Monday, November 17, 2008

An information professional

This is just for fun -- a posting for all those in the information professions! It's from Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

video

I've been busy on the Archives Track this semester; perhaps I should continue to blog about my classes. But admittedly, it can be difficult to motivate myself even to do the work that is required. I'm in the midst of moving from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, so I hope that once I'm settled in Albuquerque I'll have more time to reflect and blog about the MLIS program.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Archiving an archivist

Just browsing around the 'net, I found this video interview of my good friend's father, Dr. Ed Bridges, the director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Growing up, I always enjoyed hearing Dr. Bridges talk about his work. He was interviewed last year for Alabama Public Television, and I especially enjoyed hearing his insights about his career: the ways documents and objects tell stories, the ways in which selective retention of items may shape a view of history, and how his archives conceal countless hidden treasures of significant historical value.

http://www.aptv.org/VideoRoom/viewprogram.asp?FileID=871

The more I learn about archives, the more intrigued I become by this particular career option.

Another link -- this one relating to archives

I found this article last week for my archives class, and it's interesting enough that I'll include a link to it here, as well.

Kafka's Papers Snarled in Bidding War, Cat Litter, Israeli Pride

As I said in my discussion posting for the class, although it's heartbreaking to think of Kafka's unseen works moldering away in a damp flat, the fact that he wanted all of his writings to be burned after his death just makes me glad that anything at all remains of his works.
According to our opinion, this work is free of...Image via Wikipedia
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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Open source textbooks?

Just posting a quick link tonight:

Open Source Textbooks Challenge a Paradigm

I'll be curious to see where this leads.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Big "So What"

An article in Salon.com today reviews a book called Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet, whose authors examine the rise and spread of information production, beginning at the dawn of Western civilization and continuing through the twenty-first century. But -- ask the authors -- so what? Is the so-called Information Age really so different from any that came before?

http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/08/28/knowledge/


It sounds like a text that would find itself right at home among some of the texts we were assigned to read in LIS2000, such as Wright's Glut and Barabasi's Linked. I've been enjoying the texts that take a long view of history and knowledge, even when such books don't necessarily tell me what information or knowledge is.

Yes, this would be a more enlightening blog post if I had actually read the new book of which the article speaks, but I found the review itself interesting in its summarization of various cultures' prioritizing of speech over writing or vice-versa -- and related questions about how and where internet discourse fits in to such equations.

I'll try to keep blogging every now and then as the new semester begins!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Anyone still reading this?

3-2-1 ContactImage via Wikipedia Yeah, OK, so I've let the blog slide since class ended. But why not keep it running? For the last several days I've been on a beach vacation with my family, and our recent nostalgic YouTubing has inspired me to post this video that rocked my world and blew my mind when I was seven years old. Then when I met my future husband thirteen years later, we totally bonded over how much this short film rocked our worlds and blew our minds when we were seven years old.

No, it doesn't have particularly much to do with library school or related issues, but who among us wouldn't benefit from a broader perspective? (Way broader...) I therefore invite you to enjoy Al Jarnow's "Cosmic Clock" from 3-2-1 Contact (still one of my favorite TV shows ever). Hooray for Children's Television Workshop!



video

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

My final assignment!

On this last humid day of July, I'm happy to bring my LIS2600 work to a close and amalgamate the results into a portfolio. Here it is, ladies and gentlemen:

http://www.pitt.edu/~ell34/portfolio_livingston.html


And just in case anyone would like to see my index page (in a pretentious font that seems to say, "Braised Portobello Caps, 27-"):

http://www.pitt.edu/~ell34/

That's all for now; good night and good luck!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No no wait, NOW I've got it!!!

Visualization of the various routes through a ...Image via WikipediaOK, my previous post was a bit premature; I hadn't yet ironed out the kinks of CSS formatting or even, um, actually linked my style sheet to its document. Heh. But NOW I've got it figured out, and I invite the reader to visit my updated assignment sites, if said reader cares to do so (and unless said reader is a teaching assistant for this course, that's actually highly unlikely).

The index:

www.pitt.edu/~ell34


The Thoreau document with css embedded:

http://www.pitt.edu/~ell34/thoreau_fragment_2.html


and the css sheet, such as it is (which still isn't perfect... a few little quirks... oh well, I'm still learning here):

http://www.pitt.edu/~ell34/livingstoncss.css

Now time to get back to work on my other class projects!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another HTML document is born

1967 U.S. postage stamp honoring Henry David T...Image via WikipediaContinuing my tradition of putting off everything until the last minute, I've only just now managed to post my hypertext-linked version of the Thoreau document to my Pitt web page. I'm still fiddling around with CSS files and whatnot, and given that it's a Saturday night past 2 a.m., and given that I drank two glasses of wine earlier, and given that (I confess) I'm watching The Muppet Movie even as I write this, I'm a bit distracted and not entirely sure I've completed even this portion of the assignment satisfactorily. But what the hey, here's the link:

http://www.pitt.edu/~ell34/index.html

and more directly:

http://www.pitt.edu/~ell34/thoreau_fragment_3.html

I'm a bit concerned that there's something I've failed to do... I'll have to look into it tomorrow, when I'm not fiendishly writing my paper for LIS2000. Phew, lots to do before the semester ends. Yeah, I should probably go to bed now.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

A bear can ride a bicycle.

A bear can ride a bicycle.

I once heard Daniel Dennett begin a philosophy lecture that way. It was a striking opening, but I would bastardize his subsequent point if I tried to summarize it. Now I'm only beginning my blog post this way in a transparent bid for Zemanta to find me a cool image of a bear on a bicycle with which to decorate this utterly fluffy and meaningless post. I mean, it's COOL that a bear can ride a bicycle... as long as people aren't, y'know, whipping bears into submission, or mistreating them, or forcing them to perform against their wills. But come to think of it, does a bear ever WANT to ride a bike? Who can say? Maybe animals should just be left alone.

