Monday, December 28, 2009

Lawyers and Web 2.0

In an article in Lexpert, considered the authoritative source for the latest news and information on the business of law, Marzena Czarnecka writes,
Lawyers have been cautious about using social networking but are gradually embracing the use of social sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Web 2.0 continues to challenge lawyers as they realize that opting out of this new system of connection may equal opting out of business
In fact, lawyers are often behind the curve, as not only are they a very traditional and conservative group with new tools and media, they don't have much incentive to being early adopters. Very much a contrast to libraries, law firms rarely adopt technologies until clients adopt them. There are a few early tech adopters, such as James Hatton and the Tory's Law Firm Youtube page, who experiment with using Web 2.0 among the up and coming. is an interesting example. Law professor Simon Fodden of Osgoode helped form which is a Canadian co-operative weblog about any and all things legal. In its four years of existence, its audience has steadily grown to include hundreds of practicing lawyers, legal librarians, legal academics and students with an aim to share knowledge, offer advice and instruction, and occasionally provoke.

Perhaps the most important lesson here? Librarians are creative innovators. As shows, the blog initially had a 'library' bend to it as law firm librarians, frequently the leaders in communication and information technology adoption at law firms, helped shape the development and direction of the blog. They remain key contributors and readers even though's constituency and reach broadened. One of these innovators is Connie Crosby, who has started her own consulting company. It goes to show that intense information-driven industries, such as law, engineering, or whatever it may be, need to work hand-in-hand with librarians in the new social web.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Donate a Brick to Build a Refugee Camp Library

Seasons greetings everyone. This holidays, as last year's, as you are enjoying your Christmas at home, please take some time in considering contributing to a worthwhile campaign. Can you help build a refugee camp library? For $2 you can, and you can even turn your donation in honor of someone into a last-minute holiday gift.

Book Wish Foundation's holiday campaign for 2009 asks book lovers everywhere to contribute one of the 5000 bricks we need to build a library for Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad. Since Dec. 5, it has raised raised 821 bricks, 16% of its goal. Please join the effort, even with a single brick, by visiting:

Please share with your friends and, especially, on Twitter. Book Wish can easily reach its goal if many people each give a little, so please spread the word if you have a moment during this holiday season. To make your donation a gift, make sure you fill in your honoree's email address in the donation form. Book Wish will then notify him/her, sending details about the project and a link to videos from the refugee camps where Book Wish works (you will receive a copy of the email).

Books for Darfur Refugees certainly appreciate your helping to spread the word, too. It is a 100% volunteer staffed; 100% of funds raised by this campaign for direct book related aid for Darfur refugees. The good news story here is the inspiration of Darfuris who self-organized their own English classes in refugee camps. For example, they view learning English as their "road to freedom."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Social Media in Academic Libraries

I recently presented on social media in academic libraries at the SLA Western Chapter's Annual General Meeting on a panel with social media expert Rob Cottingham. (See above for a preview of Rob in action). Personally, this was one of the most rewarding panels I've been one as it bridged the two worlds of academic and corporate libraries. We touched on issues that are relevant to both types of settings: how is social media faring in the world of information professionals? Here are some thoughts of the evening:

(1) Librarians Are Only Using Social Media Among Themselves - A common argument is that only librarians care about these social media tools. Can librarians ever measure the ROI on social media? If the average Twitter user is 31 years old, then why would it be used for outreach with a non-Twitter using college audience? Are social media tools used among librarians for their own amusement? There are two parallel themes here: librarians are even better connected to each other in the social web - so wouldn't that mean social media offers distinct advantages? Second, if statistics show that social media (like Youtube, Facebook, and Flickr) is heavily used, then why wouldn't librarians use them for outreach? Wouldn't it be an opportunity otherwise missed if unexplored?

(2) Small Special Libraries Are Understaffed - It's easy for large libraries and institutions to implement Web 2.0 technologies and policies, but many smaller institutions can't afford the manpower to consistently adopt such standards. It's important not to spread ourselves thin. However, great challenges offer greater opportunities. Social media flattens the information landscape, and outreach tools such as Twitter and Facebook bring branding where none exists before. It's a matter of how one uses such technologies that maximizes their exposure.

(3) Generation Y Is Important - Much has been written about this generation born post-1980's. It's crucial to note that our upcoming wave of students, colleagues, and staff will be from this generation. Technologically sophisticated, well-connected on the social web, entrepreneurial, and oftentimes, impatient. It's these qualities which will define how information professionals will align their programs and services. This is important for all librarians: academic, public, and special.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Are We Getting Stupider or What?

In one of the long-standing intellectual pillars of publishing, the Atlantic Monthly has recently came out with an article, Is Google Making Us Stupid? which continues the debate whether the computer age has indeed resulted in our over-reliance on compact, readily-available information.

As Nicholas Carr believes, we’re simply decoding information as we scan text on the web. For probably many of us like him, deep reading of densely formulated text has become a struggle. But here’s another worry that Carr ponders: the web’s simplification of information decoding has ultimately reduced our ability to think deeply as well. Our brains are so used to reading short blog posts or text messages under 140 characters that we’ve no longer the time nor patience to thoughtfully carry out our thoughts cogently. As Carr puts it:

Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

However, we’ve been paralyzed with fear about technological advancements since the earliest days of thought: Plato feared that writing would cause our memorization capacities to fade; Gutenberg’s press would lead to intellectual laziness; and thinking changed as Nietzsche’s words morphed from rhetoric to telegram style.

