Saturday, December 29, 2007

Birthday #2

Happy Birthday, kid! You are amazing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Abby and the Magic Wurlitzer

We're home. Well, the house I grew up in at least. My parents have lived in the same home for almost 35 years now. They moved in when I was almost 2. It's a home steeped in family folklore and being in it conjures up all sorts of nostalgia and wistfulness. Something sad, too. Of time fleeting?

The blustery weather helps fuel this sadness. I woke up at 6:00 and listened to the sound of rain thrashing at the windows and the howling wind. When the sun came up, its light was diluted and made murky by a settlement of gray. This house, my parents house, is filled with my past. In the basement there are letters from friends dating back to grade school. I open random drawers and find pictures of my grandparents, of birthday parties in the backyard, of Christmas mornings from 30 years ago. I don't know what to do with all this. I wanted to make a documentary of it, try and make sense of all the emotions such artifacts stir up--but I feel overwhelmed and that, in turn, makes me feel listless. Or maybe it's all the cookies I've been eating and the sugar crash that always follows in their wake.

I'm at the library. It's quiet and they have internet access. It's another place where old ghosts linger but it doesn't impose its will so strongly.

Beyond the inchoate undertow of saudade, is Abby. Shes storms right through it, a little high octane engine of curiosity and demanding joy. My Dad's Wurlitzer, too. It wheezes and churns to life while its kick drum and trombones shake the entire house. Abby loves it and so do I.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

LIS768 Summary

I agree with what others have already expressed--this course should be one of the fundamentals for any future librarian. I also agree with Michael that its title should be changed to "Emerging Technologies."

Library 2.0, no longer a nascent movement, is still in its evangelist phase. It's spreading the good word, surrounded by a relatively tight-knit, energized collective of academics, students and librarians. It's very good at introducing the uninitiated to emerging technologies but still finding its footing concerning the impacts, both good and bad, such technologies may have in a library setting. It's time for more Library 2.0 introspection. It's time, for example, for more case studies of what's worked and why. It's time for case studies of what hasn't worked and why. I wonder, for example, how the Library 2.0 movement might fruitfully draw from the field of Community Informatics, another relatively new discipline equally interested in community based information and communication technologies.

That said, I enjoyed the course but was sometimes frustrated by the introductory quality of it. That sounds somewhat condescending though I definitely don't mean it to. I was, however, already aware or avidly using almost all of technology we discussed. I wonder, once this course is more established, if it wouldn't be beneficial to offer a follow up that moves beyond the introductory and explores some areas that I feel need Library 2.0 needs to tackle. This includes:

1. Management. My LIS770 textbook, Management Basics for Information Professionals was over 500 pages long. Dull-as-dust, but plenty of Druckeresque meat to chew on. Idealistic graduates hoping to spread some of the good word concerning Library 2.0 are often leaving school and stepping into entrenched, change-resistant bureaucracies. So, introducing students to these new, potentially relevant new technologies is one thing but exploring ways for overcoming such resistance is another, equally important piece of the Library 2.0 equation. Additionally, what management models work best with Library 2.0? Perhaps we should be exploring or creating case studies for introducing emerging technologies in libraries and looking at how emerging technologies disrupt existing/popular management systems and how this might be successfully mitigated.

2. Evaluation. Earlier this year, the Americans For Libraries Council released a much needed report titled, Worth Their Weight: An Assessment of the Evolving Field of Library Valuation. It's well worth reading. Perhaps it's because the Library 2.0 field is so young, but I've seen distressing little talk amongst its proponents concerning how the technologies its advocating for are being evaluated. As the report makes clear, those of us advocating for libraries and the public financing and good-will needed to sustain them, must be able to, in quantitative terms, prove their worth. Increasingly, libraries are being asked to prove their social return on investment. This is a tricky, but evaluation methodologies are out there. While qualitative narratives/stories are important, funders trust and want numbers. We need to be studying these evaluation models.

