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Above the Fold

A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

January 25, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 3
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


Your Brain Online  (External site)

Newsweek   •  January 8, 2010

The more things change . . . There have been a number of reports claiming that the Internet has shortened our attention span, depleted our capacity for in-depth analysis and short-circuited our brains. But in a recent survey of 109 philosophers, neurobiologists and other scholars, the neurologists largely discounted that assessment. Harvard's Steven Pinker went so far as to suggest that claims of mental deterioration "are propelled by . . . the pressure on pundits to announce that this or that 'changes everything.'" Click through to The Edge article for an interesting compilation of big-name commentary on "how the Internet is changing the way you think."

I'm not sure where I come out on this question. It's clear that the Internet has changed the way we work, but the way we think? I found compelling the comment that creativity is now about "removing or ignoring unnecessary information to reveal the shape of knowledge hidden within." Pattern recognition is the invaluable skill of the contemporary thinking person. By the way, if you're inclined towards speculative science fiction I'd recommend the novel Pattern Recognition by William Gibson—it's about the topic at hand. ( Michalko)


Disruptive Innovations Always Look Like Toys  (External site)

Endless Innovation   •  January 5, 2010

Dismissing disruption. Why are so many companies blindsided by disruptive technology? Harvard's Clayton Christensen points out that in many cases, the disruption is dismissed as a "toy" because it often underperforms the entrenched technology and serves a less profitable demographic.

What kinds of things are we in the library world dismissing as "toys?" A lot more than we ought, I'd wager. ( Michalko)


The Importance of Paying Attention  (External site)

Digital Tonto   •  January 10, 2010

Fact-checking 101. It's amazing how many of the "facts" people know simply aren't true. The author points out that in this age of severely limited attention spans, it's important to accurately separate the signal from the noise, and that's an important part of our job.

This article presents its observations in the context of the media industry but they are universal. Our native inclination to "know what we know," our failure to gather evidence, and our unwillingness to confront the implications of that evidence distorts much of our planning and operational choices. The new name for wishful thinking is " Denialism," which is the title of a new book by Michael Specter who recently worked himself into a righteous lather during a recent appearance on an NPR Science Friday show.
( Michalko)


Violent But Charming  (External site)

Humanities   •  January/February 2010

Reading for a rainy day. Author Ammon Shea extols the virtues of browsing through the Dictionary of Old English, making the point "how odd it is that we are such ardent admirers of museums full of partially reconstructed bone fragments, taken from animals that are millions of years removed from us, and yet we find it so difficult to warm to Old English. While it is true that this is a dead language, it has died so recently (at least compared with the dinosaurs whose fossils are perennially alluring) that the corpse is still warm."

A fun article that is honest about the audience for the output of this prodigious effort while making a case for non-scholars to encounter the work "because it's our language." Remember the author of this article also wrote the book Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. ( Michalko)


Web 2.0 Suicide Machine: Erase Your Virtual Life  (External site)

NPR Weekend Edition   •  January 9, 2010

Focus on your first life. A Dutch venture, SuicideMachine.org, is providing a valuable service to those overwhelmed with the demands of their Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace personas. Once a user clicks "commit," the Suicide Machine changes the password, unfriends all contacts and wipes clean the virtual slate.

Enough said. Facebook has blocked the service. ( Michalko)


Memento: Time Travel for the Web  (External site)

Digital Preservation   •  December 28, 2009

Time-based search. The Memento project aims to create an archival record of a Web resource by including a date-stamp for each page as well as an application programming interface to create gateways to available archived versions. The Internet Archive has committed to deploying the Memento protocol early this year.

Herbert is one of the smartest and most creative folks working in our domain. He was recently featured in the OCLC Research Distinguished Seminar Series talking about Memento: Time Travel for the Web. If you want to know more than this short article conveys go over and see the abstract and the webcast of his presentation. ( Michalko)


Libraries Use Video Games to Attract Teens  (External site)

Toledo Blade  •  January 6, 2010

Let's get loud. Libraries are relaxing their rules and designating videogaming areas in an effort to hook the next generation of patrons. Some studies indicate that videogaming boosts literacy, encourages collaboration and hones social skills. And in many communities, the most important thing is just getting teens in the door.

There's a bit of unsubstantiated hope here. Libraries have always had a bit of a haven dimension for those teens that can be attracted. This might attract more and different teens. Whether it moves them to bring their children to whatever is the story hour of the future may fall into the errors detailed in the "Paying Attention" article cited above. ( Michalko)


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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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