In this issue:
The New York Times • March 17, 2010
Vulture culture? This thoughtful commentary on the degradation of culture through gossip-based "news," celebrity "authority figures" and mash-up "literature" provides much food for thought. Here are a couple of tidbits to whet your appetite: Scholar Susan Jacoby says, "Reading in the traditional open-ended sense is not what most of us, whatever our age and level of computer literacy, do on the Internet. What we are engaged in—like birds of prey looking for their next meal—is a process of swooping around with an eye out for certain kinds of information." And computer scientist Jaron Lanier observes that, "Online culture is dominated by trivial mash-ups of the culture that existed before the onset of mash-ups, and by fandom responding to the dwindling outposts of centralized mass media. It is a culture of reaction without action." Click through for the main course.
Pulitzer-winning literary critic Michiko Kakutani, in this wide-ranging essay, finds the same root cause behind such disparate phenomena as the reality TV show "Jon & Kate Plus 8," Twitter, the current polarization within American politics and the continuing decline of the global attention span: namely, a slow rewiring of our brains brought on by complete daily immersion in digital media. To bolster her arguments, Ms. Kakutani "dives deep" to reference the main theses of no less than 20 books with such evocative titles as Reality Hunger, You Are Not a Gadget, The Cult of the Amateur, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Datasmog>, Cyberselfish, Digital Barbarism, Going to Extremes, and True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. You may be left wanting to read a fat literary novel or complex philosophical treatise, quick, while you still have the mental capacity to understand it. ( Massie)
Forbes • March 22, 2010
The human touch. As school budgets are squeezed, librarian positions are disappearing, but author Mark Moran warns that students need professional mediation to make sense of search results. He warns of a new "divide" developing—one that sets students who've developed research skills with the help of a librarian apart from those who simply muddle through with Google. "This new divide is only going to widen and leave many students hopelessly lost in the past, while others fully embrace the future," says Moran.
If a new divide did develop, that might be one of the more persuasive arguments for attending to the threatened extinction of the school librarian. To the extent that those who determine priorities and funding for schools recognize Critical Thinking as an essential characteristic of a student's education, they might then more easily see the advantage, to their own school and its students, of properly supporting the staff and systems that are required to develop that characteristic. I'd like to say "let's hope it doesn't come to that," but being on familiar terms with a California grade school teacher I'd say we're already there. ( Washburn)
Inside Higher Ed • March 16, 2010
Being there. The Society of Architectural Historians, in collaboration with the University of California Press and JSTOR, has developed a new platform for its online journal that incorporates video, virtual modeling and digital mapping to help bring history alive. This is a good example of the potential enrichment that digital textbooks could bring to learning.
While the article focuses on the new (or not so new—see the comments) digital publishing platform, there's more of interest here: the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) also wants to change requirements for promotion/tenure and make participation/peer review in its Architecture Resource Archive (ARA), created in collaboration with ARTstor, pay off for faculty. The archive, dubbed (you guessed it) SAHARA, partners faculty and visual resources librarians to describe and share digital resources for teaching and publication. I'd imagine that the archive will also be the repository for the multimedia content to be found in the online journal discussed in the article. This recent presentation by Ann Whiteside (MIT) provides more context for the full scope of activities. ( Waibel)
IEEE Spectrum • March 2010
The changing look of books. E-reader technology is still in the fledgling stage, but a number of technologies promise to bring vivid color, low power use and flexibility to future displays. Read on for a description of what's cooking in the lab, and what's likely to be in our pockets in ten years' time.
The acceptance of e-readers depends on having access to content and availability of technology to display the content. This article provides a good review of current display technology and speculates on the technologies that may be available in 2020. The two dominate display technologies are LCDs and e-paper. E-paper, used in e-readers such as the Kindle and the Sony Reader, are very energy efficient and readable in bright sunlight but can't display color. LCDs, chosen by Apple for its new iPad, are very good at displaying color and motion but lack energy efficiency. There are a variety of new technologies being developed that may result in bright, color, energy-efficient displays which would accelerate the adoption of e-readers. ( O'Neill)
Digital Book World • March 18, 2010
Soft sell. Here's a new tool for Firefox users—a book widget that doesn't scream "Buy this now!" Glue integrates multiple bookseller, publisher, book review and social networking sites, making it easy to research a book with just a few clicks. The tool is free and can also be used to research other topics, from TV shows to restaurants to wine.
Adaptive Blue is creating some interesting widgets—not only the recommender widget for Firefox, but also a widget that can be embedded in blogs, providing links to multiple booksellers, more information about the book, and also an opportunity to link into the Glue's social network, which is about books, wine, everything really. Once you get into Glue you can do a search on "The Girl with a Pearl Earring" and see who "likes" this book, or you can do a search on Chardonnay and see who "likes" this wine. Glue members can become "Gurus" (and earn benefits akin to the awards that accrue to those checking in on Foursquare). Which makes me wonder—how much of the "liking" in services like Glue has to do with actually liking something, or wanting to get tickets to a movie? ( Proffitt)