On other extreme end is futurist Jamais Cascio, who argues that “Google isn’t the problem; it’s the beginning of a solution.” Indeed, with intelligence augmentation, new technologies would be able to “filter” what we are interested in; and seamlessly tailor our information absorption according to our needs. This opposite end of the spectrum argues that civilization requires diversity and innovation – and technology is a means to that end. Information professionals must be aware of this dichotomy: when much information is too much information? As Herbert Simon once said, "wealth of information creates a poverty of attention." How can we scan when we must interpret and decode?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Web 2.0 Five Year Anniversary

As we approach the six-year mark from the original Web 2.0 thesis, Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle come together in a refocusing session of where the social web is going. Once applications live in the cloud, the key to success will be harnessing network effects so that those applications literally get better the more people use them. In the recent Web 2.0 Summit, O'Reilly and Battelle penned a white paper which they argue,

today we see that applications are being driven by sensors, not just by people typing on keyboards. They are becoming platforms for collective action, not just collective intelligence. The "data shadows" that people and things leave in cyberspace are becoming richer and deeper, and are being exploited in new ways. All this is adding up to something profound and different. When web meets world, we get Web Squared.
1. Sensory Input - We're not searching via keyboard and search grammar; we're talking to and with the Web. With new search applications such as Google's Mobile App for the iPhone, speech recognition is detected as soon as the application detects movement of the phone to the ear. The Web is growing, and is to the point of getting smart enough to understand things without us having to tell it explicity.

2. Implied Metadata - Because the Web is "learning," meaning is being learned "inferentially" from the body of data each day, and speech recognition and computer vision are examples of this kind of machine learning. The Web 2.0 era is about discovering such implied metadata, and then building a database to capture that metadata and fostering an ecosystem around it.

3. Information Shadows - Real world objects have "information shadows" in cyberspace. Because of sensor applications like the iPhone's, a book that has information shadows on Amazon, Google Book Search, LibraryThing, eBay, Twitter, and in a thousand blogs.

4. Digital Returns to the Physical - As a result, these shadows are linked with their real world analogues by unique identifiers: an ISBN, a serial number, etc. Real-world objects can be "tagged" and its metadata on the Web. Libraries have long been innovators in this field (as information managers), with some cataloguing systems based on the idea of FRBR, which represents a holistic approach to retrieval and access as the relationships between the entities provide links to navigate through the hierarchy of relationships.

5. Rise of the Real-Time - The Web has become a conversation - meaning, search has gotten faster. Microblogging (such as Twitter) has required instantaneous updating -- a significant shift in both infrastructure and approach. Search has become real-time and human participation has added a layer of structure (and metadata). This new information layer being built around Twitter could rival existing services such as search, analytics, and social networks. Moreover, real-time is not limited to social media or mobile. As the authors point out, Walmart has been doing such instantaneous information cascading for many years: real-time feedback (from customers) drive inventory. As a "Web Squared" company, its operations are infused with IT, and innately driven by data from their customers -- the physical being driven by the digital and vice-versa.

What does this all mean? Librarians have a role to play. We've been doing it for years with FRBR and RFID. It's time we turn the page and write the first sentence for this new Web.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Facebook Era

Clara Shih is a rising star in the social media world. The Facebook Era is a new technology model, way of thinking, and cultural phenomenon. Whereas the last decade was about the World Wide Web of information and the power of linking web pages, today, we are seeing a World Wide Web of people emerge. I think Shih introduces some interesting concepts to the social media hemisphere:

1. The Social Graph -- Called the fourth revolution of "social computing", the social networking movement has blurred the lines of the private and the public, a movement that afffects us all personally first, professionally second -- it ultimately blends the old dichotomies of the personal and the professional.

2. Social Sales -- The social web has become one large Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Social networking businesses and organizations to view profiles of their accounts, capture deal information, track performance, communicate with contacts, and share information internally. As a result the social CRM becomes a bidirectional relationship between vendor and customer.

3. Social Capital -- the social graph reaches far beyond technology and media. It is one of the most signficant sociocultural phenomena of this decade. Weak ties used to require a lot of effort to sustain; however, with the social web, people now are accustomed to accumulating and never losing contacts throughout the rest of their lives

Clara Shih became an important name in corporate social networking when she developed Faceconnector (initially named Faceforce) in 2007, which was the first business application on Facebook. The application integrates Facebook and Salesforce CRM, pulling Facebook profiles and friend information into Salesforce account, lead, and contact records. Although the book is aimed at the business and technology, it is also has an intellectual premise about a sociocultural transformation that requires a change in our thinking and a new language to articulate our strategies and observations.

It will be interesting to see the continued impact of the The Facebook Era in the upcoming years as social media is still ever-evolving. Although it is a required textbook for the Global Entrepreneurial Marketing course at Stanford and social media course at Harvard Business School, there's no gurantee that these tools will continue to dominate.

Monday, November 09, 2009

ASIS&T and Historians of Information

Thomas Haigh is one of those rare individuals who speak elegantly, and write brilliantly interesting stories that superimpose very uninteresting topics in a thoughtful, academic manner. Not a librarian or LIS practitioner by trade, Haigh is actually a(n) historian by training and have taught an eclectic collection of subjects over the years. But now he teaches at the University of Wisconsin's School of Information Studies program. Haigh's panel challenges the historiography of information science, arguing that much is lacking due to the fact that information science poorly focuses on the training and engagement of historical topics. He argues, convincingly in my opinion, that the history of information science is actually written more succinctly and richly by those outside of the field itself.

On Day 2 of the The American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) in Vancouver, BC (Thriving on Diversity - Information Opportunities in a Pluralistic World),I attended the panel, New Directions in Information History which included Haigh, Geoffrey Bowker, William Aspray, and Robert Williams. Haigh caught my attention the most as he challenged (often to an uncomfortable audience of LIS practitioners) thesocial and philosophical issues around technology, and in the relationship between the world of code and world of people. Haigh was trained in the History and Sociology of Science department at the University of Pennsylvania where he eventually became an historian specializing in 20th Century America, in the history of technology and in the social history of work and business.

Haigh is currently delving into the social history of the personal computer, where he argues that despite the shelves of books on the history of the PC, there has been "no serious historical study" of how people used their computers or why they brought them. In my session, Haigh was confronted heatedly about his argument that the history of information science is often weak and incomplete as information technology experts and scientists fail to capture the historical, social, and cultural contexts of proper history writing. Haigh touches on this briefly in his article, Sources for ACM History: What, Where, Why. It was very interesting seeing the giants of LIS such as Michael Buckland and Marcia Bates in the room debating with Haigh's externalist vision for historical inquiry of information science -- and is perhaps a microcosm of the state of the field today. Alas, the debate rages on.