The whole topic reminds me of a John Irving story embedded within his novel The World According to Garp, in which a bear rides a bicycle (if I recall correctly). That was an excellent novel. But, I'm sorry to say, after all of this writing about bears and bicycles, Zemanta has merely suggested some photos of bicycles (sans bears), and some images of teddy bears, but not a single photo of a bear on a bicycle. Aw well, it was an awfully specific request.

Ergo, I'm going to take matters into my own hands and Google image-search "bear" and "bicycle."



There ya go. You know, the more I think about it, the more *wrong* it somehow seems that anyone ever even tried to get a bear to ride a bicycle. I hope that the above-depicted bear had a good life, despite everything.

The dance between copyright enforcers and violators continues

Regarding my previous blog entry: the very morning after I posted the links to the YouTube versions of The Grey Album, the aforementioned blog-reader informed me that the music on YouTube had already been "removed due to terms of use violation." And no sooner had I confirmed this news than I discovered that someone else had posted yet another version of The Grey Album on YouTube a mere two hours earlier. Is this a daily pas-de-deux, with enforcers perennially erasing and renegades perennially reposting? I admit that I took the chance to download the music from YouTube while I could, but I won't post the files here, lest my MLIS2600 blog be forcibly removed from the Internet. (Hello, creeping paranoia... did I just admit to something that could get my computer seized?... Please don't seize my computer.) But anyway.

This week I'm just finishing up the semester's courses: doing lots and lots of reading about copyright law (it's a recurrent topic these days!), thinking about how to compose the final LIS2000 paper, and procrastinating completing Part 2 of the HTML assignment. I'll complete it soon enough, and post a link here. Meanwhile, maybe it's something about the summer heat, but all I feel like doing right now is zoning out and watching a movie or something.

But first, just to get Zemanta to suggest a cool picture, I'm going to add text about Klein bottles. That's right, Klein bottles, a bottle with a non-orientable surface, the Moebius Strip of bottle-making. Yeah, Klein bottles! Klein bottles! If I type that phrase enough, will Zemanta find me a picture of a Klein bottle? Aha! It worked!Klein bottle made with gnuplot 4.0.Image via Wikipedia
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

My first LIS2600 web page link, plus other details

It took me a while to figure out how to navigate among Pitt's servers, Filezilla, and Kompozer, but I finally got my web page with Thoreau's fragment up and running. However, its images only seem to appear when accessed through Internet Explorer, and not through Firefox. I have no idea why this would be the case. Text without images can be so dull.

http://www.pitt.edu/~ell34/

which links to

http://www.pitt.edu/~ell34/thoreau_fragment_1.html


I spent a good while fiddling around with Kompozer and Filezilla to try to get the images to show up via Firefox, with no luck. It makes me wonder whether I've been missing out on other sites' online images by using Firefox during these last few months. O technology!

In other news, someone reading this blog (I know... someone reads this blog??!!) suggested that my post on the Beatles, Jay-Z, and Danger Mouse should have provided links to the artists' songs. So, this video's for you, P.S.:


video

And to hear the entire album, you can use the following five YouTube links.

The Grey Album, Part 1:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp9u51yvTMQ

The Grey Album, Part 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eamrTepOjTE

The Grey Album, Part 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gij3Awdipfw


The Grey Album, Part 4:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYc2d5NoIX4


The Grey Album, Part 5:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyZiArOM3bQ

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A few links

I only have a few minutes to blog right now; I'm about to turn off my computer for the evening (that always feels somewhat liberating after a day like I've had -- even if much of today's surfing was for enjoyment).

In my surfing, I came across a couple of articles whose content relates pretty well to some of the topics we've been talking about in this program. (As soon as I typed the word "surfing," Zemata suggested some photos of people on surfboards... I'll go ahead and include one, just to prove the point that computers don't always understand us so well.)
Surfing in Hawaii. A photograph of Kris Burmei...Image via Wikipedia
First link is to an L.A. Times story about how we're all "infovores":
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-biederman19-2008jul19,0,3327488.story?track=ntothtml

The next link is to a New Yorker article about the difficulty of conversing with computers:
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/06/23/080623fa_fact_seabrook

And here's a Wired article about how human memory is being supplanted:
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/15-10/st_thompson

All right, that's enough info inflow for tonight... I gotta dance!
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Testing Zemanta, part 2: topic = copyright

Promotional artwork by Justin Hampton. This wa...Image via WikipediaHaving gotten a quick helpful response (without even asking for one!) from a Zemanta representative, and having spent some time today hearing about and thinking about copyright issues, but having little energy to write a new post, I've decided to further test Zemanta by copying the text from one of my previous posts about copyright law, and thoroughly "Zemifying" it (as they say). Let's see what happens!

Reading recently about both open source computing and copyright laws got me thinking about the music industry, and companies' purported rights to songs and samples, and how we might measure what's lost or gained for whom when copyright laws put limits on creativity, speech, and commerce. It seems evident to me that the only ones who benefit from tight copyright laws (and even that "benefit" is dubious) are music companies: not the artists, not music purchasers, and certainly not the general public.

I'll take the example of The Grey Album, Danger Mouse's unauthorized mash-up of Beatles songs and Jay-Z lyrics. I'm using this example because I'm an enormous fan of the Beatles' original studio recordings, and I generally don't even have much use for covers of the songs. (I'll make exceptions for, say, The Wailing Souls' amped-up reggae interpretation of "Tomorrow Never Knows" -- they infuse it really well with their own energy; check it out! -- but listening, say, to William Shatner's berserk rendition of "Lucy in the Sky" makes my ears cry.) Anyway, my point is, I have an immense respect for the beauty and purity of the original album versions of the Beatles' songs, so I can even catch a glimmer of EMI's ostensible reasoning when they absolutely prohibit any other artist from licensing a Beatles sample. Of course, their motives are unlikely to be so aesthetic; more likely they want to keep public focus on the studio stars themselves, rather than some underground mixmasters who don't "deserve" to earn money from the guitar strummings of others, funneling it from the original artists. Seems fair enough, on the face of it.

