I grew up in Jacksonvile, Florida (Duval County). As a kid, I remember being taught a lot of things that didn’t make sense for why they were being taught and questionable accuracy. While some could be attributed to a Jacksonville pride on why JAX is special, for others, I don’t know and would have to invent and backfill a reason and rationale. In working with technology, it seems like technologists and users are taught a lot of weird things, just like me with my Jax childhood.
For technologies, we (both technologists and users) end up guessing why we have weird information, and it seems like we don’t always sufficiently question if the information is true or if we understand it, and we sometimes make-up reasons and rationale. I remember clearly being taught that the “St. John’s River in Jacksonville was one of only 2 in the world that flow north” which is both false and so commonly held in Jax that there’s an article by a retired professor in Jacksonville to debunk this, based on the professor hearing this falsity so often. While completely separate and different, I hear a lot of technical claims from users that feel the same as the claim of only two rivers running north in the world–they only make sense if I understand these statements through our odd collective technical history, a history which has been formed in part by not updating technologies for too long.
I’m thinking about this now because the Libraries at UF have undertaken a lot of complex technical projects. The projects were long delayed on updates, increasing their complexity and the complications for our collective understanding. For example, our website hasn’t updated in nearly a decade, and our current web migration to WordPress will be our first migration to complete, and will be the first time we’ll have a consistent website for the majority of our website. (Our web presence includes a lot more with finding aids, digital collections, guides in LibGuides, and other custom apps/things.) With no updates for so long, we haven’t had needed conversations nor built our collective understanding based on correct information. This means we have a lack of good information, and so then we also haven’t been able to do the critical work over time of accruing/refining information into understanding. Instead, we had old problems that don’t apply (e.g., everything on a page has to be above the fold because scrolling was less preferred by some groups in 2010), and we have ideas that came into being because of the void. We have strange statements and beliefs that only make sense when we consider the void from the lack of technical communication and updates over time. I see this already starting to correct thanks to new conversations and work, but a good bit remains and it is strange.
I’m not sure how long it will take to correct things born of the void, and I hope it’s pretty fast. For now, whenever I hear strange things from the void, I’ll think back to all of the strange things Jax taught me, including to not trust stories about other rivers from a place where we want our river to be exceptional.
Even though not born there, I am like many children of Jax, where all comments are always with respect: #DUUUVAL