Sunday, October 07, 2012

Happy Thanks Giving, Google


Happy thanksgiving, everyone, from Canada.   Even though it's weeks away from Thanksgiving in the US, it's always important to give thanks to life.   Kudos to Google for coming out with its Dear Sophie.   It's been a year, and it's still as good as when it first came out.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Clash of Applegoo

It's really amazing to see the all out war between once former friends.  It's always sad to see how allies can disintegrate into enemies.  That's business, I suppose.  Just before Apple founder Steve Job's passing in 2011, he had realized the impending penetration of the mobile market by his once trusted friends at Google. The once deposed giant of mobiles Apple is now being dethroned by the new rivals Google, and the war is just heating up with the onslaught of lawsuits thrown at competitors by Apple. And vice-versa.

What's incredible is that Apple's victory lawsuit has produced even more dissatisfaction between the two frenemies.  While Samsung is livid that it had lost the case, Apple feels the compensation is insufficient.  What's the source of all this enmity?  Really it stems back to Apple's oligopolistic needs to squeeze out Google (partners of Samsung).  Where Apple once focused on building sleekly designed, Web-enabled devices, Google the benevolent search engine specialized indexed and delivered the Web’s billions of pages to users. The lines are now blurred -- Google (Android) is moving increasingly into the information communications industry and Apple (iPhone) is doing the same in moving into the realms of operating systems. It's hard to differentiate the two -- it will only continue to get fuzzier.   Until the digital world aligns itself, the lawsuits will continue.    In any profession, duplication usually means change is to come.   In the meantime, iPhone 5 has been released.  But looking at the two companies, there seems to be not much differentiation between the two.  Here's a look:

App Store vs. Google Play

Apple’s Siri vs. Google Now

Apple Maps vs. Google Map

Apple Passbook vs. Google Wallet

iCloud vs. Google Drive

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Can GLAM's be the Future of Cultural Institutions?

In 2008, the Cultural Heritage Information Professionals (CHIPs) made a proverbial dent in the world of information professionals.  A jointly sponsored event hosted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Florida State University, and the Ringling Museum of Art, library, archives, and museum experts explored the information needs of cultural heritage organizations with a purpose to transcend the traditional boundaries between galleries, libraries, archives, and museums that would better serve the information age.

'Digital convergence’ has been a key theme of libraries, archives, and museums and has had a track record of previous research.  It finally reached a tipping point in 2009 when three influential publications from different professions -- Library QuarterlyArchival Science, and Museum Management and Curatorship --collaborated on special issues examining the areas of convergence for educators and professionals working to meet user needs in libraries, archives, and museums.

These journals are definitely worth a read.  But I think what is critical here is a paved road for cultural institutions.  Daily cuts to budgets everywhere have forced cultural institutions to shut down.  Is it too much to ask that 'digital convergence' has blurred traditional distinctions between galleries, libraries, archives, and museums?   Could the future see art galleries, libraries, archives, and museums can collaborate and combine forces to better serve their users?

The answer is a must and a yes -- for the future of libraries, archives, and museums.   The digital world has collapsed the cultural institutions industries.  I urge you to take a closer look at how these collaborative networks crosses those boundaries in the same way these authors’ projects collapse the boundaries between these journals.   

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gesture Based Libraries


I've profiled some developments of gesture-based computing in previous postings.  Now I want to take a closer look at one library's experience.  It's clear that this is no fad - Apple is currently in productions to roll out gesture-based technology soon. Founded in 1558, the Bavarian State Library is an early adopter of mobile applications.  With a collections comprising 9.7 million books, 57,500 current journal subscriptions, 93,600 manuscripts, the Bavarian State Library is one of the richest worldwide.   Its Munich Digitisation Centre (MDZ) is one of Germany's leading institution of digitization of written cultural material. Currently the Bavarian State Library can already offer 520,000 digitised books from its collections for free use.  Almost 90% of the digital books contributed by German institutions to the European cultural and scientific portal "Europeana" are from the Bavarian State Library.

Gesture-based computing will soon be a critical technology and has been profiled as an emerging trend in the Horizon Report 2012.   With gesture-based computing, just your hands and fingers are sufficient in directly interact with the screen - replacing mouse and keyboards altogether.