But the example of The Grey Album shows just how inapplicable such justifications for overweening copyright laws are. First of all, in this particular case, Danger Mouse made his album freely available online, so he can't be accused of profiteering. Secondly, I submit that there's scarcely a Beatles fan alive who would merely download heavily remixed versions of their songs instead of buying The White Album, but who would have bought The White Album if only those Danger Mouse MP3s weren't available. That just makes no sense, and it shows how flimsy the financial argument is in this case. As a matter of fact, a freely available version of The Grey Album could potentially serve as excellent free advertising of Beatles songs to the Jay-Z fans who might not already own a Beatles album. Why does EMI want to limit the scope of its own product?

Perhaps they would indeed say it's about musical integrity; they wouldn't want great classic songs to be associated with sub-par or amateurish overlays. That possibility bugs me too, as I hinted above, but I trust that the classics will stand on their own, no matter who does what to certain versions of them. And why should we be prohibited from hearing the vast array of new interpretations that are possible? Listening to parts of The Grey Album for the first time this evening on YouTube I was struck by the way Danger Mouse drew out the most sinuous mini-riffs of "Long, Long, Long" and looped them into their own groovily flowing backdrop; I felt delighted to hear new possibilities within such familiar samples. Then I felt anger: why doesn't EMI want me to hear that? How could it possibly affect them one way or another if I want to listen to the fruits of various artists' combined imaginations?

Of course there's a parallel to open source computing, and the ways free access to code can open up endless possibilities in computing. I love the whole concept of boundless information sharing and its implicit possibilities; I suppose that's one of the reasons I'm becoming a librarian!
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Testing Zemanta: topic = civil liberties

All right, so I'm now generating a new blog post just in order to test this Zemanta plugin. Since it's late and I want to get some sleep, let me just cut and paste some text I wrote during my civil liberties and privacy research.

Many people may assume that the Constitution ensures us a right to privacy, but in fact, the word “privacy” never appears in our Constitution, and laws about privacy differ from state to state. The concept of privacy is ambiguous, abstract, and difficult to define. Privacy can mean being left alone and not subjected to unwanted intrusions, or it can refer to shielding one’s self and one’s interests from access by other people, corporations, or government. While the Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful search and seizure, this amendment is usually not taken to apply to library records or online data. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the USA Patriot Act removed many safeguards against individual privacy, and libraries are finding it more difficult to protect patrons’ privacy and rights. The ALA maintains that libraries are critical for promoting an unrestrained flow of information for all, and that privacy is essential in the “exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association; and, in a library, the subject of users’ interests should not be examined or scrutinized by others” (ALA, 2003).

Radical militant librarianImage by library_mistress via Flickr

Okay, it looks like this has the potential to be really cool -- instant links and tags and images -- but the only problem is that my "Preview" screen no longer works. Eh??? I'm hoping it will work out all right when I post the blog; I guess there's only one way to find out.

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Finally on campus; finally time to post!

At the end of a 24-hour journey from Sydney I found myself in Pittsburgh late Saturday night, and since then I've been busy just about every minute with on-campus activities, classes, interactions with other Cohort 8 students, and preparations for the Civil Liberties and Privacy presentation that my small group delivered this morning. It's been exhausting, but gratifying; it's great to meet my classmates in person, and I continue to learn a lot. I'm getting the sense that my initial MLIS education is really coming together during this intensive on-campus session.

Other people's presentations have provided interesting insights into issues that concern librarians, and researching my own topic over the last couple of weeks has been really eye-opening. I also found Dr. Currier's lecture on intellectual property and copyright laws very interesting... for example, who knew you could copyright a gesture? In fact, already this week I've been filling my notebook with "who knew" questions: "Who knew you could use Microsoft Word to generate a summary of your document?" "Who knew there were so many orphaned works in copyright limbo?" "Who knew there was a Zemanta plug-in to automatically locate images and articles that relate to your blog post?"

Speaking of which, I should download and use that service right this second; my blog is too text-heavy.



Okay, I just downloaded Zemanta, but now I need to restart Firefox to make it work. Meanwhile, let me just post this blog entry... perhaps it's the last such overtexty document I'll deign to post!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Craving a room full of books

I miss libraries... with so much else going on this summer, it's been too long since I've been in one! The internet helps me feel "connected" in some sense, but the flashy-clicky nature of computer work is nothing like the meditative focus that comes from browsing, sitting, and reading books... ah, libraries. I'll be sure to visit Pitt's library system once I arrive back in Pennsylvania!

Right now I'm back in Sydney after visiting the coast, the Snowy Mountains, and the Blue Mountains, all gorgeous places. In a couple of days I'll be flying from Sydney to LA to Pittsburgh, all in a row... meanwhile I've got to try to help prepare a Hot Topics presentation and finish reading the two books assigned for LIS2000. So far it's going just barely smoothly enough for me not to seriously panic. This morning (Aussie time... evening for the others) I chatted online with my Hot Topics partners; it was reassuring to exchange words in real time. We got some things ironed out, but I've got several tasks ahead of me in the immediate future, and my next challenge will be to find nearby internet service that doesn't run me into the poorhouse. Right now I'm using the hotel's hourly broadband rate -- and am almost out of time as it is -- so this blog post will be accordingly truncated!

As the Beatles once sang, I've got nothing to say, but it's OK.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Here's my Koha assignment at last!