Friday, November 06, 2009

MTR in Need of Librarians

Who says that information managers are restricted to libraries? There are exciting careers to be found in the world of information. In this increasingly globalized world of knowledge exchange and retrieval, jobs such as this is becoming the norm. Take a look at Hong Kong's MTR need for an information professional.

Get Your Career On The Move
Are you looking for a career where you can make a difference? As a MTR Corporation team member, you can.
In MTR Corporation, we have expanded our business from beyond the construction and operations of a mass transit railway system. We have prided ourselves in growing the communities and enhancing the quality of life of Hong Kong people. Today, MTR Corporation is a diversified company with interests in transportation, property management, many other commercial activities, investment projects and consultancy services worldwide.
We would like to invite applications for the positions of:

(Ref: J09031)

Reporting to the Manager-Knowledge and Information, you will perform the role of a Technical Librarian by maintaining a library of essential records for the Projects Division. You will maintain key aspects of the Intranet Portal including smart interactive organisation charts, on-line reference libraries, etc. using the SharePoint 2007 platform. You will also be a centralised resource to respond to hotline requests and support staff in the use of knowledge management tools through the new Intranet Portal.
You should have a Higher Diploma in Management Studies or equivalent and 3 years' relevant working experience.
You are invited to apply online at or send in your application stating the position you are applying for and relevant reference number either by email to or by mail to the following address on or before 27 February 2009:
Human Resource Management Department
MTR Corporation
G.P.O. Box 9916
Hong Kong

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Tim Berners-Lee talks about the future of the Web

Although he has sometimes been mocked for his unusual communication style, Tim Berners-Lee is still one of the most fascinating personalities of the 21st (and 20th) century - and definitely someone whom you would sit down and listen to when he talks. Almost twenty years ago, Tim Berners-Lee helped create the World Wide Web. He continues to lead the World Wide Web Consortium, overseeing the Web's standards and development.

However, his vision never ended with the the current day form of the Web. Rather, he's building a web for open, linked data that could do for numbers what the Web did for words, pictures, video: unlock our data and reframe the way we use it together. A Semantic Web, in other words.

About Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. He

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Imagining Communities: The Emergence of Trans-Asian Consumer Communities

Human information behaviour and Human-Computer Interaction are areas of study, particularly in Library and Information Science. Drawing from supporting knowledge from disparate disciplines as computer graphics, operating systems, programming languages, communication theory, graphic and industrial design disciplines, linguistics, social sciences, and cognitive psychology, IB and HCI are powerful concepts which continue to shape the way LIS practioners .

However, the LIS cognitive schools of thought assume universal concepts, and are often devoid of ethnological methodology or cultural comparisons. Unfortunately, this resonates to the library and information professions as users are often painted with the same generalist brush. Multicultural librarianship is often limited to market segmentation and specialized reading lists. What about cultural user behaviours? Cultural information retrieval studies? LIS often does not cross into the realm of cultural studies, despite the fact that there is much to examine.

Larissa Hjorth's The Game of Being Mobile: One Media History of Gaming and Mobile Technologies in Asia-Pacific is an interesting microanalysis of social media behaviourial differences between Korea and Japan. It offers much food for thought for LIS professionals, particularly for those who overgeneralize their user groups and standardize one-size-fits-all attitudes in designing information systems. Hjorth highlights some interesting points:

(1) Asia-Pacific Region - Marked by diverse penetration rates of gaming, mobile and broadband technologies, which are subject to local cultural and socio-economic nuances. One of the dominant modes of socializing the consumption of new technologies is through the role of cute culture (also known as kawaii).

(2) Rise in mobile media - Marked by the rise in particular modes of gaming in these regions. South Korea and Japan represent two opposing directions for gaming - Korea emphasizes MMOGs played on stationary PCs in social spaces while Japan pioneers the mobile (privatized) convergent platforms and devices such as the handhelf PSP2 and Nintendo DS.

(3) Public and Private Spaces - Previous domestic technologies such as TV and radio reconfigures public and private spaces. 19th and 20th century technologies therefore have always been part of the way in which space is redefined.

(4) Imagined Communities - Through mobile media and media communities such as gaming, we are seeing emerging unofficial imaging communities that will impact on official imagined and transnational synergies.

(5) Remediating Technology - Customizing invites uers to conceive of technology as remediated. Through cute customization of mobile media and games in the region, new technologies are linked into earlier cultural histories and media archaeologies that are distinctive from European or American models.

(6) Cute Technology - Cute is fundamentally linked to the adaptation of new technologies, such as mobile media and SNS. This phenomenon distinctively differs from Western modes of user customization modes and demonstrates that technologies are much socio-cultural as they are industrial.

(7) SNS in Asia - Unlike Western or European social networking systems (SNS) that are consumed by children and teenagers, in Korea's Cyworld both young and old engage in the politics of cute representation online as a reflection of offline identity. Because of such localized features of not only the SNS, but its specific geographical and cultural audience, its success outside of Korea (and the Korean diaspora) is far from assured.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Facebook as the Accidental Billionaires

If you're looking for a good read or something for the Christmas gift shopping list, Accidental Billionaires is worth a consideration. A quick and delicious read, the book reveals lurid details of Facebook's rise from the ashes of Mark Zuckerberg's laptop to the top of the social media empire. The story of Facebook in essence reveals the very primordial needs of social media: to connect, both in a digital realm and in a physical sense. The cast of characters that led to the modern day story of Facebook is one of seamy deception, corporate sleaze, and cutting ambitions. Author Ben Mezrich puts it best when he points out that at the heart of Facebook's origin was a simple connection point for young adults:

Online, it would be the same thing; the thing that would drive this social network was the same thing that drove life at college -- sex. Even at
Harvard, the most exclusive school in the world, it was all really about
sex. Getting it, or not getting it. That's why people joined Final Clubs.
That's why they chose certain classes over other ones, sat in certain seats
at the dining hall. It was all about sex. And deep down, at its heart,
that's what [Facebook] would be about, in the beginning. An undercurrent of

If you don't have much time for reading, then perhaps waiting for the movie Hollywood version could be another option. It's coming out later this year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What becomes of public reference libraries when research from home is so convenient, and so easy?