As far back as 2008, the Bavarian State Library had already installed purely gesture-controlled presentation system that personalizes virtual experience of digitized manuscripts, blending in history with cutting edge technology.   The BSB Explorer is a selection of 3D digital copies of the most valuable works of the Bavarian State Library, consisting of a large display and a sensor control unit - allowing for a purely gesture-based, completely contactless manipulation of the 3D animated digital copies on the display. Without the mouse or the touch screen as intermediate elements, the digitized 3D books can be paged through, turned and zoomed by mere movements of the hand.

Imagine being able to scan through collections of historical works through the swipe of your hands.  Imagine re-sizing the image through the waving of your fingers.   Observer how libraries, museums, and galleries are increasingly sharing their digital experiences.  Is this a sign of the times?   Observe how in this video gesture-based technology is used.  

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Dean Koontz's Odd Apocalypse Leaves the Page

As a librarian, technology plays a critical role in my work.  Whether it is social media, mobiles, or cloud computing, I need to be aware of what's new, what's going on, especially the tools that students and patrons are using next.    The book publishing industry is making a leap of faith into the latest of cutting-edge technology, using augmented reality as a way to enhance its stories beyond the physical page.   Layar has already been working with its European magazine counterparts in blending in digital 2D objects to the physical pages to produce a sensational experience.   

Dean Koontz is one of my favourite authors, and his Odd Thomas Series is a well-received series of books about Thomas, twenty-year-old man who is able to see the spirits of the dead.  Bantam books is one of the first to use augmented reality is salvaging a lagging book industry.  What does this mean for libraries?  Could this mean the end of bar codes?   Could this mean that librarians will be able to use image recognition on their mobiles to conduct online reference?  Let's wait some more.  In the meantime, try out Odd Apocalypse -- you can see it come to life using your mobile phone or computer webcam.   Try it out.  
_____________________________________

For iPhone and iPad users:

  1. Download the free Dean Koontz iPhone/iPad app at iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dean-koontz/id409292571?mt=8. If you already have the Dean Koontz app, check your “Updates” button for your iPhone/iPad to make sure you have the latest version of the Dean Koontz app.
  2. Once you start the app, look for the button that says “AR” on the homepage and click it, bringing you to the augmented reality viewer in Dean’s app.
  3. Position the hardcover book on a flat surface like in the picture below. Point your iPhone or iPad at the front book cover in a way that the entire book cover is seen within the viewer and watch the cover come to life. It may take a few seconds to load.
For Android users:

  1. Download the free Dean Koontz Android app in the Google Play app store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mobileroadie.app_929or download the standalone augmented reality Android App for Odd Apocalypse at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zerofractal.dean.koontz
  2. If you’re using the Dean Koontz app, look for the button that says “AR” on the homepage and click it, bringing you to the augmented reality viewer in Dean’s app.
  3. Position the hardcover book on a flat surface like in the picture below. Point your iPhone or iPad at the front book cover in a way that the entire book cover is seen within the viewer and watch the cover come to life. It may take a few seconds to load.
For webcam users:
  1. Visit the augmented reality viewer page on DeanKoontz.com by clicking here.
  2. Make sure your webcam is plugged in and turned on.
  3. If you see a message requesting access to your camera such as the one below, hit “Allow.”
  4. Hold your hardcover book up in front of your webcam. Be sure to take care not to obscure the book cover with your fingers, and position the book cover in a way that the entire book cover is seen on screen and watch the cover come to life.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Interactive Print in Augmented Reality - The Future of the Web



Layar has been one of the most innovative and progressive web start-ups I've seen in a while.  It's taking the technology world by storm, and just today, it's come out with something I truly think will lead to a revolution in how we interact on the web.  Layar has been working on this for over a year, and I believe it's hit critical mass, with the numerous developments happening concurrently with augmented reality programs across the world.

Layar has been collaborating with European magazine and newspaper publishers to help enhance the static pages of their publications with digital content, and in particular, offering publishers the tools to simply create the interaction themselves.  As Layar reveals, the last two issues of LINDA. Magazine, including the L’HOMO issue, are all embedded with buttons. The vtwonen magalogue with all of its “Buy” buttons.  The latest Eppo comic from Senefelder, the VPRO Gids.   Introducing: Layar Creator.