First, the hyperlink:

Elizabeth Livingston - Aboriginal Culture

Now, here's a list of the books therein. (Titles with colons are incomplete, displaying only the text before the colon. I couldn't find an easy way to resolve this within Koha.) They're in no particular order -- is there a way to order them?

Mysteries of the dream-time: Cowan, James

Arguments about aborigines : Hiatt, L. R.

Aboriginal settlements; Long, J. P. M.

Myths and legends of the Australian aborigines /Smith, W. Ramsay

Australian aborigines /Nile, Richard.

The Australian aborigines : Maddock, Kenneth

The aborigines /Wiltshire, J. G.

Australian Aborigines and cultural tourism :Finlayson, Julie.

Kriol of North Australia : Sandefur, John R.

The life and adventures of William Buckley : Morgan, John

Dreamtime heritage : Roberts, Ainslie.

Oracle of the dreamtime : Hakanson, Donni.

Coming into being among the Australian aborigines : Montagu, Ashley,

The Mardu aborigines : Tonkinson, Robert.

Aboriginal myths : Reed, A. W.

The Australian Aborigines, how to understand them, Elkin, A. P.

What became of the Australian Aborigines? Gamack, Ronald S.

Aboriginal art of Australia : Finley, Carol.

A documentary history of the Illawarra & South Coast Aborigines, 1770-1850 :

Disposal of the dead among Australian aborigines : Haglund, Laila

Aborigines and colonists : Reece, Bob

The Aboriginal-white encounter : Bain, Margaret S.

Wise women of the dreamtime : Lambert, Johanna

An annotated bibliography of the Tasmanian Aborigines, 1970-1987 / Sagona, Claudia

Encountering aborigines; Burridge, Kenelm.

Slave to the creeping green bar

G'day from Cooma in the Snowy Mountains. I checked into an internet-ready motel fairly early today, solely in order to keep working on these Koha citations, and I've been at it ever since, because this connection is sooooo sssslllloooowwww. Every single new screen to come up forces me to wait through 30-45 seconds of glacially creeping green status-bar "progress" before displaying the coveted "Done" in the lower left corner -- and this assignment demands a lot of clicking. I've got Sky News on TV for background diversion, and they've cycled through the same headlines so often they'll surely enter my dreams tonight (fishermen rescued off Australia's east coast, human bones washed up on Phillips Island, gunman loose in Sydney, father-daughter pot bust, blizzards in New Zealand; repeat). But at least the Goddess of Koha has heeded my pleas and is no longer pretending not to recognize ISBN numbers; they're all going through now. I don't know what was up with the earlier impertinence!

I'm still a bit baffled by Koha, however. What's a "z39.50"? Why can't we see author and title info on some of the pages? Why must we enter random numbers before proceeding? Hrmph. The system doesn't always run smoothly, either, occasionally yielding little snafus that actually wouldn't bother me much at all if I weren't on a connection whose speed evokes 1993. I dream of a future in which bona fide high-speed internet cloaks the planet... until then, my apologies for this text-only post, but a picture or video would take all night to upload!

Aw, OK, as a pittance, here's a link to a library cartoon.

from The New Yorker, August 12, 1950

Friday, July 4, 2008

Marsupials and KohAAAAAHH!


What a wonderful vacation this is. I'm posting a photo from yesterday -- Paul and I did indeed see Pebbly Beach's "surfing roos"; the whole beach was full of them! We counted over 30 kangaroos, but we were practically the only people there. Australia seems to be full of such splendidly remote locales. Then today we got friendly with some wombats and koalas at a wildlife sanctuary, but it didn't quite compare to the thrill of seeing so many marsupials in the wild.

Tonight we chose our motel specifically for its WiFi, and I've been attempting to work on the Koha assignment. Auurrrgh. I could accept that the assignment involved a lot of clicking through random data screens, and I could handle having to work with ISBNs rather than authors and titles, but what's truly infuriating me now is how few ISBNs seem to link to Library of Congress records. What the...? I thought the LoC housed every book ever published! Is it just because the books aren't in Pitt's library system? There's no indication. It occurred to me that my ISBNs might refer to paperbacks rather than original hardcovers, but even when I located the hardback data, overwhelmingly many of the ISBNs simply resulted in a "file not found" screen. So I went to catalog.loc.gov, but even when I've pulled ISBNs from the LoC's own online catalog, this has been happening again and again. 10-digit, 13-digit, hyphens, no hyphens, no difference. What explains it? Did I choose too obscure a book topic? How come Koha gotta treat me so mean? What's the point of Koha, anyway? I'm losing sight of the big picture amidst all of this annoyance.

So my Koha virtual shelf still only contains, like, two items, but at least my virtual photo album is filling up with gorgeous shots of the land down under! I'll aim to find another WiFi-offering motel tomorrow night and continue this mad odyssey into Koha organization, hopefully with a bit more success.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ulladulla, Panopto, and "Surfing Roos"

I'm posting from a motel room in Ulladulla, a coastal town around 200 kilometers south of Sydney. Australia is a magnificent continent, full of gorgeous open spaces, mellow friendly people, and utterly unexpected flora and fauna. In a national park yesterday I stood by a waterfall as a flock of huge bright yellow cockatoos squawked and flew between treetops over my head. Today I looked down on a rainforest canopy from atop a 45-meter-high steel tower on an oceanside mountain. And tomorrow we'll visit Pebbly Beach and its famed "surfing roos": kangaroos who like to swim in the ocean. How cool that roos like to swim! I just hope they won't be deterred by the cold; it's mid-winter down here -- but quite mild, as winters go.

