Friday, April 21, 2006
Google Scholar has improved as a citation index that ranks relevance based on peer citatations, as Greg Linden points out. Some bloggers are using examples like "web search" to see how well it works.
But let's really put this thing through its paces. Tried "democratic theory."
Participation and Democratic Theory by Carole Pateman came first. Works by Dahl and Macpherson soon followed. Hey, these are right answers! Not just a jumble of results. These are the works that a student of the field would have to read first.
It's a delightful bit of something like irony: a modern search engine influenced by peer citation models, finally going back and applying that to the actual academic world, instead of the wide-open web. It's got potential to be far more useful than those old citation indexes ever were. Or the primitive search functions that were formerly available in library databases.
But, the old brain said -- nothing quite beats the fun of taking your particular subject area, going to the shelf for that Library of Congress number, and looking at every book there to see if there's anything interesting. That's how I came across, for example, that book that takes the idea of democratic representation to the extreme, for argument's sake.
Take a look at who or what interests are formally represented in a representative system - in a house of representatives, elected senate, or parliament. It's plain to see that the only interest formally represented is geographic, and frankly, as a democratic device, that's plain capricious and weird. Of course we have plenty of other checks and balances, including the judicial system, but still. So this author proposes that every salient characteristic in politics be represented in an enormous parliament of several thousand representatives. You'd have to have x number of men, various ethnic groups (of course this is mandated in some parts of the world, but again, capriciously), age groups, sexual orientations, etc. These wouldn't be just lobby groups -- they'd be right in parliament! Obviously an extreme argument. But not a bad one, especially in the context of a bicameral or tricameral system where that house acted as an advisory body with certain veto powers.
The only problem is - I can't remember the author's name.
Off to Google Scholar. Type in "statistical democracy." John Burnheim's Is Democracy Possible? is the second listed result. Not bad, Google Scholar. Not bad at all.
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