Will this mean the end of QR codes?  Seems like it. Layar Creator's emergence feels a lot like when the first services like Geocities provided easy access to creating websites, interacting with other users, and paving the way for the Web 2.0 era.  Layar Creator is almost like a WYSIWYG application for activating print pages with digital AR content. Anyone with a computer can upload images or PDFs, drag-and-drop any of a number of digital buttons onto the pages and publish them on the Layar platform. Layar Creator requires no software to install.  No fancy code work needed, no developers.  Whereas it took months of web programming to put together -- can now be done in mere moments.  

Layar uses image recognition technology, as it recognizes existing images from the pages of magazines and newspapers without the need for special markers like QR codes.   It's a path where I think we're truly leading to the so-called, much hyped but little-understood Web 3.0.    This early premonition of how "digital tagging" can be applied to physical objects are, in my opinion, the foreshadowing of the Web of Things and information shadow that will be a distinctive feature of Web 3.0.  

Monday, June 04, 2012

From Card Catalogues to Gesture-Based Computing



There have been a wave of new touch screen, mobile, and cloud-based emergent technologies out in the past few years.  One of them is 'SixthSense', a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. Currently a Research Assistant and PhD candidate at MIT Media Lab, Pranav Mistry is the inventor of SixthSense.  This game-changing technology is actually a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world – just like the movie. He has also invented an invisible mouse called Mouseless, which is controlled by an infrared laser beam and an infrared camera, both of which are embedded in the computer itself.   The current prototype system costs approximately $350 to build.   Pranav is already a celebrity with some of his innovative inventions, yet in the library world, there's still some questions as to what exactly gesture-based computing or augmented reality can provide or benefit to libraries.  Does the gesture of drawing a circle on the user’s wrist projecting an analog watch make for a practical application?

As I was listening in to discussions in my Digital Humanities Summer Institute session, I became more appreciative of the future of such technologies.  It's not so much the technology -- rather, it's the social, political, and business end of things which must be evaluated and researched well in order for a technology to function and thrive.    I liken the card catalog as analogous to gesture-based computing.  With the card catalogue, a stationery flip card is just a piece of card board; however, with text and a collocation element, it becomes something much more.   It becomes an essential tool of libraries, cataloguing, and classification.   Despite its disappearance from libraries, its associations with the library are so heavily embedded that it's almost impossible to remove it entirely from the library lexicon.   Library websites are often still referred to loosely as the library catalogue. So what can we learn about emerging technologies?   Could we envision a future where library patrons can easily flip through entire shelves of books by just a wave of their arms?   Can we envision a library where patrons don't even need to leave their couches, but can view entire shelves of books in the comfort of their homes?   Some libraries are already thinking ahead it seems. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Layar For A Run


Layar is my technology company of choice to examine. A trio of tech experts in 2007 Raimo van der Klein, Maarten Lens-FitzGerald and Claire Boonstra founded Mobile Monday in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. They did this during their free time as a hobby in order to connect people who shared their enthusiasm for mobile technological innovation. This is a strong cast of leaders with expertise in the entrepreneurial world of emerging technologies, particularly in the mobile smartphone market. 

Mobile Monday Amsterdam flourished and in 2008 Raimo, Maarten and Claire set up in business together. This trio also began exploring the possibilities offered by content layered on top of reality. This eventually became Layar. What is important to note is that within hours of launching on June 16th 2009, it had already been picked up on by most of the media in their world. This is a seasoned, dedicated team of entrepreneurs, and for that reason, I sense this is a blue chip product and company to invest in.

Claire Boonstra has been named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Women in Technology by FastCompany and Laptop Magazine. Since earning her degree in Civil Engineering in 2001, Claire has worked in Mobile, Marketing and New Media. Previous employers include KPN Mobile (introducing i-mode to the European market), Unilever (European Brand Manager) and Talpa Digital (new online-media ventures). Together with her co-founders Maarten Lens-FitzGerald and Raimo van der Klein, Claire started Mobile Monday Amsterdam and SPRXmobile before launching Layar in 2009. Claire is primarily responsible for facilitating the third-party brand, agency and developer ecosystem of Layar.

Maarten Lens-FitzGerald (General Manager of Layar) has been an Internet professional since 1993, developing Web 2.0 strategies and campaign concepts. In 2007 he brought his expertise to the mobile industry, co-founding Mobile Monday Amsterdam and later SPRXmobile with Raimo van der Klein and Claire Boonstra. In 2008 Maarten was diagnosed with cancer and became known as Patient 2.0, sharing all his experiences through the social Web and via his blog Maartens Journey.com.

