In this issue:
Edge • March 5, 2010
Living in the lifestream. Tech guru David Gelernter predicts the demise of the Web as we know it and the rise of lifestreams—flows of information, structured by chronology and customized to the individual. Gelernter's vision is eloquent, thought-provoking and well worth the read.
This commissioned piece is only 35 short paragraphs but it felt longer to me. There's a self-aware, I-am-now-prognosticating style to it. That said, I think the lifestream conceit has power and helps us think about a different kind of value to be derived from this technology. And in the end, I like that Gelernter is capable of self-deprecation e.g. "From which we learn that (a) making correct predictions about the technology future is easy, and (b) writers should remember to put their predictions in suitably poetic language, so it's easy to say they were right." ( Michalko)
Reading in a Digital Age
The American Scholar • Spring 2010
Food for thought. In an era of shortened attention spans, reading fiction requires deep focus, says author Sven Birkerts. Being a good reader involves two levels: suspension of reality to "live" the narrative premise, accompanied by the "resonance" created through the author's carefully crafted use of language. "The two levels operate on a lag, with the resonance accumulating behind the sense, building a linguistic density that is the verbal equivalent of an aftertaste, or the 'finish.' The reader who reads without directed concentration, who skims, or even just steps hurriedly across the surface, is missing much of the real point of the work; he is gobbling his foie gras."
A long piece that resonated with my own perceptions of the changes in my reading patterns and habits; in many cases Birkerts helped me name a phenomenon I acknowledged but couldn't properly characterize. "But more and more comes the complaint, even from practiced readers, that it is hard to maintain attentive focus. The works have presumably not changed. What has changed is either the conditions of reading or something in the cognitive reflexes of the reader. Or both." I think both. I have felt about Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus exactly as Birkerts describes in this essay. That despite having three copies always at hand to press on those who have never read it. ( Michalko)
Wired • March 5, 2010
Web sites as artifacts. The British Library is leading an effort to revise the 2003 Legal Deposit Libraries Act to make Web site archiving easier. Under current UK copyright law, every Web site owner must be contacted for permission—an effort that so far has netted only a 24% response rate. Despite this challenge, the BL recently unveiled its UK Web Archive—a repository of 6,000 Web sites deemed culturally significant. Archivists in the U.S. and Canada say switching to an "opt out" policy would greatly facilitate the BL's efforts. [See also As the Internet Replaces Print Publishing, Urge to "Unpublish" Means Censoring History for the downside of Web archiving.]
Separate from the legal obstacles I've always felt that a fractured, institutional-level approach to this kind of capture was going to be seriously inefficient. The Web demands a Web-scale archiving structure more akin to the Internet Archive approach. Of course, national libraries have a special obligation regarding their nation's cultural assets but as the archived Web sites will be the fodder for future global scholarship shouldn't we do this in a large-scale distributed but interconnected fashion? We're about to go down the university press rabbit hole by pursuing local, institutional selection and capture. See a past blog post on that topic here. ( Michalko)
Deloitte Review • January 19, 2010
Risk/benefit analysis. Organizations amass vast repositories of data on individuals as part of their daily operations, but that data can prove a liability when it's lost, stolen or otherwise misused. This article is a reminder that data collection can expose your organization to risk, and that security and privacy are the responsibility of everyone in the organization (not just the IT department).
This business article properly calls the question about the value of zealous data collection and overprotection of the resulting data assets. "Rather than yield to the instinctive reaction to place additional protections around what they deemed most valuable, the successful companies actually found that they could attain greater profitability and market share by loosening restrictions on their IP." And the authors mention three companies that I had not thought about in a very long time—Wang, CPT and NBI. Do you remember what business they were in? ( Michalko)
The Atlantic • March 2010
School of rock. When University of California students go on about their course on The Dead, they're just as likely to be talking about Jerry Garcia as James Joyce. UC-Santa Cruz's Grateful Dead Archive will give business scholars and management theorists an inside look at the Dead's marketing genius—from branding strategies to social networking to leveraging the "freebie" business model.
A fun but serious essay about the potential value of this material, the scholarly risks of engaging it and the archival processing challenges already being encountered. As the author notes "It can be only a matter of time until Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead or some similar title is flying off the shelves of airport bookstores everywhere." ( Michalko)