3. Library Literacy. Libraries are still hopelessly bibliocentric. Ideas about what a library is (rather then what it could or should be) are firmly entrenched. They're about books. They're about reading. And, yes, reading is fundamental, but... I'd like to see a Library 2.0 follow up class that spent some time exploring a more expansive idea of what 21st literacy constitutes. Clearly some libraries are having success, making way for gaming, media labs and the like. There's a lot of great research going on in these areas and it would help fortify recent graduates moving into the public domain if they knew they had a lot of highly persuasive company working alongside them.

There's more, but Cathy is making cookies and a piece of cake beckons. I know this blog will continue to chug along. I hope others will allow their own to linger and will share, when inspired, their own thoughts.

Happy Holidays! and the Joys of Personalized Metadata

I've told this story before. Prior to, I kept various file folders of interesting news clippings. I had a file for health related articles, one for foreign affairs, another for cultural news...roughly a dozen of these. Articles too good to lose forever. I'd cut or print them out, highlight some interesting sections, then file them away for later. I had grand plans.

The bookmarks on my computer were already sagging under their burden. Rows of bookmarks. Every so often I'd go through them and weed, separate the wheat from the chaff. Joshua Schachter, it seems, was having a similar problem, losing his way amongst the links. That findability thing. doesn't need weeding--just feed it tasty links, tag 'em and move on. No more printing, no more file folders, no more overstuffed bookmarks.

I'm still refining my own folksomony, creating an organization system that will be as effectively retrievable as I want it to be. I get a little crazy with all those keywords. On the other hand, the process of tagging an article acts as a nice way to quickly run back through what I've just read, quickly summarizing what I found relevant. I become more attuned to a pieces themes, motifs and how it may be personally relevant. It allows for a dialog between myself and whatever it is I'm labeling. That others may be tagging with similar keywords, leading to articles or sites I overlooked, is like gravy-- a nice extravagance.

My bookmarks are here. Everything bookmarked for LIS768 can be found here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Group Project Rehash

For our group presentation we explored the idea of Library as place. I've been interested for a while now in how place effects our mental and physical well-being. Even more so in how little thought we often give to these effects, how unconscious we are of them. One of the best definitions of place we ran across came from the book, Library As Place, where Kathleen McCook defined what she called "Sense-of-Place" as "the sum total of all perceptions-aesthetic,emotional, historical,supernal--that a physical location, and the activities and emotional responses associated with that location, invoke in people."

Such subjective, highly emotional attachments to place fascinate me. Our group had originally flirted with the idea of making a video documentary exploring this in relation to libraries. I've long wanted somebody to more fully unpack that gem from the OCLC's "Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources" report noting the intense nostalgia people feel for libraries, a nostalgia often associated with childhood. I wonder sometimes if the good-will most folks harbor for libraries draws from this deep well of nostalgia.

Making such a documentary, however, proved logistically difficult given our groups personal geography. Nicole and I lived on the North Side of Chicago, so we decided to team up and explore Harold Washington Library, the mothership of Chicago libraries and a building I've long had an adversarial relationship with. Nicole and I used PBwiki to brainstorm what we wanted to do.

The resulting video was perhaps a bit more freewheeling then I would have liked--but we had a lot of fun doing it and lot's of good discussion, some of which we were able to distill into the documentary.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Civic Life, Youth and Libraries

It figures this would happen the day I turn in my LIS768 paper! As mentioned, my paper focused on how libraries can take advantage of the massive amounts of online content creation being generated by today's youth by offering services and programming that seeks to channel the energy and creativity found there toward a more dynamic, relevant form of civic engagement. Yesterday, the MacArthur Foundation announced the "the launch of the new International Journal of Learning and Media, through which core issues facing young people in a digital age will be explored."

Doh! Do you know how great it would have been to have been able to read these a few weeks ago?

The first six titles are available online and probably worth a look for anybody whose interested in youth and their relationship with technology.

Abby is taking her nap, so I'm reading the first title, "Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth," which might as well have been the title of my own paper. In the first chapter, W. Lance Bennett has the chutzpah to bring up all sorts of things I conveniently left out of my own paper or failed to even consider. I hate him. But he points out that there are two "sharply differing views of what constitutes civic engagement and citizenship for young people both on and off line."