In MLIS news, I've been seizing internet connectivity wherever I can find it so as to keep up with course viewings, assignments, and communications. This morning in Wollongong I spent 45 minutes in an internet cafe nearly tearing my hair out... The network was glacially slow, and when I asked the proprietor what the problem was, he shrugged and said, "Eh, the internet's not working right today." His cavalierness accentuated my own technological dependence in stark relief. It's somewhat like an addiction ... most of the time it feels manageable (or at least, that is to say, I can feed my monkey), but as others ranging from Nicholson Baker to the cafe proprietor have pointed out, technology isn't always reliable!

When looking for a motel this evening we were certain to select one that advertised Broadband, and thus after watching a lovely sunset over the Pacific, I settled in to catch up on Panopto viewings and add to my Hot Topics wiki page. I hope I'll be able to participate fully in the group presentation preparations while on the road. I've been enjoying researching the topic when I've had the chance.

I'll try to post again soon!

Monday, June 30, 2008

In search of WiFi Down Under


Greetings from Sydney! So far I'm doing pretty well in balancing my MLIS coursework with tourism; in the last 24 hours I've managed to finish writing a paper, film a Jing demonstration, see the Sydney Opera House and harbor, go to an art museum full of great art and botanical gardens full of enormous bats, and listen to a downloaded podcast. Not bad! Given my circumstances, I'm tempted to make this more of a travelogue than a technologue, but given the difficulty in finding any free WiFi in this city (currently paying $8/hour, and my hour is almost up), I'll have to curtail this whole blog entry for now.

Soon we'll be driving southward; perhaps I'll check in again from Woolongong!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jing demonstration

Thanks to the horrendously expensive broadband at the Hotel Ibis in downtown Sydney, I'm able to upload this demonstration of installing a Del.icio.us extension for Firefox. Sure, it's already Monday in Australia, but back home I believe there are still a few minutes before the assignment deadline!


...I tried to embed the video, but after I waited 30 minutes for the upload, it gave me an error message... so here's a link.


http://screencast.com/t/dSHMnVbPR

Friday, June 27, 2008

Organizing metadata at Gate 22A

My poor neglected blog. I've been traveling recently -- and wondering why I ever thought I could feasibly combine travel and grad school classes -- and at the moment I'm sitting on a hard floor near the only functioning electrical outlet at Gate 22A of the LAX international terminal. I've spent the last hour completing two (2) of my required 25 deposits and citations for ePrints, and (increasingly frantically) wondering if I'm missing a crucial step that would make this assignment quicker and easier.

Up until now I've found this course challenging, but doable; now a host of factors are combining to make me panic!! (OK, breathe, Elizabeth, breeeaaaathhhhe....) I feel awash in a citational sea, uncertain whether I'm doing anything correctly, confused by the onscreen options, and overwhelmed even by the number of discussion board posts that I've yet to read. But maybe that should be my next course of action, if only for the solidarity of seeing that others in the cohort have been through similar uncertainties.

OK, I'm fine, and I know I'll be even better once I've made it through this upcoming 14-hour flight to Australia. Not really relishing the prospect of sitting in my hotel room racing against the clock to tag social networking sites when I could be out petting koalas 'n' stuff, but hey, I chose to jam-pack my summer this way; I can't complain! Sorry for the rambling; I'll post again from Sydney!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dissociative reading hour

I just returned from a four-day music festival in the woods, an interesting blend of rugged wilderness living and ultra-high-tech music, lights, and art. The only reading materials that I brought were the books for my MLIS classes, in an attempt to keep myself on track, but the result was that I found myself sitting in the forest by the riverside, no computer in sight, reading "Google Apps Hacks." While this was an absolutely stunning place to read, it was also, if I may say so, an utterly terrible place to try to read a computer how-to book. What was I thinking?? I was left only with the vague sense that I might someday be able to make some cool spreadsheets and presentations, which mingled with the more concrete sense that I'd just like to go swimming.

In any case, my folly resulted in an interesting conversation when a Swarthmore professor from a neighboring tent noted my reading material and came by to talk with me about computer technology, grad school, software, social constructs of "geekiness," and other such topics. He recommended the book "Beautiful Code," which I'll have to look into when I have a free moment.

Free moment? Ha. Ha. Tomorrow morning I'm flying to Los Angeles, and a couple of days later to Australia -- a trip planned long before I'd seen my summer semester schedule -- but I'll do my best to keep on top of the coursework. My poor blog... I keep meaning to give it more thorough treatment! Ah, well. I'll be listening to some LIS2600 podcasts en route to L.A....

Friday, June 20, 2008

Technological evolution?

I’m learning a lot in this course. Being forced to figure out computer programs and reference systems on my own helps to hard-wire the processes in my brain; surely some of these research skills will be valuable to my future academic and library career.

I just thought I’d start by saying that, since the mandate for this blog is to write about my “technological evolution.” I recently got to thinking about the juxtaposition of these two concepts, technology and evolution. What could it mean, 1), that technology is said to “evolve,” or 2), even if this is clear, that a student is to undergo a “technological evolution” as part of her instruction? In ancient Greek, “techne” meant something like an “art” or “craft,” while “logos” was the word, and came to mean a systematic study. However, the word “technology” wasn’t coined until the late 19th century. Does that mean that what we call “technology” itself didn’t exist until then, or was technological evolution occurring all along? If the latter is the case, what sorts of processes could be occurring right now that we don’t yet have words for?

Meanwhile, the phrase “evolution” glosses over what may actually be happening: there’s no clear analogy between “evolution” proper and anything that happens in technology, since the former points to a natural process whose goal is simply survival and reproduction, while the latter has no such analogy. Or does it? Can machines be seen to exist for their own ends? I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post the way it feels that machines are reshaping our brains. Might we see this as simply an extension of biological evolution? Are humans and machines involved in a sort of co-evolution, or is this something else entirely?

