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!