Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bill Gates on Online Learning...

from today's Inside Higher Ed - Daily Update:

"What would Bill Gates fund? That's the question many in higher education want to know and his annual letter about his interests for his foundation offers some guidance. This year, one of his areas of interest is online learning. "So far technology has hardly changed formal education at all. But a lot of people, including me, think this is the next place where the Internet will surprise people in how it can improve things — especially in combination with face-to-face learning. With the escalating costs of education, an advance here would be very timely," he writes. He praises colleges and universities for putting lectures online, but argues that online learning also needs to include interactivity. He also expresses interest in identifying the best educational materials online and better organizing them. "

You can read the Gates Foundation annual letter here: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/annual-letter/2010/Pages/education-learning-online.aspx

Friday, January 22, 2010

Who wants a BookBook case?

from the Krafty Librarian blog http://kraftylibrarian.com/ : Friday Fun: The BookBook

"What better way for a Mac-toting librarian to protect their laptop than the BookBook? The BookBook is a laptop case cleverly designed and disquised as an antique, distressed, leather-bound book.

It comes in two colors, red and black and in 13″ and 15″ sizes. According to the TwelveSouth website, the “rigid leather hardback covers for a solid level of impact absorbing protection. The rigid spine serves as crush protection for an additional line of defense. BookBook creates a hardback book structure that safeguards your MacBook like few other cases.” The zippers for the case look like little leather bookmarks.

The first attached image shows the outside look of the BookBook carrying case. The second attached image shows a MacBook inside the BookBook case.

[The Krafty Librarian] thinks the case is a little pricey at $79.99 but then again when you compare with others at CoolComputerBags.com, it is pretty much right in the middle of things.

Values in Design?

This quote is from this editorial in response to Clinton's Internet Freedom speech:

The US campaign for uncensored and free flow of information on an unrestricted Internet is a disguised attempt to impose its values on other cultures in the name of democracy.

While technically correct, it seems a rather shallow interpretation of this larger idea.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reform and Resistance in the University

Louis Menand, The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2010) is an engaging new contribution to the ongoing debate about higher education, its future, and its status. In this book, Menand considers four challenging issues, namely, why it is hard to develop a general education curriculum; the crisis facing the humanities; the emergence of interdisciplinarity; and the reasons for the similar political positions held by university faculty. For someone in a professional school, Menand provides a lot of interesting contextual information about the development of professional education in the university. Menand notes, for example, “The rise of the modern university and the emergence of the modern academic disciplines were part of the same phenomenon: the professionalization of occupation. Professionalization means two things: credentialization and specialization” (pp. 100-101). Menand also writes with insight about interesting historical trends, such as the shrinking of liberal arts in the university, the shift from teaching to research as the model for the professor, and fashionable ideas about interdisciplinarity; about the latter, he argues, “interdisciplinarity is not something different from disciplinarity. It is the ratification of the logic of disciplinarity. In practice, it actually tends to rigidify disciplinary paradigms” (p. 119). He also wrestles with one of my favorite topics, the preparation of future faculty: “People are taught . . . to become expert in a field of specialized study; and then, at the end of a long, expensive, and highly single-minded process of credentialization, they are asked to perform tasks for which they had no training whatsoever: to teach their fields to non-specialists, to connect what they teach to issues that students are likely to confront in the world outside the university, to be interdisciplinary, to write for a general audience, to justify their work to people outside their discipline and outside the academy. If we want professors to be better at these things, then we ought to train them differently” (pp. 157-158). This is why I teach a doctoral seminar about the role of faculty in professional schools in the modern research university (and, yes, next year, this will be a required reading in the course).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Podcast interview with Mitch Ratcliffe

This podcast, which contains and interview with Mitch Ratcliffe is worth listening to, and the links in the page are worth exploring. In the interview, Ratcliffe imagines the future of books and the publishing economy; in doing so, he seems to touch on almost every aspect that SIS is interested in. However, he does not touch on the role of libraries in the future he imagines, which, at first blush, would be rather different than the role that is being played today.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Moral Panics & Copyright

William Patry, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009) is an interesting perspective on intellectual property, examining the murky past decade or so of the debates (or wars) about copyright. Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google, Inc. (another reason why the book is interesting), considers how what he sees as a practical government responsibility became the topic of litigation and moral rights. Patry describes how the debates focus on how to preserve old business models that are closed and tightly controlled, resisting innovation. Patry pushes the idea that copyright is supposed to be for the benefit of society not authors or copyright owners: “The business of copyright is not businesses who own copyright, but the public” (p. 123).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Madness of Crowds and an Internet Delusion

This is an interesting article over at the NY Times that discusses a new book by Jaron Lanier "You Are Not a Gadget".

... is a manifesto against “hive thinking” and “digital Maoism,” by which he means the glorification of open-source software, free information and collective work at the expense of individual creativity.

