Castle Librarian

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Information

In Book Review on April 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I’m currently reading (listening to audio book) The Information: The History, The Theory, The Flood by James Gleick.

It is the kind of title that a librarian picks up and says “this looks interesting,” but most people would find that title dull, I suspect. It gets into the historical details of things that are usually covered in a superficial way – the telegraph, Morse code, and early computers. I haven’t finished it, yet, so no full review from me at this point, but I am enjoying it.

Other reviews:
New York Times March 6, 2011

New York Times March 18, 2011

How We Know by Freeman Dyson


Way Beyond Web

In Musing, Web 2.0 on April 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I wrote previously – Predictions of Future Past – about Internet predictions and what actually developed. I’m going to prattle on about this some more from a slightly different tack.

I’m amazed by the paradoxical ease and complexity of accessing information these days. We can google most anything, although the answers we find might raise more questions than certainties. (Notice how Google has become a verb?) The recent 50th anniversary of The Flintstones resulted in a discussion (via Facebook) about exactly when was Pebbles born. Googling led to conflicting answers and questions of which source could be believed. (If my students had any idea what The Flintstones was, I would use this as an example for how to evaluate sources. Unfortunately, it is not culturally relevant.) Anyway, I’m going with Feb 22, 1963.

I live abroad (not in my home country) and Twitter has been important for us in making friendships with a wide variety of people. For example, recently we had a dinner with 13 people (including us) in which 6 of those people were expats (foreigners like us) and 7 were locals (citizens). You will have to take my word on just how extraordinary that is. However, Twitter is also a major source of information about what is going on locally and in the world. Tweeps (people who twitter) read an interesting article on a news website or a blog and tweet a link to the article. I, being lazy or harried, rely on this referral system and use these links to go to articles that pique my interest. Yes, I could use RSS feeds to collect articles in an automated way, but I kinda like the added social aspect that the person who shared the link also read the article (I know there’s a bit of assumption there) and if I have a strong reaction or opinion about the content, I can “talk” with them about it.

Now, back in the “real” world, students are flocking into the library during their breaks to grab newspapers (in physical format), find an article and scan a copy of it on a daily basis. I have concluded that there is at least one professor who is convinced that the students must “learn to read newspapers” and is requiring the students to produce an article each day. There are teachers who are scandalized that these students have never touched a physical newspaper. But, let’s face it, newspapers are dead, they just don’t know it, yet. Most newspapers have websites where they post all their articles and possibly additional content. These websites have become quite sophisticated, well organized, searchable, and incorporate social media functions so that you can comment on what you read. The tradition of the leisurely breakfast with the morning newspaper is a luxury only the retired have. These students are not sitting down with the paper, reading it through, and coming away fully informed about what is happening locally and globally. Let go of format! Paper is dead, long live the web (until the next thing comes along). Content is where it is at. It doesn’t matter if it is carved in stone, painted on papyrus or sheep skin, inked on wood pulp, or displayed on screen.

Ironically, there are some “services” that are designed to take your Twitter feed and turn it into your very own personalized “newspaper.” At least one application for iPad combines your Facebook and Twitter to make a personalized “magazine” for you. Just how many interfaces do we need to filter our information through?

I don’t think that the word “web” describes the Internet accurately anymore. Maybe “fractal” would be more appropriate.