Raimo van der Klein (Chief Executive Officer) was co-founder and partner at SPRXmobile – a mobile agency focusing on strategy and concept development with clients like Vodafone and Rabobank following a successful career in Sales & Marketing at Nokia and as Principal Innovation Manager at KPN Mobile.

As the Horizon Report 2010 and 2011 have indicated, augmented reality will be an emerging force in the educational technology world. Layar has been one of the early adopters using AR technology, especially as it uses both the Android and iPhone applications. Not only do Layar’s mobile application features content layers that may include ratings, reviews, advertising, or other such information to assist consumers on location in shopping or dining areas, it also allows users to create their own place-of-interest (POI) and adding their own content to this application. In my opinion, Layar is the new blue chip company to watch for now in the emerging educational technology and commercial sector.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

World Confederation of Institutes and Libraries in Chinese Overseas Studies 2012 Presentation at UBC


“Chinese Canadian Stories: Uncommon Histories from a Common Past” is community engagement and digitization initiative that contributes to the reconstruction of the identities of Chinese Canadians. Focusing on UBC Library’s role as nexus for university-community engagement, this presentation outlines interactions with the local Chinese communities and their roles in shaping the identities of Chinese Canadians across the Pacific. As a case study of one Canadian academic library’s drive in the recovery, creation, organization, promotion and research of Chinese Canadian historical materials in both English and Chinese, this project showcases the complex links and dynamics between institutional efforts to preserve archival materials for learning and research and the preservation of family history in the community for posterity that can be studied on a number of levels.

 Whereas academic libraries have traditionally concentrated on building collections, providing research support to students and faculty, and offering information literacy instruction, they have always been integrated into the broader aspirations of the university. As the academic library can be natural focal point for this interaction and exchange between academia and community, Chinese Canadian Stories (www.chinesecanadian.ubc.ca) helps position UBC Library as a gathering place for community outreach and community-based research.

 Through this project, it can be said that UBC Library is making a difference in innovatively creating a different approach to the preservation of the Chinese Canadian history and correcting the past’s erasures in Canada’s national memory, by working with academics, libraries and archives as well as the diverse communities of Canada. In all, UBC collaborated with twentyeight communities across Canada – from Victoria, BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland – to document the history of Chinese families in the twentieth century. This paper presents the project of “Chinese Canadian Stories” as a model for how an academic library can successfully collaborate with an ethnic community to preserve their culture and history and brought a new awareness of their social identity. The benefits and challenges of such collaboration are discussed in the context of a real-world application. And recommendations for future applications are presented.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Augmented Reality In Glasses?


Google's latest foray in augmented reality has really impressed me.  It's already done well with Google Goggles.  It's pushing boundaries of augmented reality with its latest innovation in the form of wearable glasses.   Educational experts are pointing to augmented reality as the next wave of technology to transform the way instructors teach and students learn.

Augmented reality provides a powerful constructivist experience for exploration and discovery of the connected nature of information in the physical world. It also aligns with situated learning in that it that permits experimentation and exploration to take place in the same context in which the activity occurs.  Augmented reality has much potential for serious gaming applications, as it adds an element of game simulation in the application.

In the Horizon Report, a research report published annually by the education think tank New Media Consortium that charts the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning and creative inquiry, has forecast in their 2010 and 2011 reports that augmented reality as an educational technology will be a be an integral tool in education.  Imagine a student as he waves his mobile device around the room to "uncover" hidden texts and information embedded on a world map on the wall with questions and answers all there for the student to view.   Or imagine a doctoral student completing his American history dissertation scanning his mobile device over certain key hot spots in the in the Jefferson Library in the Library of Congress and being able to not only pick out each title on his device, but also open the digital book and flip through each page.

Whether Google Glasses will take off or not is beside the point: Google Glasses is one example of where "augmented reality" glasses is another step in the direction of the Internet-of-things -- where the virtual world and the real world collide and merge.  This early prototype of the Google Glasses, which is developed from the same individuals that crafted self-driven cars, can snap photos, initiate videochats and display directions at the sound of a user.  While augmented reality has been long in development, particularly by military and private commercial industries, augmented reality hasn't hit full force until just recently.   It's exciting to see where it will go.  How will libraries take full advantage of this?   Time will tell.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Future of Libraries? Or the Nextflix of the Future?