He blames the Web’s tradition of “drive-by anonymity” for fostering vicious pack behavior on blogs, forums and social networks. He acknowledges the examples of generous collaboration, like Wikipedia, but argues that the mantras of “open culture” and “information wants to be free” have produced a destructive new social contract.

“The basic idea of this contract,” he writes, “is that authors, journalists, musicians and artists are encouraged to treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind. Reciprocity takes the form of self-promotion. Culture is to become precisely nothing but advertising.”

... Mr. Lanier’s [complains] about masses of “digital peasants” being forced to provide free material to a few “lords of the clouds” like Google and YouTube. But I’m not sure Mr. Lanier has correctly diagnosed the causes of our discontent, particularly when he blames software design for leading to what he calls exploitative monopolies on the Web like Google.

It is a provocative review that puts this book on my reading list!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Come on, kids, let's put on a blog."

Kate Theimer. Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-55570-679-1, $79.95.

The practical wisdom of Kate Theimer’s introductory comment in which she notes “a successful Web 2.0 implementation needs to be part of an organization’s workflow” (p.xii) sets the tone for this useful overview of how these tools have been used to promote archival collections. Part cookbook, part “Come on, kids, let’s put on a show,” she discusses the parallel opportunities and obligations of blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter), podcasts, still image and video sharing sites for enhancing discovery of the dark archives in our cultural and commercial institutions. Although many of these tools are seductively simple to implement initially, the trick is to not to go public until you have considered what you’re actually trying to do - specifically what audience you wish to attract and what services you’re prepared to provide. Once you’ve identified that content, you must also be prepared to update it at regular intervals, measuring how it is received. Part of that preparation is cultivating institutional buy-in, investigating ownership and other legal issues, thinking ahead to policies that deal with changing interactions between archivists and users, publicizing and preserving the created content. It’s also well to be familiar with already existing projects, as your efforts will be measured against them, particularly in terms of production values.

Each chapter addresses the basic mechanics, hardware and software options and expertise required for deployment of the major Web 2.0 tools, supplemented with candid comments from the developers of the projects highlighted as examples. Standard interviews discuss selection of material for inclusion, challenges, positive and negative results and offer recommendations for those institutions wanting to do something similar. Chapters conclude with tips emphasizing the need to consistently identify your institution, since the intent is to drive traffic to your site. Additionally, since the major justification for using these tools is to increase the serendipitous discovery of material held in your collection by the pre- or non-academic users, it’s important to continually budget time and effort to provide descriptive and contextual information, to monitor use of the online collections, and to prepare to respond to that increased demand for reference service.

All common sense recommendations, perhaps, but the specific examples of various Web 2.0 tools are meant to inspire as well as inform. Theimer moves beyond the excitement of establishing a new resource to considering how its success can be evaluated, and the resources sustained, even after the project’s champion or creator moves on to other things. She also notes this is well to remain open to the possibility of unintended consequences, in which you may have “achieved outcomes like increasing your own knowledge about your collections and cultivating new stakeholders and potential advocates.” (p. 203) She argues that archives need be about the new as well as the old, claiming that, “in the current economic climate, institutions that don’t find a way to engage their audiences and stakeholders are going to get passed over for funding, and, with the added challenges brought by the Web, we need that funding more than ever before.” (p.224)

Thinking of expenses, the price of this helpful work is an unfortunate deterrent for a paperback that one would like to recommend for students, new archivists, or archival administrators concerned that they may be the last archives on the planet without a Facebook page.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Historians Speak Up About Google Books

From this afternoon's Chronicle of Higher Ed --

Historians Throw the Book(s) at Google
By Thomas Bartlett
Here's a straightforward question: Is Google good for history? Or, more specifically, is Google Books good for historians?

That was the topic of a lively afternoon session at the American Historical Association's annual conference, happening right now in San Diego. The answer, as you might expect, wasn't equally straightforward. In fact, for nearly two hours historians alternately praised Google for its stunningly ambitious project to digitize the world's books and berated the company for missteps and a (supposed) lack of scholarly sophistication.

Kicking off the proceedings was Daniel J. Cohen, the director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Cohen said "of course" Google is good for history, but he went on to criticize the project for its lack of openness: "I cannot understand why Google doesn’t make it easier for historians such as myself, who want to do technical analyses of historical books, to download them en masse more easily." You can read Cohen's entire talk on his blog.

Paul Duguid was harsher. While Cohen prefaced his remarks by saying it was easy to heap scorn on Google, Duguid, an adjunct professor at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Information, thought critics generally pulled their punches. Duguid certainly didn't. He said Google was "naive" going into the project and is guilty of "lying" about its search totals. He also mocked mistakes Google Books has made, particularly when it comes to metadata, that is, the information that identifies and categorizes a book or other material. Apparently, Henry James did not write Madame Bovary. It was some guy named Flaubert. Who knew?