"I used to live in reference libraries," he said, but added that now he prefers staying at home and doing his research online. He said he'd recently asked a reference librarian what she'd been doing with herself lately. She'd said..."editing Wikipedia."

. . . said Douglas Coupland in a recent interview he had in Toronto after a reading when he took a potshot at libraries across the world with his apparently innocent quip about the demise of the gates of bricks and books. Much has been said in not only library literature, but in popular writing, too, about the value of public institutions such as libraries. The same goes for academic libraries, where Daniel Greenstein, vice provost for academic planning and programs at the University of California System, told a room full of university librarians that "the university library of the future will be sparsely staffed, highly decentralized, and have a physical plant consisting of little more than special collections and study areas."

It's unnerving to imagine the library of the future as differently as it is from the current day library. But perhaps this is innovation, a reinvention of the model of librarianship as technology transforms society and culture. Librarians need to continually inject fresh ideas to the profession; although, easier said than done with institutional bureaucracies and hierarchies which often overshadow creativity. Decentralization is necessary; and it's about time, too. In my opinion, librarians need to focus on their specialties, and here are some ideas:

1. Research - Librarians need to specialize, and focus on information retrieval. Reference should be conducted by front-line staff; librarians, on the other hand, should do in-depth research which requires more than a duration of a few minutes of a reference transaction. These types of ibrarians should be rebranded as "social science researchers" or "business researchers" to reflect the high quality of work that they do behind the scenes. With the internet and such easy access to information in this connected world, quality reference is the only way to save not only the value, but the public perception of a librarian's work.

2. Collection Management - The literature and lingo says it all: libraries are moving from the physical to the digital. Some public libraries have adapted and increasingly take a proactive bookstore model. Some have even branded this as Library 2.0. But that doesn't seem to be enough. Libraries must start thinking of breaking down a century-old mindset of a Taylor-ist model of operations and to one which requires creativity and economy. Can libraries ever be purely digital online libraries? Can they merge with bookstores? Churches? Malls? Can academic libraries, one of the most traditional institutions of most universities, be ever able to merge with classrooms and student service centres into something extremely unique? We're not talking about learning commons; we're going beyond just the library. To something unthought of yet.

3. Marketing - Fundraising, advertising, communications. Librarians have not been successful yet in the translation of important issues like open access and digitization to a public mass audience. Yet, why is it that corporations like Sony do such a remarkable job at Bravia HDTV and makes masses salivate? Brand management is a niche that libraries must develop even though it's the least of the priorities of librarians. This must change - marketing, social media advertising, event promotions - are the saviours of a languid institution. Libraries are also public spaces; yet, it never attains the same prestige as art galleries or museums. If we expect to survive and achieve relevance, we must adapt.

4. Classifications & Technologies -What is a librarian without knowledge and information management skills? Librarians need to be innovators with not only socia cataloguing, but ultimately the future of the web. Katherine Adams has argued that library and information science and computer science have lots in common in the next version of the web, namely the Semantic Web. These types of librarians, rather than work in inhouse libraries, need to join R&D laboratories, research institutions, and teach in higher education. They need to join the ranks of the intellectual elite.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Archives and Culture

Archival programs in North America are few and far between. Only a handful of programs available, the majority of archive programs are narrowly focused on records management techniques. Unfortunately, for social and cultural historians, this narrow approach has its limitations. Although as a profession, archivists have worked side-by-side with historians through the ages, archival sciences is still a young academic field. As Alex Ben's Excluding Archival Silences: Oral History and Historical Absence Excluding Archival Silences: Oral History and Historical Absence argues,
archives remain, largely, material repositories of cultural memory. It is an accepted historical problematic, however, that culture is often resistant to material preservation. There exists an undeniable and profound tension between scholarly efforts to reconstruct history and interpret cultural traditions and the fragmentary, and often limited, material record. That is to say, scholarship is shaped by a sinuous negotiation around the historical silences that encompass all of material culture. Historical silences, however, can at times be marginalized (or at best excluded) by a sensitive configuration of material evidence with oral history.
The new generation archivist should be motivated by the long term preservation of moving images and by the invention of new paradigms for access to celluloid, tape, bits and bytes. It should be rooted in historical, practical and theoretical study - and rather than limiting itself to one methodology, it needs to assign equal importance to heritage collections and emerging media types.

One example of innovative ways of recording the past is UBC's First Nations Studies Program's oral history archive projects. In particular, Interactive Video/Transcript Viewer (IVT) is a web-based tool that sychronizes a video with its transcript, so as users play the video, its transcript updates automatically. In addition to searching a video's transcript for key words and phrases, and then playing the video from that point, IVT includes a tool that allows users to create a playlist of clips from interviews for use in meetings. While it took historians thousands of hours of transcription work, IVT transcribes in real-time. These are the types of technologies archivists need to be aware of, in order for us to create active archives. And this is where information professionals need to be aware - to anticipate the needs of its users.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

Ruth Connell's Academic Libraries, Facebook and MySpace, and Student Outreach: A Survey of Student Opinion is a sober look into how not to use social media. From the results of her survey of college students at Valparaiso University, a one-size-fits-all model simply does not work when it comes to using social network sites for library outreach. Because of privacy features, librarians must intrude into the social private spaces of its users if it wants to have access to its outreach audience. But surprisingly, Connell's research reveals that students actually resent a library/librarian's intrusion into their private space. As the article argues, it is important not to annoy students but rather let them come to the library on their own terms.

This is a fascinating analysis, and one worthy of a closer look by all librarians who wish to use the trendiest technologies as outreach to their user populace. For a while, the Web 2.0 mantra encouraged most to try out new ideas, new concepts, cool technologies. But now that we've reached a plateau in the development of social media, concerns such as privacy, copyright, and best practices must be kept in mind by librarians information professionals who need a fine balance with the public and private space of their users.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Siva Vaidhyanathan and Critical Information Studies

Siva Vaidhyanathan, who is entertaining as he is informative, is a cultural historian and media scholar (a rare combination these days), and teaches Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia. His ideas and concepts are multidisciplinary -- Vaidhyanathan has even coined the field of studies, “Critical Information Studies” which synthesizes key aspects of both Cultural Studies and Political Economy by interrogating the “structures, functions, habits, norms, and practices” of particular aspects of information culture.

