trustworthy—and eventually to be able to trust them even if they have found them.

Reimagining Cultural Heritage Data

This is a really interesting blog post from the Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru (National Library of Wales) about using linked data for bilingual name authorities, via controlled synchronisation with Wikidata. It sounds cool, though the Shah/Bender paper above did remind me of the famous controversy when it was discovered that most of the articles in the Scots language wikipedia were authored by an American teenger who didn't speak Scots. Small language communities need to be ever vigilant.

No one buys books

This is a fascinating article about what was learned about the mainstream commercial book industry from the Penguin Random House attempt to but Simon & Schuster, and the subsequent US antitrust case. It seems that what many of us have suspected for a while is even worse: Not only do most authors never sell enough copies to earn anything beyond their advance (if they were lucky to get one), but even the big celebrities commanding bidding wars often don't pay them out. It's worth a read, even if it is somewhat depressing.

Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every week by Hugh Rundle.

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