Although there has been a plethora of articles in the literature about the future of libraries, one recent ones stand out as they purposefully ask librarians to take a step back and caution about the optimistic future that Library 2.0. Steve Coffman's The Decline and Fall of the Library Empire is a particularly sobering look into the state of libraries.   With the decline of video stores, DVD and music sales, and withering of bookstores, one needs to take a closer look at how libraries will fare down the road.   Maybe librarians won't be there when the semantic web arrives; or as e-Books dominate reading experiences.  Perhaps becoming gaming centres and virtual e-Book stores might not be the way to go.  Coffman remarkably synthesizes the challenges with some highlight packaged quotes:

On cataloguing websites: "...remember those heady early days when we thought we were going to catalog the web? OCLC even set up a whole project for this task back around the turn of the century (sounds like a long time ago, doesn’t it?). It was called CORC, or Collaborative Online Resource Catalog. Librarians around the world were supposed to select and catalog “good, librarian-certified” web resources. There was even talk of assigning Dewey numbers to websites — an idea which I’m sure would have brought tears to the eyes of many, especially our patrons. Today, the only evidence you can find of CORC is a few sentences in a list of abandoned research projects on the OCLC website and some links to PowerPoints and articles saluting it — most now more than 10 years old"

On virtual reference: "...although virtual reference is still around — supplemented by “text” and SMS — it is a mere shadow of its former self. Most of the commercial vendors closed up shop. The QuestionPoint 24/7 service stays in the business, probably because it does not have quite the same profit requirement as the commercial services. The Virtual Reference Conference is gone and, while you can still find a few programs on virtual reference at regular library conferences, today it’s far more likely to be a “talk table” than a room jampacked with hundreds of avid librarians, the way it was back in the old days."

On libraries: "....the world is moving on. Each service we’ve provided in the digital arena is being superseded by new technologies or by other organizations better suited to deliver services. When Google is finished scanning it will have no more use for library collections. So after 50 years in the digital market, libraries are back where they started. Our electronic library has been built, but others own and manage it. We are left with the property we began with, physical books and buildings that house them. In reality, those are not inconsiderable assets in a world where it may be uneconomical to have physical bookstores or places where people can get together to listen to stories or discuss books and ideas....Figuring out how to exploit those assets in this new environment will not be easy."

Netflix is a stark reminder of how soluble a seemingly immovable powerhouse like Blockbuster can be driven out of the retail video business within a few short years upon the arrival of a cheaper, more accessible competitor.  Libraries are certainly aware of the challenges of space, information, and literacy.   Coffman questions that had books been inexpensive in the 19th century, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie would've spent his money elsewhere: yet, he chose libraries, for they offered a public good in promoting reading through book collections.  The Gates Foundation supported libraries in the 1990's when libraries became the forefront for providing free internet service at a formative period when service charges were unaffordable for most.  

With social catalogues like LibrarythingGoodreads, Google Books, and Amazon, traditional library functions are being challenged from all perspectives.   But like all other professions and services, the future is indeterminate - and whatever happens will be unrecognizable from its current form today.  Will libraries continue to be supported by public funding?  Could we envision a hybrid model of a commercialized-private industry, integrated and rebranded with online bookstores and publishers?  Or could we envision libraries being reformulated for a different mandate altogether?  Could another Andrew Carnegie come along charged with a mission to change the world, using libraries as the engine to engage communities?  Would it be in the form of books?  Or would it be a completely different service?   

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wither the University? Or Simply, the Educational Long Tail



Director of Center for 21st Century Universities and Professor of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Richard Demillo has an intriguingly controversial argument about higher education: it isn't working.  With rising costs of tuition and textbooks, higher education has outpriced too many.  Demillo sees some worrisome trends for the future. While the elite Ivy League and prestigious schools such as Harvard and Yale's are likely to survive any environment, the majority of public institutions of learning are walking towards the path of self-destruction. With enrolments decreasing each year, institutions are still turning away potential students.  In Abelard to Apple, DeMillo traces the history of the university system to its origins in European monasteries, and sees that the centuries-old model of higher education inherited by American institutions are out of tune with the the social, historical, and economic forces at work in today's world.

