ebrowsing with naturalists

In thinking about how people move through a process of discovery, we turn to naturalists, as they offer an awareness of how their attention is directed by their environment. Early 20th century scientist and naturalist Aldo Leopold reflects on his approach to hunting partridge.

“One way to hunt partridge is to make a plan, based on logic and probabilities, of the terrain to be hunted. This will take you over the ground where the birds ought to be.  Another way is to wander, quite aimlessly, from one red lantern to another. This will take you to where the birds actually are. The lanterns are blackberry leaves, red in October sun.”
- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Leopold uses the phrase “wander aimlessly” though he’s clearly moving deliberately from one blackberry bush to another. Let’s imagine a tool that would allow, or even encourage you to move among nodes that might only be visible to you, making use of your own highly cultivated lens.

As Leopold made his way through the brush, "red lanterns” catching his eye form time to time, he may have felt a bit aimless, as we all do when we are first noticing a pattern or relationship among seemingly unrelated things. Once we pause and reflect on our path, we are better able to articulate the relationships we see. While the word “wander” doesn’t seem quite right in retrospect, it does describe the initial impulse. It’s that initial impulse that we want to cultivate in the electronic environment.


Kate Joranson

Business Reference Librarian, Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh Kate Joranson studied art at the University of Wisconsin, earned her MFA at Ohio State University, and an MLIS at the University of Pittsburgh. As both a librarian and an artist, she enjoys the accidental nature of looking for one thing, and finding something else. As a blogger, she cultivates collisions and connections among seemingly disparate interests. Snow drifts, messy kitchens, market research, and pink scaffolding are all topics you may encounter on her blog, where she explores search engines as a medium. Also: small business owner, gardener, knitter.