I’ll continue to think about such questions as I “evolve” over the course of this class.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The lifespans of irreplaceable words

Reading Nicholson Baker's Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper for my other MLIS class this semester has been interesting and somewhat heartbreaking; Baker vividly conveys the irreversible loss of historical newspapers and periodicals and the unreliability of microfilm as a backup storage medium. His descriptions of microfilm as an oversold "solution" that risks illegibility, shrinkage, buckling, bubbling, and sticking -- as well as his accurate portrayal of the dizzying text-glide that reading microfilm entails -- make it especially tragic that so many original materials have been destroyed after microfilming. Yet our textbook for this course, Discovering Computers 2009, described microfilm as "inexpensive and [having] the longest life of any storage media," with a "potential life expectancy" of 500 years. (p. 379) How could anyone know that, when the technology hasn't been around nearly that long?

Of course, if you look at the asterisk in the book's Media Life Expectancies table, you see the qualifier "*according to manufacturers of the media". Of course they would make inflated assertions, but Baker's findings prove otherwise. I'm all in support of high-quality digitization of information, but not at the expense of original copies! Have librarians been sold a bill of goods? It seems there should always be space enough somewhere to store original copies, even if not always on handily accessible library shelves. I'm now wondering what other technologies highlighted in our computer textbook could be seducing archivists away from sounder storage methods, or otherwise affecting the longevity or quality of stored information.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Greetings from a low-tech lair

I'm only able to write for a moment tonight. I'm staying at my parents' house, where internet access is dial-up only. So retro! On the radio this evening I heard Obama vow to make broadband accessible to all, an initiative that may help to bridge the digital divide, but still might not do much to propel technology-resistant members of my parents' generation any further into the information age. Of course, there's the question of why they need to go any further, when they're already able to do email and they profess to have no interest in YouTube or online radio. I don't presume to assert what anyone else needs; I just know my daily existence would suffer without DSL! Does that make me the dependent one?

While here in D.C. I've visited the Library of Congress (an aspirant librarian's Mecca!) and the Newseum (image inundation & sound-byte surfeit). I loved the LoC's exhibits; they always feature such thought-provoking documents and artifacts. And my favorite part of the Newseum was the collection of historic newspapers, the raw material of eventual "history." I wish I had more time tonight to reflect on these visits... maybe in a future post. For now, it's time to climb into my childhood bed and dream sweet dreams of all-digital fiber optic blazing-fast internet service!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Open source *this*!

Reading recently about both open source computing and copyright laws got me thinking about the music industry, and companies' purported rights to songs and samples, and how we might measure what's lost or gained for whom when copyright laws put limits on creativity, speech, and commerce. It seems evident to me that the only ones who benefit from tight copyright laws (and even that "benefit" is dubious) are music companies: not the artists, not music purchasers, and certainly not the general public.

I'll take the example of The Grey Album, Danger Mouse's unauthorized mash-up of Beatles songs and Jay-Z lyrics. I'm using this example because I'm an enormous fan of the Beatles' original studio recordings, and I generally don't even have much use for covers of the songs. (I'll make exceptions for, say, The Wailing Souls' amped-up reggae interpretation of "Tomorrow Never Knows" -- they infuse it really well with their own energy; check it out! -- but listening, say, to William Shatner's berserk rendition of "Lucy in the Sky" makes my ears cry.) Anyway, my point is, I have an immense respect for the beauty and purity of the original album versions of the Beatles' songs, so I can even catch a glimmer of EMI's ostensible reasoning when they absolutely prohibit any other artist from licensing a Beatles sample. Of course, their motives are unlikely to be so aesthetic; more likely they want to keep public focus on the studio stars themselves, rather than some underground mixmasters who don't "deserve" to earn money from the guitar strummings of others, funneling it from the original artists. Seems fair enough, on the face of it.

But the example of The Grey Album shows just how inapplicable such justifications for overweening copyright laws are. First of all, in this particular case, Danger Mouse made his album freely available online, so he can't be accused of profiteering. Secondly, I submit that there's scarcely a Beatles fan alive who would merely download heavily remixed versions of their songs instead of buying The White Album, but who would have bought The White Album if only those Danger Mouse MP3s weren't available. That just makes no sense, and it shows how flimsy the financial argument is in this case. As a matter of fact, a freely available version of The Grey Album could potentially serve as excellent free advertising of Beatles songs to the Jay-Z fans who might not already own a Beatles album. Why does EMI want to limit the scope of its own product?

Perhaps they would indeed say it's about musical integrity; they wouldn't want great classic songs to be associated with sub-par or amateurish overlays. That possibility bugs me too, as I hinted above, but I trust that the classics will stand on their own, no matter who does what to certain versions of them. And why should we be prohibited from hearing the vast array of new interpretations that are possible? Listening to parts of The Grey Album for the first time this evening on YouTube I was struck by the way Danger Mouse drew out the most sinuous mini-riffs of "Long, Long, Long" and looped them into their own groovily flowing backdrop; I felt delighted to hear new possibilities within such familiar samples. Then I felt anger: why doesn't EMI want me to hear that? How could it possibly affect them one way or another if I want to listen to the fruits of various artists' combined imaginations?

Of course there's a parallel to open source computing, and the ways free access to code can open up endless possibilities in computing. I love the whole concept of boundless information sharing and its implicit possibilities; I suppose that's one of the reasons I'm becoming a librarian!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I have become cyborg.

It's a strange feeling to have spent so much time indoors tapping into cyberspace on so many consecutive sunny summer days. Between my two distance-learning MLIS classes and my online editing job, it feels like I'm constantly typing, clicking, scanning, and linking. Even on the last couple of days when I've sat outside to read, my reading material has been Discovering Computers, which makes me feel like I'm online.