One of the preeminent historians of American copyright, Vaidhyanathan's arguments often examines how these issues go beyond simple arguments about digital “rights” to include consideration of the more subtle impacts of cost and access that have the potential for chilling effects on a “semiotic democracy” that is situated in “global flows of information.”

In many ways, Vaidhyanathan counters the utopian web which Henry Jenkins calls "participatory culture." Rather than accept utopian enthusiasms about "Web 2.0" uncritically, critical information studies exposes the potential vulnerabilities in democratic institutions posed by such issues as Digital Rights Management, tampering with electronic voting, and otherwise trusting private corporations with public information infrastructure. CIS looks at 'semiotic democracy' -- a big picture examination on just how digital and social media are affected by corporate producers.

CIS is an intellectual antidote to the the Web 2.0 social media phenomena, and offers the tools to analyze the Web more thoughtfully and carefully. But CIS is an exciting field, just as it is beginning to take shape and gain its own sense of identity. Afterward: Critical Information Studies - A Bibliographic Manifesto is required reading for those interested in CIS as it provides a detailed "taxonomy" of disparate disciplines which comprises the CIS. These disciplines include American Studies, Anthropology, Communication, Computer Science, Cultural Studies, Ethnic Studies, Legal Studies, Library and Information Science, Literary Studies, Media Studies, Musicology, Political Science, and Sociology. Interestingly, since Critical Information Studies cuts across these and other more traditional academic domains, Vaidhyanathan describes this as being a "transfield."

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Problem of Information Overload 2.0

Renowned psychology Barry Schwartz famously coined the term "paradox of choice" which stems in the research in his book with the same title. In his findings, Schwartz integrates various psychological models for happiness showing how the problem of choice can be addressed by different strategies.

Web 2.0 has not made life any easier for us, even though the tools might seem as if they're saving us time and space. If anything, Web 2.0 has a byproduct: an overabundance of information - and with that - choice. As I've argued in an earlier post, I point out:
Information professionals face a plethora of choice each and everyday of our
working lives, from what brand of coffee to buy in the morning to the database
we want to conduct for a search. So many choices, so little time to choose.

Here are some of the social media services that I use: Twitter, CiteULike, and all have their advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, I've found that social media has been a mixed blessing. Not only has information overload produced sometimes confusion as to prioritizing my resources (Youtube first, or Facebook later?), so many tools results in a saturation of user ID's and passwords. Ultimately, we can only have so many sticky notes to remedy our overload of passwords, particularly as services ask for different combinations of numbers, letters and capsizes.

The Semantic Web, as mysterious as it may seem to most, might be one opportunity to solve this password/ID overload. Whereas Web 2.0 is about searching, Web 3.0 is about finding. Imagine a web in which logging in to any browser can bring up personal settings that have been uniquely tailored and customized according to your needs and preferences. In this utopian web, the social mayhem can at least be organized.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Social Media & Affordance

In Week 2 of social media bootcamp, aka. LIBR 559M, affordance is a key theme in examining the use of social media. Affordance is an interesting concept in social media and Web 2.0. According to Wikipedia's entry, affordance is a "quality of an object, or an environment, that allows an individual to perform an action." Different technologies can be viewed under this light -- just how much affordance does each have, and how can we use these same principles in examining social media? With new tools emerging so rapidly, it's a challenge to keep up, let alone using them effectively in our every day work as information professionals.

Let's take a look at telephones: Telephones allow the placing and receiving of calls, which in isolation are not affordances, but which substantively enable the affordances of communication and information exchange. First coined by perceptual psychologist, J. J. Gibson who used it as a core component of his ecological theory of human perception, affordance is now used in a range of fields, including but not limited to cognitive psychology, industrial design, human-computer interaction (HCI) and interface design, and artificial intelligence. The Learning Affordances Wiki discusses six key points about affordances, and each has the potential in helping explore the affordances of any social media technology.

1. Positive and Negative - Affordances can be useful or a hindrance

2. Fit for Context - Affordances have to be fit for purpose - be aware that it may not work everywhere.

3. Changing Contexts - Because affordances do not transfer to each context, the learner must create and develop new affordances, to develop the ability to match a particular affordance to the context.

4. Ontologies - Affordance is relational, an adaptation – its part of a complex adaptive ecology.

5. Perception - Affordances are inseparable from perception. We perceive affordances rather than objects.

6. Ethics and Power - Because affordances also a way of taking up a position, they also endorse, challenge, undermine, confirm particular discourses - it means taking up a position within (or against) a social ecology.

7. Mastery - As a professional, there must be an ability to discriminate between contexts, which means being embedded in one's micro-culture and community as well as one's individual identity.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Social Media Course at SLAIS

I'm currently taking a course on social media at the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies (SLAIS). I must admit: I'm deeply impressed. Much to my surprise, LIBR 559M avoids the Web 2.0 hoopla that was so popular with literature and workshops; instead, it examines social media (i.e. blogs, bookmarking, mashups, wikis, social networking sites), its concomitant trends (i.e. web 2.0, library 2.0) and how web 2.0 principles can be applied to the delivery of information services in the digital age. Some goals that LIBR 559M aims for are:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of using social media in information-based organizations
  • Apply social media to manage emerging challenges in information provision
  • Discuss social media as a set of tools to raise awareness and promote services
  • Identify the pros/cons of using social software
  • Reflect critically on use of social media; trends and tools
  • Position tools in a larger (macro) global and sociocultural context for collaborative learning and education in the digital age
I'm quite excited about this course. Even though this is only the first incarnation, I have good feelings about the content and where it's going. With the recent lull in Web 2.0, we've come to the realization that new ideas, new concepts, new designs are needed to reassess the impact of social software and media. This course is a good start as it challenges the existing courses on how social media can and should be taught.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Birth of the Digital Novel (Digi-novel)

Publishing is going to get a whole lot more interesting. Anthony Zuiker's new book, Level 26: Dark Origins is an interesting concept which combines three types of media: book, movie, and website. Zuiker, creator of the "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation", is releasing what is to become a new genre of literature, the "digi-novel" -- which amalgamates the three media -- and in doing so, challenging the boundaries of traditional book publishing. Anthony Zuiker believes the "digi-novel" will launch a "revolution in publishing for the YouTube generation."