Online Universities -  If University of Phoenix, Open University, and Athabasca University is showing us, distance education is enormously successful, and is giving campuses of higher education a run for its money.   Students find great value for their tuition fees and the business model is efficient and profitable.  Demillo sees online universities in fact returning to the origins of European universities -as learning institutions that is not restricted by class or economy.  

Industry Drives Education - Regardless of the philosophy of higher education, students enrol at higher education with an intent for employment.  Universities in India and China are at the cutting edge of creating new areas of research that synchronizes with the needs of industry.  Demillo points out institutions such as Zhejiang University's newly opened Department of Ocean Sciences in 2009 which puts theory into practice by fusing engineering with coastal trade being innovative in fusing the practical needs of trade in that area with the latest research in the interdisciplinary sciences.   It's a conundrum: does a liberal arts education actually foster or prevent critical thinking? Demillo seems to believe that universities and colleges theorize to the point that it does its graduates disservice by training them to think as their professors.

A New Way To Be Accredited  - Accreditation hampers education more than anything.  If anything, Apple's iTunes U and MIT's OpenCourseWare has also shown that with the web, learning has not only become accessible, but free.   Massive open online course (MOOC) courses where the participants are distributed and course materials also are dispersed across the web.  Breaking apart the fabric of the current system, Demillo argues that accreditation of a degree should not be at the whim of universities.  Could we imagine a future where students can pick and choose their own degrees? Could they tailor their studies to what they truly want to learn?  Could this be achieved in an open system where universities champion the ecology of courses rather than the rigidity of structure?   Will the future of higher learning be based on this educational long tail work

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Open Access or Digital Parasites?

Mozart in training
Robert Levine's Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are destroying the culture business, and how the culture business can fight back offers some fascinating thoughts. Good thing he's not giving it away online in PDF.   Levine makes some interesting points: online users (and customers) love the technology free ride.  Why bother buying CD's and DVD's when they're easily streamed or downloadable?

Media companies on whom the digital industry feeds out of business are going out of business. As Levin points out, "Newspaper stocks have fallen to all-time lows as papers are pressured to give away content, music sales have fallen by more than half since file sharing became common, TV ratings are plum­meting as viewership migrates online, and publishers face off against Amazon over the price of digital books."

It's true: the media industry has lost control.  It's fighting and desperately clawing and hanging its way confusingly to stay afloat.  Part of the problem is that the history of copyright has existed long before the digital world disorder.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) was passed in 1998, seven years before YouTube.  Seven years before remixing became the norm.  Legal scholar Lawrence Lessig has merit when he argues that "creative remixing" is healthy within reason.   Yet it appears that the balance has been tipped to the point where it could have harmful effects on the culture industries.  Here are a few points:

Copyright and Originality - Sure, YouTube might produce some unique content, but how original really are they? Much of the viral remixes we view online are based on the original products that had been built on the backs of commercial enterprses.   Could there be Chad Vader without StarWars?    There might have been some unique online stars created overnight, but ultimately these stars still require real agents to promote their originality.  They ultimately require people to buy their originality whatever form that may be.   There are many who don't necessarily require monetary gains; but ultimately most do.  And it isn't through Google Ads.

Content Quality - Yes, it seems print newspapers have also given way to digital content.  Commercial newspapers are giving away their copies for free.  Content is given away as "information wants to be free."   It's an exciting time for open access and open source.  Chris Anderson had long argued that businesses should give it all away for free.   But is this really for the best though?  For one thing, anyone can open a blog and write about the news - it's called grassroots citizen journalism.  But much of it is run on shoe string budgets.  Editorial oversight is thinly disguised.  Much of the news aggregators in fact churn out such news that way.   Look at the Huffington Post.

E-Books & Authorship - Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is one of the first services to allow for any writers to self-publish books on the Amazon Kindle Store.  It's supposed to be the future of publishing.  To cut out the middleman the publisher so that the author can directly publish his work inexpensively and accessibly.  It will democratize the literary world.  It will change the book industry; with e-books, who needs to purchase directly from a publisher when it can be easily created and bought in digital form?  Just hire a designer and a copy editor (or not).  But is that really how it will happen?   Perhaps not.  With publishers no longer involved, who will promote emerging writers?   For decades publishing houses have bought the rights of the author's creativity in return for selling their books.  Without them, will new authors be able to compete with the established stars?   Does the long tail promised by Chris Anderson really work for those artists on the tail who need to survive on next to nothing until they get noticed?