I do believe that all this connectivity is affecting the way I think, as well. The more technology evolves, the more it infiltrates our own malleable brains. It's part enhancement, part infestation, part mystery. I read a really interesting article about this phenomenon today:

What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

I can feel the phenomena discussed in the article: I sometimes rely on silicon memory as much as my own; often my concentration doesn't feel as intense as it once might have been; multitasking is a way of life. In casual conversation, when near my laptop, I'm wont to say things like, "That reminds me of... wait, who was the 'reciprocal altruism' guy? ... [Quickly googling "reciprocal altruism" author] ... right, Robert Trivers!" And although I'm glad for the memory boost, I'm unlikely to read a whole article that turns up. But I truly appreciate that I have the option to read not just one but 137,000 pages that pop up instantly!

I'll end this post by embedding my favorite music video, which has everything to do with the way information and technology are saturating our lives today.


video
(Royksopp: Remind Me)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Think like a machine

I finally succeeded in importing my reference links from Connotea, Zotero, and Del.icio.us into RefWorks, thanks to some helpful tips from classmates and blind exploration. Each of the programs was easy enough to use on its own, but synthesizing different programs created all sorts of little challenges. And I'm still baffled over why the programmers couldn't make certain tasks a bit easier: just for example, why doesn't Del.icio.us allow me to create folders? Isn't that a pretty basic element of data organization? (Or did I fail to find the way to do so?)

I've been reminded today of a mantra that my tech-savvy husband has oft repeated when working with computers: "Think like a machine." For instance, when for some odd mechanical reason my Del.icio.us RSS feed would only import my 30 most recent items, I found that the best course of action was to find a way to group the remaining items in a separate locale and do a new RSS feed, accommodating its inexplicable quirk. Since, as I pointed out above, Del.icio.us didn't let me organize references into folders, I had to find a way to group the remaining items: I tagged each remaining item with a single word ("text"), then bundled every reference with the "text" tag into a new bundle called "Text," and did an RSS feed for the Text bundle. Naturally, if I were working with a human being, a few friendly words could have clarified my intentions in far less time than the bundle project, but I admit that I actually enjoy solving machine-puzzles in creative ways like that. What a feeling of accomplishment to have found a path through the cryptic channels of techno-obscurity!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Information overload!

I've done virtually nothing all day but tag items for our bookmarking/metadata assignment. It's been interesting to skim so many different articles about libraries and digital culture, but tagging them feels a bit arbitrary; it's making me aware that even the same librarian might not tag items uniformly. And even small differences in tagging might limit a search. For example, a savvy researcher would do well to look up both the tags "digital libraries" and "digital library," or perhaps use the search term " 'digital libraries' OR 'digital library'." Of course, I realize that smart search engines (like Google) can adjust for these small discrepancies, but could a search engine also retrieve the tag "classification of information" if you only look up "data categorization"?

During this assignment I've been having unfortunate flashbacks to a week-long job I took in college (a single week was more than enough) as a data enterer. Nothing could be more boring than simple data entry -- insert disk; enter predesignated keypad code; eject disk -- it was like factory work. At least in this case I've been dealing with engaging content, searching according to my own interests, and making informed decisions about labeling and organization. Still, I admit that this assignment has given me stabs of anxiety: are certain types of library work uncomfortably close to data entry?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Open Access and Data Mining

I only recently watched all of the online videos that have been assigned for this course, and I found them very interesting. For example, the video titled Second-Generation Open Access: Building an Open Content really opened my eyes to the necessity of widespread information sharing for making progress in the health field. John Wilbanks did a great job of conveying the importance of a Science Commons in order to manage the flood of scientific information and make it accessible, as well as all the factors that stand in the way of this ideal. It’s a little ironic that economic interests are one of the factors hindering open access, while in the meantime countless redundant studies (that open access could have prevented) create so much financial waste, themselves.

I’m also interested in what Wilbanks said about data mining, such as the current use of (an admittedly flawed) semantic web language to allow fact-extraction through analysis of nouns and verbs within texts. I’m not surprised that the system is, in his words, “inaccurate and lousy,” since it’s always been so very difficult to get machines to understand human language. My husband is a professor of the philosophy of science and the philosophy of language, so he has a great deal to say about the implications of the shortcomings of artificial intelligence and the elusiveness of meaning. Perhaps I’ll link to one of his published articles in my RefWorks account.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Oh no, does PC stand for "poor choice"?

The past week’s course readings seem designed to instill in me an acute feeling of Macintosh envy – something to which I’ve been prone for years, in fact, without ever making the leap to change my PC ways. I’ve heard from many people (and the readings confirm) that Macs are much better for graphic design (in which I had an interest some years ago; I worked a post-college summer internship as a graphic designer) and for electronic music composition, sound design, and sequencing, in which I’m currently developing an interest. Our recent readings showed me some of the reasons Mac software is so diverse and interoperable: for example, with various programmers able to do so many different things with assorted programs and put them on an integrated platform for the user’s simplicity, it’s no surprise that a range of creative applications are possible.

The readings on LINUX I’m finding it harder to get into, because I’ve not yet used this system. I’ve glanced at the technical terminology and such, but I still don’t have a firm idea of how it works; I’ll have to do more investigating.

Finally, I’ve also been reading more in DC2009, and learning many technical details to flesh out my computer literacy. Also interesting are some of the sidebars, especially ones that predict future technology, such as body-heat powered notebook computers: very Matrix!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

When archiving = eternal mortification

I’ve been listening to the LIS2600 podcasts, reading further in our textbooks, and plunging into del.ici.ous and Connotea. These combined efforts are gratifying, even if only for making me feel a bit more techno-literate, but I’m also realizing how very much I’ve yet to learn. I’ve been taking copious notes, which I don’t suppose are necessary to copy here, but as I said in an earlier post, it’s very helpful to see the components of computers, networks, and other information technology all laid out.