Level 26: Dark Origins, to be published by Dutton Sept. 8, is the first in a series in which each book will be supplemented with 20 videos, or "cyber-bridges," featuring actors playing characters from the novel. The series, written with Duane Swierczynski, features a rogue investigator who hunts serial killers. In referring to to 25 levels used by law enforcement to classify serial killers, the digi-novel introduces readers — and viewers — to level 26.

This is an experiment. Perhaps too early to call as a 'revolution' for writing and publishing. But it certainly does cast libraries in a different light. It moves beyond the physical borders of shelf-space, and into the realms of the digital web, and beyond. How do we catalogue products and media that have no specific guidelines, not even in the AACR2 and RDA? As an experiment to better engage readers, this 384-page innovative digi-novel will be more than just a book on the shelf, as readers (viewers?) can watch the story on film and log in to unlock deeper levels of the experience. The experience has begun.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Fall of Wikipedia

How Wikipedia has fallen. In response to growing instances of false information being deliberately inserted, particularly into entries connected to living people, the Wikimedia Foundation will soon create an editorial approval process that appears to fly in the face of its open-access policy.

It's been argued that prominent figures such as Ted Kennedy, Tony Blair, and David Beckham have over the years been targets for vandalism on Wikipedia, and the new rules reflect the fact that as Wikipedia grows in importance, so does the weight of the mistakes it carries.

In my opinion, this move is a shame. The very principles of Web 2.0 and social media are being shattered by this need for this editing process. The beauty and freshness of Wikipedia is the fact that content could be self-corrected over time and blips would be self-regulated by users, often specialists themselves. It's a strength that content is revised up-to-the-minute; and with errors will come revision. The equilibrium of correction will eventually override the temporary glitches that inevitably occurs with real-time mass-produced content. That's why Wikipedia has become the de-facto place for quick information fact-checking. Why do we need a board then? Wouldn't that defeat the original purpose of a "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit"? Is it merely a public relations farce? We'll see.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Archives and Culture

The information profession often lacks a cultural approach in its methodological inquiries. Victorial Lemieux is perhaps an exception. A new and rising star scholar, Lemieux has won several awards for her scholarly and professional work, including the 2001 W. Kaye Lamb Prize (awarded to the author of the article that most advances archival thinking and scholarship in Canada) for “Let the Ghosts Speak: An Empirical Exploration of the ‘Nature’ of the Record.”

Using empirical data from a case study of record-keeping practices in indigenous Jamaican commercial banks that collapsed to explore the “nature” of the record, Lemieux continues a thread of debate appearing in previous issues of Archivaria which questions the definition of a record, whether the meaning of a record is fixed at the point of creation or evolves over time, and who authors the record. In the end, Lemieux argues that there is no single valid conceptualization of the record; instead, there are many valid conceptualizations arising from particular social contexts, and, further, the meaning in records is engendered over time by all those involved in the processes of incription, transmission, and contextualization, including record-keepers.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Top Twenty Summer Must Reads

The summer time is for reading and reflection. If you have some time, please do some thinking about some of the reading that gives your mind more thoughts for discussion, more ideas for action. In my opinion, there's a few titles worth mentioning as must-reads for information professionals. They are non-fiction titles which reflect on different areas of interest, a wide range of ideas.

20. Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture - An outstanding look at the coffee culture in North America, and reveals the Starbucks' history of addiction and success

19. Status Anxiety - A rising star philosopher who can translate his ideas to a mass audience, de Botton reveals what makes us all anxious.

18. Groundswell - An essential title for all businesses who use social media.

17. Good to Great - I don't need to say too much about this book. It's already a classic now.

16. Stealing Myspace - Not enough is research into MySpace's history. This book does the job.

15. Planet Google - With so many books on Google, Stross' seems to be the best

15. Mc Job - Outstanding resource what management techniques work, and what don't

14. Grown Up Digital - Insightful look into how the digital generation live their lives according to the Web

13. Reinventing Knowledge - Fascinating historical examination of how libraries and knowledge have been reshaped over human existence

12. Six Degrees - Mathematician Watt's look at how closely interwoven are our lives and coincidences.

11. Linked - An examination at how links and connections actually play a vital role in human society, especially in this digital age

10. Long Tail - This book forces us to think about the way we supply & demand economics in the digital era

9. Wikinomics - Insightfully examines how wiki's and collective intelligence has reshaped how business is conducted

8. Everything Is Miscellaneous - An intelligent philosophical inquiry into how the digital age has refashioned the hierarchical taxonomic world

7. Tipping Point - Gladwell's look at how small things can produce large dividends

6. Paradox of Choice - Too much of anything is bad for you, and too much choice is no different.

5. The World Is Flat - A journalistic examination into how geography no longer matters in the digital era

4. Here Comes Everybody - Shirky looks at how social media has changed the way we live our lives

3. Paradox of Time - Looks at how time is a finite resource, and strategies on how to make the most use of our time.

2. Free -
Chris Anderson's new book redesigns the way we think about open access & source and how business models must adapt to it

1. Remix - Perhaps the best book that Lawrence Lessig has produced to date, a funny, evocative, and charming examination into how 'free' remixing should be evaluated

