I have been teaching a course on social media and web 2.0 for library science students, and have designed the class to push students beyond adoption and use to thinking about big picture issues. Specifically, web 2.0 design and philosophy directly contradict our professional ethics regarding patron privacy. Services like Bibliocommons are still far behind Amazon and other industry leaders of content provision and data mining, and libraries continue to move far too slowly on the privacy debate.
I framed the argument from an Information Ecology perspective, because I personally don't have an answer to the question. I am more concerned with the stress on the information ecosystem and many of the negative feedbacks that tech has created. To understand some of this perspective click through the slideshow below:
Then think about this paragraph from a recent MIT Technology Review article
In case after case, Simitis argued, we stood to lose. Instead of getting more context for decisions, we would get less; instead of seeing the logic driving our bureaucratic systems and making that logic more accurate and less Kafkaesque, we would get more confusion because decision making was becoming automated and no one knew how exactly the algorithms worked. We would perceive a murkier picture of what makes our social institutions work; despite the promise of greater personalization and empowerment, the interactive systems would provide only an illusion of more participation. As a result, “interactive systems … suggest individual activity where in fact no more than stereotyped reactions occur.”
Tech is pushing our boundaries and straining our society more than many of the more messianic thinkers had previously thought. Libraries are not alone in our problems with balancing privacy and user expectations.
For the past few years my thinking has been slowly evolving concerning the emergent business models for artists in the Digital Age. Like many in the tech community, I assumed that tech would have an answer, presumably in the arena of advertising. I believed the argument many had been making about giving away your creations and monetizing it some other way. It was, and is, an attractive argument. After all, Google made it billions from allowing users free access to its search engine and selling ad revenue.
But a growing body of evidence from the music industry, the most mature digital market, suggests that this arrangement has yet to work well. Of course "well" is a subjective term. As well as what we might ask? The twentieth century business model for starters. Selling the actual "art" it self during the twentieth century produced and explosion of wealth, and as a by product, artistic creations. Granted, the twentieth century is an anomaly in the history of the Arts, but it was a good anomaly- lots of art, good, bad, and ugly, was created. Personally I would prefer to see that situation perpetuated in the twenty first century.
Which is what I mean by working "well". The problem is that the most mature digital ecosystem has been hammered by digitization. This
article on the music industry puts it into great perspective. They lost half their revenues. Recently, the industry posted a modest profit, but it is too early to say if that is a blip in the downward spiral or not.
more recent article fits neatly with the growing impression that the music industry is in a "death spiral". I especially like its simple and straightforward approach. The butchered Thom Yorke quote is just gravy.
But why do we care, and why am I writing about this? Because this is the only thing keep Hollywood and the publishing industry from making the migration to digital formats. And that is a situation libraries cannot afford. It also demonstrates the gaping hole in the industry that is waiting to be filled. In my opinion there is ample room in that vacuum for libraries to stake out a critical piece of landscape
While the idea of flexible displays has always seemed really fun and attractive, the actual benefits of a flexible display have seemed- to me at least- minimal. Aside from offering fun and interesting ways to play with visuals and user interfaces they seemed to me to be more about cosmetics than anything substantial. This video seems to prove me wrong:
I spoke in Michigan last week, and met a number of great people. For those of you who are interested, I posted the White Paper I wrote for Douglas County Libraries on my website here
I enjoyed Art Brodsky's article
in Wired very much, and was happy to find someone in our community thinking outside the library box. We desperately need to broaden the awareness of our challenges with econtent beyond our community. And that is the main problem with Brodsky's article, as it jumped the shark with its apocalyptic language and overly whiny tone.He never actually proves that ebooks are pricing people out of reading, although he infers the standard library argument that it is because libraries cannot afford them, and libraries serve people who cannot afford books.
The obvious problem is that this model may be irrelevant in an econtent market.For a more sober and careful analysis read Shatkin's post here. As I have said in the past, if you don't subscribe to Shatzkin, you should.
The Chaos Computing Club is one of the oldest and most "respectable" hacker groups around. I only put "respectable" in quotes, because I am not sure if that is a term that really should be applied to hackers, as such terms don't mean much to them. I use the term simply to indicate their standing in the tech world.