One of the podcasts mentioned that many web sites are short-lived and fleeting, and mentioned how archival technology is helpful for preserving such transient documents. Of course, many of these sites (as Prof. Tomer pointed out) are gibberish, automatically generated by other programs, while many others are well worth preserving. This distinction made me wonder about a possible third category, sites that the original author no longer wishes to promulgate: e.g. cruel junior-high gossip, drunken rants, immature ramblings, or other content that one wouldn’t want tied to his or her name for eternity. How, if at all, can an individual retract online missteps? Might it ever be the responsibility of an archivist NOT to preserve content?

My instinct is to say no, that all information (yes, even dangerous info like weapon-making) has a place somewhere, but I’m also acutely aware of privacy concerns, and aware that it’s difficult to erase anything that’s already been said online, even if it’s blatant slander or hateful garbage. Who would make decisions about which archives could be erased, anyway? These are interesting issues, to be sure.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thoughts on other readings

Going over the last week's readings, I've been wondering about the future of libraries and information science as content continues to become more and more accessible. Now that it's ever easier for both aspiring and established writers to circumvent traditional publishing channels and for readers to turn up a surplus of documents relating to their interests, this diversity and oversupply could change the whole picture of intellectual life in our times.

I've been wondering in what ways, if any, the trend toward electronic media may result in a decrease in literacy. Perhaps the more germane question is whether it's developing a new kind of literacy -- and how librarians can contribute?

I'm also concerned by the decline of university and independent presses. To put book publishing in the hands only (or overwhelmingly) of mainstream publishers limits the promulgation of worthy and interesting non-mainstream books. Of course, increasingly authors are taking the option to self-publish or release materials online, but as of yet, I don’t perceive many established standards of quality online (equivalent to the vetting function that academic presses and/or niche publishers serve for books). Perhaps such standards are now emerging?

The above point helps me see the value in the idea of librarians as the arbiters of quality, discussed in one of our online readings. As there's a shift away from packaged content, librarians can take a stronger role in holding non-prepackaged texts to various standards and giving them more or less prominence accordingly.

On a separate (random) note, I can identify with what one of the texts said about the new model of micropayment for microcontent, having worked for years (for micro-pay!) as a web-based editor for individual clients' writing. Even when I worked for a magazine, its niche-nature (emergent educational technology) gave me the sense that our audience was fairly "micro" and specialized. It's encouraging that unlimited opportunities for niche publishing exist online now. I do hope, however, that the trend toward open access doesn't too drastically reduce funding for libraries.

Meanwhile, it's been interesting to poke through the document about public perception of libraries and gather factoids. I don't know quite what to do with many of the statistics, but it's intriguing so far to see breakdowns, figures, and sample quotations regarding the patrons'-eye view of libraries.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Covering the basics

I've been neglecting my blog for days; I imagine there must be a buzzword or phrase to describe the guilty feeling of technological negligence that I've begun to experience as a result. I've been keeping up with the readings in Discovering Computers 2009, and although the chapters are well organized and informative, so far I'm finding them fairly redundant with respect to what I've already picked up over the last twenty years of working and playing with computers. I've always believed that self-guided exploration is the best way to gain technological proficiency, but I've had an impossible time convincing my parents of that... When I encourage them to play around with their computer, they demur, "But I'm afraid I'll break something!"

So yes, a lack of fear is advisable in embarking on a technological education -- and books like DC2009 can certainly help, as well, to fill in the gaps. For example, I hadn't used a spreadsheet since my first days out of college in an office job, so the section on spreadsheets was helpful in reminding me how I could use formulas and functions to calculate data. I might even be inspired to start my own budgeting spreadsheet, and I can also use this information to help my husband average his students' grades more efficiently.

I spent a summer working as a graphic designer, so the section on CAD and image editing software made me nostalgic. Again, the textbook served as a nice reminder of all of the software programs that are out there, but the best way to learn any given program is still to dive right in and experiment. Speaking of which, I could post lots of humorous and bizarre PhotoShop images that resulted from playful experimentation...

Anyway, I'm finding that the book is helping me reassure myself that I know the basics about computers. Meanwhile, it can be helpful to see computer parts and processes all laid out. Thus, this earlier blog post from my original blog (my first blog entry, on May 15) already strikes me as dated. But that's encouraging, no?

May 15, 2008 (from the now-defunct "Information Celebration Station")

I am a single-celled organism in the salty Pre-Cambrian sea

I'm setting up this blog to document my technological evolution over the course of LIS 2600, Introduction to Information Technologies, at the University of Pittsburgh. Having grown up in the eighties and nineties, I've kept pretty well abreast of the ever-evolving capabilities of computers and network systems, but thus far it's all been self-taught, and thus my technological knowledge is fairly superficial. I'll eagerly play around with web technology, peer-to-peer applications, PhotoShop, PC games, the Office suite, or whatever other programs I find, but I've never taken an actual computer class. (Even though a computer class was required at my high school, due to a scheduling conflict I fell through the cracks... Now, finally, my time has come.)

Thus, despite the fact that I already spend many hours daily staring at a computer screen (I've worked online for the last five years), I'm ready to begin this process of evolution. Onward! Excelsior! Huzzah!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

An interim blog, perhaps

I created a blog a few days ago, but now I find it locked and inaccessible until the webmasters complete a review of it in order to determine that it's not a "spam blog." Am I entitled to feel vaguely insulted? Meh.

Rather than attempt to recreate my initial musings on technology and MLIS 2600, I'll either re-post them here when I'm allowed to access my own blog again (grumble), or simply call this lesser entry my first blog post and lay my former blog, the optimistically titled "Information Celebration Station," to rest.

In either case, I do look forward to this journey!