The engaged youth paradigm, as he calls it, holds that the so-called lack of civic participation amongst today's youth is due to a failure on the part of our government to recognize the "generation changes in social identity that have resulted in the growing importance of peer networks and online communities." Traditional forms of civic engagement are viewed by today's youth with skepticism, lacking authenticity. New forms of civic engagement, while nascent, are occurring online, a "new spectrum of civic actions," as Bennett calls them.

The disengaged youth paradigm, on the other hand, acknowledges the possibilities of this new spectrum of civic engagement emerging online, but focuses "on generational decline in connections to government (e.g., voting patterns) and general civic engagement (e.g., following public affairs in the news) as threats to the health of democracy itself."

These two paradigms don't seem so terribly far apart to me, though if forced to chose my sympathies would lie more with the engaged youth paradigm. Millions of youth are creating, remixing and disseminating content online. Some of it could be said to taking advantage of this new spectrum on civic engagement emerging online, but a huge majority of it, as the disengaged youth crowd believe, is focused on self-expression and consumer advocacy with some fortuitous civic spindrift. But we can't simply chastise youth for not debating the merits and drawbacks, 250 years on, of our founding fathers belief in a representative democracy as opposed to a direct one. What we need to do, and this is what I suggested in my paper, is work to channel these online creative endeavors toward, as Peter Levine suggests, building the "foundations of civil society in the twenty-first society." After all, maybe what youth are doing with this explosion of online content creation is opening up new, reinvigorated ways to be a citizen. Maybe the fact that they're disengaged from the more traditional forms of civic engagement is because, as Bennett points out, they're flawed. "Telling young people to participate in bad institutions," Bennett writes, "is mere propaganda."

The goal, then, is to bring these two paradigms together and leverage the creativity and enthusiasm that's occurring online to help create new, exciting and tangible ways for youth to effect community change, to become engaged citizens. Libraries, long viewed, perhaps romantically, as bulwarks of democracy, have an opportunity to step in and facilitate this. This is especially true when you consider that civic education in our nation's schools is either extinct or exceedingly dull. Bennett writes:

A massive International Education Association (IEA) survey of 90,000 fourteen-year-olds in twenty-eight nations suggested that civic education, where it is offered, remains largely a textbook experience, largely severed from the vibrant experiences of politics that might help young people engage with public life.

So, how do libraries work with the youth in their communities to create a more vibrant civic experience, more aligned with their creative online endeavors? The opportunities for building new civic and political communities in such an environment is ripe for the plucking. Again, libraries need to be in the thick of this!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Public Libraries As Civic Content Creators

My paper builds on Jeffrey Lyons revelatory article, The Library: A Distinct Local Voice. Well, revelatory to me, at least! Lyons wondered how libraries, in collaboration with their users/communities could use "technology to tap deeper into reservoirs of local knowledge within their communities." Libraries have always played a role in disseminating this kind of local information--whether it be through online community portholes or making traditional print resources readily available. The tapping deeper part comes with having libraries move beyond simply aggregating such locally based content and more aggressively working to create, market, dispense and archive it. And not just any content. My goal is more pedagogic.

1. Capitalizing on the momentum and new thinking paradigms ("radical change") being encouraged by the Library 2.0 movement, libraries have a unique opportunity to use the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies as a tool to produce locally based content.

2. By empowering and facilitating the creation of such community-based content, libraries can and must play a more active pedagogic role in working with Generation Y (or whatever you choose to call them) to teach them how to effectively use information communication technologies to effect positive change. My hope is that such a process would, among other things, nurture media literacy, foster unique collaborative opportunities, encourage lifelong learning and, perhaps most importantly, enhance civic engagement and strengthen democracy by effecting tangible public change.

Hello Fellow YouTubers!

I didn't know about the Peter Oakely, the geriatric YouTube sensation, until I read Annie's post the other day. Now I'm hooked and completely fascinated.

He's got teenage fans from Germany ("Hey, old man!"), inspired fellow old timers with unfortunate last names to tell their own stories, had tributes made, spoofs, been the topic of academic papers had to deal with a nasty Youtube hoax announcing his death and, at 96 videos and counting, still cooking away.

