Sorting our world: The Nairarbi and the Diiwi code
August 13, 2014 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Even the first-year student of anthropology quickly learns that cultural groups are “varied” and “diverse.” Yet one group that has not been studied in all its diversity is the Nairarbi, an information-working caste scattered through many societies in the modern world.
posted by the man of twists and turns (13 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Nacirema 2.0
posted by psoas at 10:33 AM on August 13 [13 favorites]

Listicle idea: 9 Easy Ways to Drive Social-Media Traffic using the Verfremdungseffekt
posted by RogerB at 10:46 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]

This is pretty weak - I guess it's an attempt to understand librarians as if they were a foreign entity, but this viewpoint doesn't really add anything to the discussion. I mean if swapping an understood word with a foreign-sounding one helps a person build a deeper level of understanding then more power to them, but I don't really find playing this type of language game to be a learning experience.
posted by Dmenet at 10:56 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]

As an aside, it's surprising that this is the first actual FPP tagged "Nacirema", although this strange country and its exotic customs have been brought up incidentally in other threads. A good place to start is Prof. Horace Mitchell Miner's classic anthropological study "Body Ritual among the Nacirema".
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:02 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]

It's confusing that she uses a real country/culture, Kazakhstan, as a distracting device in her re-imagining piece here. Real Kazakhs might be annoyed.
posted by Bwithh at 11:11 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

>>Horace Mitchell Miner's classic anthropological study "Body Ritual among the Nacirema".
Weston LaBarre's anthropology of the Usans should not be neglected either.
posted by homerica at 11:16 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]

posted by Wolfdog at 11:24 AM on August 13

This article is really ham-handed and sad. It isn't clever enough to be engaging and is confusing enough to be completely ignorable.
posted by evilcupcakes at 11:52 AM on August 13

The actual Body Ritual among the Nacirema article was "ham-handed" enough that I, a freshman with no anthropological background, blurted out, "Wait, this is talking about us, isn't it?" after our anthro 101 instructor read it to us.

He was irritated, thinking I had read it before. But really, it just seemed kind of obvious.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 12:09 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]

When I bring up the Diiwi code, Laura laughs. “Haven’t used it in a while.” While Laura was trained in Diiwi a few years ago, she and her friends find that modern Putra are put off by the linearity of the Diiwi code—for some, it preserves continuity and clarity. But for others, the system confuses rather than helps. Some Naira have moved to Elsii...

Thus perpetuating a myth every librarian knows to be untrue, but that is assumed by many members of the public to be true: that the Dewey Decimal System is old-fashioned and on its way out, to be replaced by the Library of Congress ("LC") system.

Want to know why people believe this? Here's my theory: due to undeniable differences in complexity (and the fact that Dewey call numbers get long enough to be unrealistic for label use the more specific the topic is), Dewey tends to be used for smaller collections and those that are more general or basic, while LC tends to be used for larger, more academic collections that are more in-depth on some subjects. As kids we (meaning your average middle-class library patron) see only public, school, and (maybe) church/synagogue libraries, all of which tend to be smaller and to use Dewey (or nothing) for call numbers). Then we go to college (well, some of us do) and see LC in its natural habitat: the academic library. We assume that, since we have arrived at this temple of learning, LC must be the very newest and best way to categorize materials. Then we graduate and don't go to ANY library for a matter of years, until we have kids. On re-visiting the public library we are horrified to learn that it STILL uses the Dewey Decimal system like when we were little kids, and hasn't progressed AT ALL towards the obviously clearer LC system.

In short: our natural progression of library use shows us what we assume to be a novel improvement, then takes it away.

I wonder how many people assume that their public and school libraries are woefully mismanaged and behind the times, simply because they use a cataloging system that was developed for public/school libraries, and not one developed for large scholarly collections.
posted by gillyflower at 12:40 PM on August 13 [12 favorites]

It's confusing that she uses a real country/culture, Kazakhstan, as a distracting device in her re-imagining piece here. Real Kazakhs might be annoyed.

They've dealt with worse.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 4:39 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

Is this where we mention the ritual tooth cleansing culture?
posted by clvrmnky at 5:41 PM on August 13

I have to say, from my viewpoint inside, many libraries, library systems, and assorted etc. ARE woefully mismanaged and behind the times. Regardless of what catalog system they use.
posted by evilDoug at 7:07 PM on August 13

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