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Technology & access
o Library 2.0 / Web 2.0 – impact on access
and organization of library resources,
support and promotion
o Digitization of materials – sustainability,
preservation, dissemination, funding,
management, participation
• User expectations & customer service
o Social networking / social software tools –
methods, impact on information seeking,
improvements to services
• Content & collections
o E-books – user demand for electronic vs.
print books
o E-materials / E-journals – licensing models,
sustainability, long-term access,
• Economics and budgeting
o Open Access – criteria for investment of
library acquisitions funds in open access
projects, libraries’ support role, long-term
impact, collaboration with scholarly
o Impact of consortial purchasing - access
infrastructures and collections
• Assessment, impact and value
o Scholarly communication - the academic
library’s role in knowledge dissemination
o Performance indicators - monitoring and
measuring strategic success
• Library roles, partnerships, operations,
leadership and management
o Evolving roles of academic librarians and
libraries – current and future requirements
to support teaching, learning, and research
in the digital environment
o Data collection and curation – role for
libraries; e-science strategy
• Publishing and scholarly communication
o Publishing - Library roles as publishers or
creators of content
o Institutional Repositories - management,
funding, responsibility, skills, capacity, best
practices, faculty engagement, impact on
library services
• Librarian skills, education and competencies
o Change management – adaptability
o Management education - for new LIS
graduates and practitioners
• Intellectual Freedom and copyright
o Copyright - practices around handling
copyright issues at Canadian universities
• Space
o Library space – what are our users doing in
our facilities, what kind of spaces do they
really need and want?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Celebration of Light

The HSBC Celebration of Light is an annual pyro-musical fireworks competition that takes place over Vancouver's English Bay. Every summer around this time, the city of Vancouver blossoms with the colours of summer at night. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Secret to Success

In re-examining society's ideas of success and failure, Alaine de Botton is in the same mould as public intellectuals as Malcolm Gladwell. de Botton examines a very common concept and exposes a multitude of philosophical and societal nuances. de Botton's inquiries are simple: Is success always earned? Is failure? In examining this from philosophical and historical trajectories, often humorous and humble, de Botton reveals four very simple truths to our society's basic unhappiness which are important for us all to remember during times of stress and convolutions of life:

1) Insecurity - The majority of consumers are at one point or another insecure about a certain element of their lifestyles. Hence, consumer goods are used to nullify uncertainty and a way to contain the void.

2) Envy - Deep down, we all rate people we come across according to their status - and that often is tied to their profession. What we cannot have, we want. This wasn't always the case in human history. Deep down, we all want to become the next Bill Gates based on an idea or a stroke of brilliance; but when reality sets in, we are unsettled at the thought of being 'common'.

3) Meritocracy - There is no such thing as a purely meritocratic society. It is impossible to achieve what we are based on what we can do. Numerous factors (often based on pure luck) are involved as to how we get to where we are.

4) Success On Our Own Terms - Much of how we measure success is based on societal perceptions and values. Many strive to join a profession not based on want, but usually on prestige. Success is purely subjective; we must base success on what we set it out to be.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The 'Amplified Conference'

At the recent Mobile Libraries (m-Libraries) Conference 2009 in Vancouver, B.C. I witnessed a vivid transformation of the conference experience, one that blends both physical and digital together into a rumination of ideas and exploration beyond the physical imaginations of a conference.

Interestingly enough, one of the keynote speakers, Lorcan Dempsey, had first written about this phenomena on his blog, and subsequently, the terminology has taken off on its own. But more spectacularly, as an organizer for this conference, I had not consciously formulated any particular strategies for an 'amplified' conference as I had not known about Dempsey's concept only a few days prior to the m-Libraries' commencement. But as the conference proceeded, the more and more I noticed how Dempsey's principles of the amplified conference so seamlessly natural this new emergence social media and digitally-inclusive technologies was enriching the very fabric of all that was happening around (and beyond me):
  • Amplification of the audiences' voice: Audience members through the use of such social media technologies (such as Twitter) can create online discourse during the sessions in real-time
  • Amplification of the speaker's talk: Widespread and inexpensive video and audio-conferencing technologies
  • Amplification across time: With low-cost technologies, presentations are often made available after the event, with use of podcasting or videocasting technologies
  • Amplification of the speaker's slides: With social media lightweight technologies, (such as Slideshare) entire presentations can simply be uploaded, shared, and embedded on other Web sites and commented upon
  • Amplification of feedback to the speaker: Micro-blogging technologies (such as Twitter) are being used not only as for discourse and knowledge exchange among conference participants
  • Amplification of collective memory: With the widespread availability of inexpensive digital cameras, photographs are often uploaded to popular photographic sharing services
  • Amplification of the learning: With the Web resources and social media technologies, following links to resources and discourse about the points made by a speaker during a talk propagates the learning which takes place at an event.
  • Amplification of the historical conference record: The ‘official’ digital resources such as slides, video and audio recordings which have been made by the conference organizers

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Economics of Time in the "Time Paradox"

Sometimes in life we lose those that we most cherish, and regret forever that what we cannot hold onto anymore something we once had. In this age of the information revolution, we forget that time is scarcity. Renowned Stanford psychologists Phil Zimbardo and John Boyd's The Time Paradox is a cumulation of thirty years of research, and is a must read for those who have questions about our existence and what our purpose is on earth.

Our time here is finite, and is perhaps the most precious commodity we have. The authors argue that time is psychological though; although we may live in the twenty-first century, our bodies were designed for life 2000 years ago. We are living and breathing anachronisms racing through an information-possessed world of social networking sites, globalization, cell phones, iPods, and hyper-2.0 technologies.

In spite of the many valuations we assign time, and in spite of the fact that time is our most valuable commodity, it is striking to note how little thought we give to how we spend it. The authors raise the question: Why do we often spend our money more wisely than our time? Relationships are very much time-dependent on three stages: past, present, and future. When you meet someone new, you share neither a common past or future. You are stuck at the present, which you hope will turn out to be a good place. The warm feeling of holding hands together for the first time, kissing on the beach, your first phone call . . . blossoming of love and staying up until four A.M. talking together about nothing.

Time passes; the initial passon fades; and the past and future reassert themselves. It is not that you or your partner changes. It's that together you have created a past and a future, which require having new attitudes toward time. If one person is biased toward the future and the other toward the present, it may be difficult to make simple joint decisions. Deciding what to eat for dinner to how to spend extra money to how to spend free time become tempting arguments where none had existed before.