I've been keenly interested in watching how his videos have progressed--how his technological agility improved. His first few videos are a bit fumbling-- he's apologetic about their quality. He's not a technological neophyte, but he's still learning the ropes. By the 4th video, however, he's got headphones with an attached microphone, and a nice introduction. The sound is vastly improved.

By the 5th video his grasp of multimedia storytelling is rapidly progressing. And, he's turned, unexpectedly, into a YouTube hit. He tells us that he woke up that particular morning and found "I had 4,700 notifications from YouTube in my e-mail...I am absolutely overwhelmed and don't quite know what to say...I just need to say thank you to all of you people." Youtube, he says, has given him "a whole new world to experience." And so he explores.

A nice reminder that all the user-generated content going on isn't simply coming from the so-called digital-native contingency, a term laden with some run away assumptions. As Henry Jenkins recently posted:

As long as we divide the world into digital natives and immigrants, we won't be able to talk meaningfully about the kinds of sharing that occurs between adults and children and we won't be able to imagine other ways that adults can interact with youth outside of these cultural divides.

What stereotypes, what detrimental ageist suppositions do we sustain by focusing so much of our attention and energy on Millennials and their relationship with technology? Watching Oakley's earliest videos, it's clear that he was seeking to have a conversation with his "fellow YouTubers," made up of, as he's very much aware, a much younger audience. Part of what he's seeking is a cross-generational dialogue, and in this he succeeds wonderfully, with folks replying in the comment section or even, more relevant to the medium, by video. In fact, as the above mentioned academic article by Dave Harley and Geraldine Fitzpatrick makes clear:

What begins as an individual effort by Peter soon develops into a collaborative endeavor through comments he receives from his viewers. They give him feedback in a number of ways which help him to develop his video presence within YouTube.

And these comments, it should be noted, are overwhelmingly positive and emotive--full of good will and encouragement. Yardly takes this encouragement and runs with it, focusing on an on-going narrative about his life incorporating old photographs, music and sound effects.

It's inspiring stuff and further evidence of the importance of telling stories. There's no reason, other than timidity and a failure of imagination, that libraries shouldn't be helping to facilitate these stories, making them part of their collection.

One last quote from the Harley/Fitzpatrick paper:

It's not the functionality of YouTube that inspires Peter to tell his life story but the social context that it appears within. The intergenerational nature of this context is highly influential, directing and informing the co-creation of the narrative. The commonality of human experience across ages and cultures that shows itself in the accompanying dialogue reminds us of a wider sense of kinship which transcends mere self interest. The appreciation of Peter's stories by his viewers also suggests that they see the relevance of the life stages of others in relation to their life stages. The creation of narrative, developed through Peter's videos, speaks of an affinity between different generations and a process of reciprocal learning.

Libraries should be in the thick of this.

We're Not Alone--We're With Turkey!

From Monday's Q&A with Harlen L. Watson, our man in Bali for the Thirteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (phew!):

Question: Tomorrow will be the tenth anniversary of Kyoto Protocol and the United States is the country in the developed countries who didn’t ratify Kyoto. So how do you evaluate Kyoto Protocol this moment? And is there possibility for the current administration to change the attitude towards Kyoto Protocol?

Dr. Watson: The last answer is “no”, there isn’t. It is not correct that we are the only developed country. There’s also Turkey. I know the focus has been on the United States and Australia, but if you read the Convention, Turkey is an Annex I country that has also not ratified Kyoto. Our feeling about Kyoto has not changed. It is not something that would work for the United States.

Now that Australia's new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has ratified the Kyoto Protocol (see picture), the United States is, despite Dr. Watson's audaciously lame Turkish inclusion, the only country in the developed world not to do so. And as Dr. Watson made abundantly clear, his boss is perfectly happy to pass the buck to the next administration to do with Kyoto what it pleases.

Not that anybody expected as much. From last week's Economist:

It is not surprising that Bali is unlikely to achieve anything tangible, for it is aimed at the hardest part of climate-change mitigation—getting an international agreement which all the big emitters ratify. That won't happen until America adopts serious domestic emissions-control measures.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snowy Night Margarita

On snowy nights when Abby is in good hands, we head out for Margarita's and guacamole.

On the rocks and with salt, of course.