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.

MTR CORPORATION
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.
Applications
You are invited to apply online at http://www.mtr.com.hk/careers or send in your application stating the position you are applying for and relevant reference number either by email to recruit@mtr.com.hk 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
sex.

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.