Will artists return to the patronage system as in the days of Mozart?  Levine brings forth a really intriguing and plausible scenario.  Before the days of record companies and career agents, the only way performers, musicians, painters, and sculptors could maintain their art work was through the financial support of the nobility and the wealthy.  With the demise of the commercial industries, will artists revert back to this classical period?  Will cultural producers such as authors and musicians rely only on the rich to support them? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Internet of Things in Education



This year’s Horizon Report 2012 identifies mobile apps and tablet computing as technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the first horizon of one year or less.  Of the six technologies highlighted in the Horizon Report, two were also noted in the 2011 edition. Game-based learning remains in the two- to three-year horizon, as does gesture-based computing in the four- to five-year horizon.  For the first time, Internet of Things is introduced and is seen emerging in the third horizon of four to five years.

I'm most intrigued by the report's Internet of Things.  I've noted in the past that the Internet of Things (IOT) will be a driving force in not only web and internet technologies, but will be an ubiquitous part of our lives, seamlessly integrated into our personal lives.  Imagine being able to tag physical objects and being able to connect them to the web.  Ultimately, the IOT extends the way we understand and convey information, thus making objects addressable (and findable) on the Internet is the next step in the evolution of smart objects — interconnected items in which the line between the physical object and digital information about it is blurred.

In the Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku has already pointed this out.  Ubiquitous computing frees the chip from the computer.   Thousands of chips scattered everywhere there is an object, being tagged as it is produced.  Is this exciting or will it just be confusing?  Information specialists will also be important if this technology is to take off.  If the web is one big disorganized mess, what will happen once the physical world expands this messiness?

This has to be an exciting time for libraries.  The Internet of Things is really not so different from what libraries have faced since the card catalogue days: collocating disparate pieces of information from the books to cards.  Eventually it became matching the physical (books) with the digital (OPAC).  Then it evolved to bar codes.  Then RFID with library books.  As a metaphor, the IOT takes this beyond the walls of libraries and extends beyond tagging a book to just about anything that has shape and form.  I encourage you to watch the video above.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Demise of Tradition?

“I’m not interested in selling a bowl. That’s not the business I’m going to be in,” Heather Reisman told the Globe and Mail in November. “I am interested in creating an experience around the table for the customer.” As MacLean's article recently argues, that Indigo Chapters “experience” paradoxically relies on the cultural patina of books—and their ability to provide product adjacencies, especially around cookbooks and children’s books, two categories predicted to defy digitization. As the article asserts,
"The new product mix is wisely skewed to women, the primary book buyers, and exudes comfort, warmth and well-being: teapots, wine decanters, yoga socks, lavender-camomile bubble bath, pretty notepaper and $28 olive oil."
What's happened to the Blockbusters (or Rogers Video, in Canada) is slowly happening to bookstores.   What's happening to Virgin Records and HMV is slowly happening to bookstores.   The method for how one purchases CD's and DVD's has been completely transformed; the way for how consumers borrow a movie is also completely reversed.    Venerable old Yellow Pages which for decades has been the point of destination when it came to finding names and businesses has also lost its market.  People have moved away from the product experience to the "digital experience," and it's really interesting seeing the dramatic change in the way publishing, bookstores, and libraries are transitioning.

In a way, these three businesses - publishing, book selling, and librarianship - have been the last to be revolutionized by the digital world although the tensions are there and the changes are coming swiftly.  With all these changes in business, it is fair to say that it seems libraries and publishing have been the late in the game to be hit with changes.  Two reports indicate more changes to come with print.  The bookstore model has been altered with less demand for books: but how will publishing and libraries fare?

In a recent study released by the Education Advisory Board, Redeļ¬ning the Academic Library: Managing the Migration to Digital Information Services, it proposes for wholesale changes to how academic libraries are run: workflow efficiency, relationships with journal publishers, patron-driven acquisitions model, repurposing library spaces, and organizational cultures.   In a report prepared for the Association of Canadian Publishers called The Impact of Digitization on the Book Industry, proposes that Canadian publishers should brace themselves in digital rights management, copyright, and e-books.   Is this the death of the book?   (A popular question nowadays).