Boyd and Zimbardo discover from their research of couples that what people want from relationships differ depending on their time perspectives. Couples with mismatched time perspectives will be prone to miscommunication and misunderstanding. They may truly love each other but live in separate worlds, like lovers who speak different languages. Couples with conflicting time perspectives may not undestand why they have difficulty in communicating. There may be no apparent reason why they cannot hear each other. While one speaks in the present perspective, the other speaks in the future. Their conversation is incomprehensible not because they are dense, uncaring, or unloving, but because they speak different time perspectives.

If two people attempt to meet in the past or the future, they are likely to be lost in a fog. When they argue, they are tempted to leave the bridge of the present and become lost in the past or abandon the present for the fog of the past. How do we bridge the gap in the languages of time? You start with the present. As Shakespeare puts it, we are the clocks on which time tells itself.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Farewell Michael, Thank You for the Memories

Under the scorching, unforgiving summer heat in Los Angeles, July 7, 2009 will forever be etched in the minds of many as a day of sadness, remembrance, and sincerity as the world mourned the loss of its cultural icon, Michael Jackson.

I am certain that as we watched with emotion, that we were also experiencing a form of communal sharing of joy and grief in honour of King of Pop. Although the memorial had global coverage, none could surpass that of CNN's remarkable round-the-clock-and-round-the-world features, integrating its superb use of Web 2.0 social media technologies as our hearts followed in rhythm to the marching songs and tributes of Jackson's life.

For much of the day, CNN and Facebook presented live coverage of Michael Jackson: The Memorial that had begun at 9am. For CNN, the last time and Facebook partnered for a live event was for the Barack Obama’s inauguration as President of the United States. In all, this memorial service had broadcast around 6 full hours.

For the synchronicity of emotions and heartfelt words, the power of live social streaming is hands down a powerful technology that brings us together that not even television can provide. As one observer from TechCrunch notes,
Facebook serves as a proxy for a virtual living room that can hold hundreds of people. I find these comments much more interesting than random Twitters from people I don’t know
As we gathered around our screens, we witnessed a turning of the page in culture and media, a stage of our evolution in which Marshall MacLuhan had coined as the "global village," in which electronic interdependence:
when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a "tribal base."

R.I.P Michael J.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Digital Equlibrium for Librarians

There's no doubt about it: Twitter is here to stay as a social networking powerhouse. Despite what has happened, voices cannot be silenced. Although the head of Iran's judiciary has called for a crackdown on television channels and websites "deemed to be have been critical of government," it will be extremely interesting to see just how much information will be clamped down. As much as the government is interfering with satellite channels, and blocking websites covering the demonstrations, online social networking tools are allegedly emerging as the unlikely heroes, with bloggers quick to upload pictures and video clips of the demonstrations.

In essence this is really a showdown between twentieth century political mechanisms versus twenty-first century technology: the result could mean epic global implications. Thomas Friedman has called this this digital gathering place a "virtual mosque," a place that protesters "gather, mobilize, plan, inform and energize their supporters, outside the grip of the state." (The New York Times even reported that Moussavi’s fan group on Facebook alone has grown to more than 50,000 members.) But Friedman ultimately believes in a hawkish ending to this affair. As he argues: Guns trump cellphones.
Bang-bang beats tweet-tweet. The Sunni Awakening in Iraq succeeded because the moderates there were armed. I doubt Ahmadinejad will go peacefully.
This will be an issue that will be important for all to follow, not just politicians.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Information in a Starbucks World

Although as much we think we are living in a truly information-rich world, a great majority of us still spend a great deal of our lives in a physical world and in a cafe-oriented Starbucks-world. (As strange as that may sound). At the m-Libraries Conference 2009 in Vancouver, BC, Lorcan Dempsey's keynote addressed the concept that information -- especially mobile technologies -- is heavily influenced by the emergence of Starbucks. Much of the space and ideas that brew in our minds either at work or in leisure happens in a public space, which was first envisioned by Howard Shultz's idea of the coffee-nation.

Dempsey's point is an excellent one, a very intellectual, almost metaphysical plunge from the digital back to the physical. True, we might be zombies on our laptops day in and day out, but much of this happens in a public space, too. How can we convert libraries into this knowledge cafe? Is it possible? Some academic and public libraries have assumed a role in this Starbucks world, and have opened up cafes in their spaces. But what Dempsey argues for is innovation that is parallel with these open spaces, all stemming from the coffee culture. I truly believe we're in a Googleized Starbucks-shifted world, and the sooner we can integrate ourselves and our libraries into this digital and cultural transition, the more opportunities we allow for our futures.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Power of Social Networking and the "Twitter Revolution"

We're witnessing history in the making. Despite government resistance, supporters of Iran's defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, again defied a government ban to take to the streets of Tehran. As several people died in a huge pro-opposition rallies, Mousavi has urged his followers not to stage another demonstration, amid fears of new violence. The scenes are gripping, haunting, and moving. As reported on the BBC, the Iranians have not only ignited a march for change, but have ushered the "twitter revolution."

In addition to restrictions on foreign media, the Iranian government has imposed restrictions on mobile phone and email networks. As a result, many Iranians have resorted to sending 140 character SMS messages, or 'tweets', to the outside world. Some have described it as a Twitter revolution. Twitter has become so crucial that the company itself postponed essential site maintenance early this morning to allow Iranians to continue to use the service.

Unlike the Iranian Revolution of 79, this current crisis cannot be concealed. As the power of social networking has proven, paper cannot hold fire.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Current TV Managing Editor Held in North Korea

By now, this has become world headlines. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were earlier arrested by the North Korean state and sentenced to twelve years of hard labour. What is most distressing is that the capture of these two American journalists could be a politically-motivated strategic move by an authoritarian regime on its last legs. I've been a large fan of Current TV, and although it shocks and saddens me to see how journalists are used as bargaining chips, I truly believe grassroots journalism in a social media-savvy world will bring down political barriers in the end.