Libraries, Digital Advertising, and the Machine Zone

Librarians are an underused, underpaid, and underestimated legion. And one librarian in particular is frustrated by e-book lending. Not just the fact that libraries have to maintain waitlists for access to a digital file, but also that the barriers to checking out an ebook are unnecessarily high. As she puts it,

“Teaching people about having technology serve them includes helping them learn to assess and evaluate risk for themselves.”

In her view,

“Information workers need to be willing to step up and be more honest about how technology really works and not silently carry water for bad systems. People trust us to tell them the truth.”

That seems like the least that can be expected by library patrons.

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Protest and Media

Here’s what was important this week…

Are women being infantilized or endangered in the Olympics?

Also, the Olympic medal count gets more interesting depending on whether you look at it in terms of total medalsnumber of gold medals, or medals per capita.

In world news, protests in Ukraine that have been going on for a few months have escalated as the government ramps up its violent response. Just today (overnight for us in the US time zone) a deal was signed between the government and the protestors. Hopefully it will hold. That article (CNN) provides a good overview of the violence, but essentially the protests started as the government aligned itself with Russia, while many citizens wished for more of an EU alignment. Photos (some graphic) of the violence were collected yesterday by In Focus, and the New Yorker is wondering if this protest is the final straw: Will Ukraine Break Apart?Like many of the protests in recent years, the protests have been named somewhat with the square in which they’re occurring. Tahrir, Zucotti, Gezi, and now the Ukrainian protests, combining the word for “square” and the crux of the protests, european integration, to make euromaidan. You can watch four simultaneous live feeds of the park if you like. (The current president of Ukraine also ran for president in 2004 and was “elected” but forced to concede to his opponent after accusations of electoral fraud. One of those protesting the election results also happened to be the sign language interpreter for the state run news channel.)

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What is Old is New Again

Facebook has named its new app offering, which debuted today, “Paper”. As Lev Manovich points out, this naming signifies that “Old media metaphors are not going away” In fact, old media themselves aren’t going away.

Nowadays, fears that e-books and mp3s will dominate the reading and listening landscapes are all over the media. These fears seem somewhat cyclical, with the same old complaints cropping up decade after decade, as documented by the NYTimes more than once, Tom Standage in Wired, and XKCD, among others. Fear of the new manifests itself as dismissal of the digital, or whatever new technology has come to the fore.

Research has proven that not only do books have some staying power, old forms of music media are regaining popularity as well. Millenials are buying more books than other generations, and vinyl records are making a comeback. Cassette tapes, even, have found a resurgence.

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Memory, Experience, and Privilege

Here’s what was important this week

I wrote a really long link round-up piece about how technology and our memory interact in potentially damaging ways. And then I realized it was a blog post. So you can read that here:http://wp.me/p3qnzQ-5J

It’s something I find endlessly fascinating, and will be interesting to see how it progresses as technology becomes ingrained in even more aspects of our day to day life and becomes more visible (or not).

Technology is also changing many analog experiences into more digital ones. One photographer explores the future death of the standalone camera for the New Yorker, and reflects on perspective lost:

“As anyone working in a creative field knows, the perspective gained by spending time away from work is invaluable. Before digital (and outside of Polaroids), photography was filled with such forced perspective. No matter how quickly you worked, it was common for hours—if not days, weeks, or longer—to pass between seeing the image through the viewfinder and reviewing it in the darkroom. Digital technology scrunches these slow, drawn-out processes together.”

(If you want to see some truly analog photos, negatives were discovered clumped together from Ernest Schackleton’s Antarctic voyage. Unbelievably, they’ve been restored and printed.)

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Transactive Memory and the Machines

A reliance on technology is beneficial, allowing our brains to work harder, faster, and outsource more menial tasks such as keep track of which meetings are in which rooms at which times, to a web application. However, that reliance has sometime-damaging effects when coupled with a lack of understanding about how technology works and impacts us.

Camera phones can impact your memory by altering what you focus on and observe while taking a picture. When you take a photo, your brain remembers less of what you photographed, perhaps because it realizes that in taking a photo, you will have a record which you can reference later and therefore the information is less important to store. Dave Pell elaborates on this in an excellent essay on Medium:

“We’ve ceded many of our remembering duties (birthdays, schedules, phone numbers, directions) to a hard drive in the cloud. And to a large extent, we’ve now handed over our memories of experiences to digital cameras.”

This is especially relevant now since camera phones and picture-taking are near-ubiquitous in many facets of our society. Dave Pell continues, remarking:

“Snapping and sharing photos from meaningful events is nothing new. But the frequency with which we take pictures and the immediacy with which we view them will clearly have a deep impact on the way we remember. And with cameras being inserted into more devices, our collective shutterspeed will only increase.”

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