Search This Blog

Jul 23, 2010

How do you know what you want?

 It was a third meeting with various techies people today on how we can have a direct control over the School’s web site. what do you want to be on the site, -- I was asked once again. That reminded me one of those long and interesting conversations people have at conferences. My friend Bing and I were thinking about the connection between desire and cognition: How do you know what you want? How do you learn about your own wants and preferences? It is not really that simple; we are not born with a set of preferences; we both discover and define them from experiences.
As I am trying to figure out ways to work at RIC, the question comes up in many interesting forms. For example, what I really want is not having to express my preferences to the web master. I want us to change things quickly, to experiment, and to collaborate. By putting forth a specific web site structure, I would limit the ability to change it later. This is true for every choice we make: choosing one door closes many others. Another example: I needed some data exported from PeopleSoft. It was something simple, like a report on faculty loads over a few years. While the data was provided to me quickly (beautifully presented and formatted) I really wanted more – an ability design and run this and other queries on my own, whenever I needed. Ideally, we should be able to pull some numbers while talking to someone on the phone. In other words, what I want is to want many different things in the future.
But of course, it is not so simple. We have a centralized way of publishing the College’s web site for very good reasons. Such a site looks professional, consistent, and is quite accurate; it was designed in response to a chaotic situation in the past. If you let everyone run with their own sections of it, the site gradually deteriorates and will include dead links and inaccurate information. I don’t want that to happen either. The complication with our desires and preferences is that we have conflicting ones. Moreover, we very often want things that are bad for us, because we cannot imagine consequences of our choices. This is why the social world is full of tension: we must constantly check and balance each other’s desires. To put it simply, we cannot always get what we want. I am not someone who easily takes a no for an answer; I will keep pressing the issue until the reason for the no is very clear, rational, and considers all possible solutions. However, it is very important to not miss that point where a tentative and ephemeral no becomes a substantial no with which one must agree because it is consistent with other things one wants. Just want to let you know – we’re not there yet with the web. I still want the direct editing privileges; just don’t know how it could be done. 

No comments:

Post a Comment