You can read the rest of the story at http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Historians-Throw-the-Books/19562/?sid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en

Thursday, January 07, 2010

"Best" jobs, 2010

Go to http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/st_BESTJOBS2010_20100105.html
and check out items 3, 15, and 46.....there is also an interesting note re methodology. This appeared in today's Wall Street Journal online edition.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Public information, social networking and egov

This podcast caught my attention; it describes the DIYcity project that encourages people to use publicly available information (including that from social networks) to build information services for cities. This basically advocates a decentralized approach to providing useful information to citizens, very much in line with the decentralized approach to Internet development.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Total Recall

Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell, Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything (New York: Dutton, 2009) is an engrossing book that may inspire or infuriate you depending on your view of things. Bell, building on his MyLifeBits work and inspired by the Vannevar Bush Memex idea, expands the notion to lifelogging whereby most every one of your activities are captured and retained forever. By doing this, he claims, “You become the librarian, archivist, cartographer, and curator of your life” (p. 5), although there is no evidence that either Bell or his co-author ever talked over such matters with a librarian, archivist, or curator.

This book is part prediction, part polemic, and part practice. Bell and Gemmell discuss the equipment needed to do this, the empowerment that capturing all this personal information means, and slip and slide around issues such as privacy, ethics, identity theft, and so forth. They believe that Total Recall will be fully underway by 2020, and only would not happen except if a “vast legal or political effort of social engineering” prevents it (p. 8). The book presents a lot of information suggesting that we have the technology to do this and do it inexpensively (the basic equipment needed is a smart phone, GPS unit, digital camera, personal computer, and Internet connection) and that if we do not do this we are stupid (“Abstaining from lifelogging will begin to seem more like avoiding the use of e-mail or cell phones, because so many advantages and conveniences will be foregone. Those who shun recording will be less empowered than those who embrace it” [p. 21]). Still, there is not a lot of reality in the book about just who can afford such devices or who has the time or other resources to do this (the specter of the digital divide looms not too far below the surface).

What I like about the book is its description of one possible scenario for the future, especially for those who work with archives and records systems. Bell and Gemmel’s description of applications in digital memory at work, in personal health, learning, and everyday life are engaging. When they dig a bit more deeply, they present interesting possibilities for future records and information management professionals. For example, “To date, it is common for a published paper with a few tables and charts to be the only long-term survivor of a research project that once had volumes of data, ‘metadata’ that describes how the data was gathered, copious notes, and conversations among the researchers” (p, 127). Now “researchers . . . will be able to preserve and share all of their material and notes to the benefit of others” (p. 128). The “scope of original sources is about to explode as lifelogging increases. We shall have to see how society evolves to deal with the legacy of e-memories, but I presume that eventually many lifelogs will be opened to a trusted historian to excerpt, if not entirely released to the public” (p. 129). Their effort to consider such matters would have benefitted considerably from some discussion with archivists, records managers, and, increasingly, historians and other scholars who are currently working with an array of digital sources (both digitally captured from analog sources and digitally-born). Bell and Gemmel argue, “If we can have a complete record of the things about people that especially provoke meaning for us, what will we do with this complete record when they are gone? We will maintain the e-memory of that person as a treasured heirloom. And, someday, we will ask it questions. The e-memory will answer. You will have virtual immortality” (p, 139). Since Bell and Gemmel place Total Recall within a personal realm, they never address the issue of why or how some of these digital memories might be placed in repositories for open access (what archivists would describe as being part of the appraisal function).

Some of their commentary suggests notions needing far more discussion. They “see four steps in the progression of digital immortality. First is digitizing the legacy media one has. Second is supplementing one’s e-memories with new digital sources. The third is two-way immortality – the ability to actually interact with an avatar that responds just like you would. The fourth is an avatar that learns and changes over time just as you would have” (p. 154). Why steps two, three, and four are necessary is more science fiction than practical necessity or reality, but, at least, they will prompt debate and discussion that ought to generate some new thinking within the community of information professionals including archivists and librarians.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Things that became obsolete this decade

This is fun reading ... maybe it suggests things for Ellen's museum. How many of these are still in your house or office?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Jobs of the future?

There is an interesting article in Careers section of the December 28, 2009, Wall Street Journal, entitled "Landing a Job of the Future Takes a Two-Track Mind ." One salient sentence in the story reads "Common areas of undergraduate study for these fields include some of the usual suspects, such as computer science, information science and management-information systems." .... I think it's very telling that the words "information science" are now thought to be among the "usual suspects"!

You can read the whole WSJ piece here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703278604574624392641425278.html?mod=rss_Today's_Most_Popular