They have hacked the biometric (fingerprint) security of the iPhone 5. They have done this service multiple times for large organizations, and biometric security has been something they are generally against- ostensibly because they think it is not that secure. Now, you have to remember that "secure" means something much different to a member of Chaos than it does to the rest of us tech neanderthals. Also, I don't know if this is a legitimate hack, because they used the existing fingerprint to do it, rather than actually hacking the software. But their point remains the same. Biometric security is not that difficult to bypass.
Ok, maybe I like this article so much because I agree with the broader argument. At first, I really thought Oyster was not going to amount to much, but the more I have been looking at it, the more I am impressed.
John Evans at TechCrunch makes the case
Activision just released some data on their Call of Duty game series. The numbers are staggering. Just look down at the middle of the graphic: 32.3 quadrillion shots have been fired during game play. 25 billion hours have been played. That's 2.85 million years.
And that's just one popular game. I have added a few hours myself to those numbers. To put this into a more comprehensible perspective consider the fact that game sales passed movie ticket revenues up about 5 years ago. I don't think we should be drawing any lessons for libraries from this, I just thought that these numbers should be shared as they lend some perspective on the change happening in society. It would not be foolish to connect this raw data to a previous post I made on human-machine relations. The younger generations are being conditioned to interact, relate, and connect to machines in ways we would never have thought possible.
Anecdotally, I can tell story after story of how so many of my gamer friends prefer virtual versions to their "real" counterparts. In my experience, this tendency is somewhat overestimated, because many of these young gamers and geeks are often socially ostracized or uncomfortable. I came across terms like "socially awkward" and "uncomfortable" over and over in the research I had been doing on my gaming cohort. I also saw evidence that they desired human interaction as well.
What is amazing, however, is that a significant percentage of these Call of Duty gamers are not the hard core gamers and geeks that I had been studying, but rather people more like me who simply wanted to play a lot of Call of Duty. I played because the game was completely immersive, challenging, and fun. Obviously, a lot of people do the same.
is very interesting. IBM's TrueNorth functions more like a traditional human brain. Instead of traditional compartmentalized storage and sequential processing, TrueNorth distributes content in a parallel manner which is very similar to the way the human brain functions.
It still requires a supercomputer to function but,
"Each core of the simulated neurosynaptic computer contains its own network of 256 'neurons,' which operate using a new mathematical model. In this model, the digital neurons mimic the independent nature of biological neurons, developing different response times and firing patterns in response to input from neighboring neurons."
I read this to mean IBM has taken a step towards the type of data processing and independent "thought" we typically associate with human brains. This should be understood in light of recent research in neurology, psychology and anthropology that suggests humans are nowhere near as "free" and independent as we have been led to believe. THe Enlightenment concept of the Autonomy of human beings has been undermined by the past few decades of research into human behavior and conformity. So by "independent thought" I mean something closer to "random" or unpredictable. Human brains also process and sort massive amounts of data in ways computers still can't manage, but are definitely getting closer to.
Singularity here we come. (I chose the Blade Runner screenshot because it was the first great android story from my youth)
The DOJ and 33 state attorney generals have proposed some interesting "solutions" to Apple's ebook "price fixing". Essentially the battle has been over Apple's traditionally closed content and business model.
Apple will have to end its contracts that fix prices in it's ecosystem. This is a fascinating and not unexpected development. In many ways this is an attempt to apply free market principles to ebook pricing, but the problem is that software and systems architectures don't always work with free market approaches, because consumers don't own their digital purchases and get locked into whichever vendor they start with. This is why the Nook and Google have struggled to gain market share. It is not that the system is not open enough. The problem is that most people at this point have so much content in Amazon or Apple that they cannot afford to migrate over to Nook or Google.
The DOJ proposal ignores this elephant in the room. If they proposed real ownership of digital content, then it wouldn't matter what price Apple charges because consumers would buy their product elsewhere and load it themselves. The cynic in me sees this ruling as the government simply dancing around the issue while trying to mollify the big Money, but not really deal with the issue.
For libraries this is no victory at all. Regardless of how things proceed, DOJ