Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thoughts on the UDHR

Perhaps I’m getting ahead, but I proceeded with an independent reading, More, Elizabeth (2007) Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Today’s World. International Communications Journal , v11n2 (

This critique discusses briefly the motivation behind the UDHR, arising out of the abuses of human rights that occurred during the second world war, and two of the somewhat opposing schools of thought related to interpreting human rights, universalism and cultural relativism.

More uses the example of so-called female circumcision (which is in fact more appropriately labeled female genital mutilation), among others, as the backdrop for her discussion leading to her conclusion that neither approach is entirely satisfactory and argues that a “broad culturally inclusive universalism” which nevertheless is “self-consiously minimalist” is an acceptable middle ground.

Her preliminary discussion of Human Rights generally conforms to some of the issues raised in the Stanford treatment, and also more explicitly raises the issue of basic rights as minimal constraints versus a more expansive expression of those rights and privileges necessary to achieve the whole of human potential. Whereas some basic human rights may appear to be universal, application of higher order(and even some basic) rights often run into difficulties of interpretation that are intrinsically tied to culture and religion; as rights become more expansive and encompassing, cultural differences become more troublesome.

So, are rights universal, or can cultural relativism be applied to their exercise? More presents scenarios that highlight some of the concerns. Severe corporal punishment (e.g. cutting of the hand of a thief) is generally abhorrent to westerners and most would consider it a violation of basic human rights. Some, however argue that for those with a strong belief in strict Islamic rule, the earthly punishment assures that God will not mete even more severe punishment in the afterlife.

More also presents the case of female genital mutilation among some African cultures and notes that some of its strongest proponents are, disturbingly to most westerners, the victims of the process. Further, the practice is regarded as “culturally vital to the community, promoting ethnic identity…”

Here, cultural relativism and universalism seem quite at odds. More notes that illegality sometimes makes things worse, forcing practices underground where reforms are undermined by “a community’s failure to agree to destroy its cultural tradition and practices.” Yet is difficult to argue that female genital mutilation is not a violation of basic human rights on cultural grounds.

More quotes Parekh (1999) in “advocating that universal values be culturally mediated while retaining their normative and critialdrive, and suggests:
• Universal values can be understood in a variety of ways, ranging from the minimalist to the maximalist
• Since universal values are necessarily general and relatively indeterminate, they should as far as possible be articulated in the language of norms
• We should not confuse values with particular institutional mechanisms
• Since every society enjoys the moral freedom to interpret and prioritise the agreed body of universal values, we cannot condemn its practices simply because they are different from or offend against ours, and
• We might encourage regional arrangements for defining and enforcing universal values.

Information rights are not explicitly addressed in the UDHR, although they will likely find an implied home in sections covering freedom of expression as well as education. However as this paper argues, interpretation of information rights, as with other rights, will need to find an expression that speaks a universal truth but is nevertheless bound and of necessity limited by cultural and religious practice and interpretation.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

COHEN – Information Rights and Intellectual Freedom (Ethics and the Internet 11-32)

Cohen makes the point that technology is shifting the balance between intellectual property rights and intellectual freedom to favor the information owner/creator. As a result, our ability to act freely and autonomously, which requires access to information, is infringed.

Cohen agrees that intellectual freedom and autonomous action are measured in degrees and not absolutely. Therefore, I think the crux of the issue is where to find proper balance. Cohen covers, at least on first examination, most of the key issues relating to the impact of technology on intellectual freedom, and the arguments are well reasoned.

I don’t really find fault with any of the points made so much as disagree with the emphasis placed on some issues and lack of emphasis placed on others.

For example, Cohen acknowledges the free-market pressures on intellectual property rights holders to strike a balance between access and profit, but then argues that consumers are unorganized and not in a position of strength when it comes down to the negotiation (see consent-based arguments, pg 17-18). However consumer pressure has already driven vendors such as Amazon and even Apple iTunes to release substantial numbers of music releases without DRM, largely as a result of consumer pressure.

Furthermore, new business models have emerged that give consumers more access to copyrighted material than traditional systems. For example, some music services give virtually unlimited streaming access to large libraries of music for a nominal monthly fee. While it’s true that the consumer doesn’t ever actually acquire any of the music, many would find that as a practical matter, they listen to far more music for considerably less money under that business model.

Technology is young and we are going through a period of time now when we are still learning what is possible, and from that, what is desirable. The biggest problem with intellectual property has always been that the medium on which information is instantiated, and the cost of reproduction, is low compared with the cost of creating the information. Further, with digital text, one can give it away without losing one’s own access to it – unlike loaning a tool or book to a neighbor who may not return it.

Suppose, however, you could get a digital download whose DRM allowed anyone to play it, but that would also allow anyone so trusted with it to steal it – that is, permanently reallocate it to their own physical control and thereby deprive you of its use. This is analogous to lending your hammer to your neighbor, who then never returns it. You might think twice before loaning it to just anyone.

That’s the idea behind a new IEEE proposal for so-called digital personal property (I’m reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer installs the door peephole backwards). The proposers say that they want to give consumers true ownership of content while still "preserving business models based on the sale of private goods where the number of items in circulation equals the number sold and the number of users of each item is naturally, reasonably, and unavoidably limited." A look at the comments accompanying this article point to some flaws in the concept, but the idea at least is evidence that we are a long ways away from stable and unchanging technologies and our commitment to fully adopt them .

To argue that because we can do something with technology, we will, is to argue technological determinism, a reductionist approach that among other things requires one to suspend belief in the autonomy of man (on which Cohen’s ethical arguments depend).

So I would argue that while we need to be mindful of the ramifications of technology (and that it does seem so far that early technologies favor the enforcement of the rights of creators and producers), that it may still be too early decide what technology’s overall impact on the balance between intellectual property rights and intellectual freedom will be. Cohen writes a good cautionary tale, but perhaps paints a worst-case scenario that is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.

Of greater concern to me, and a matter which Cohen does make some reference to, is the loss of privacy that accompanies an intellectual property holder’s exercise of rights over use. In essence, any kind of rights management now requires the purchaser of a content license to divulge some personal information in order to receive it. With traditional media, someone paying cash or checking an item out of the library (where library records are private) can exercise the right to access the content anonymously.

However, actively managed digital rights require an electronic tether between licensor and licensee that could potentially expose one’s information access to third parties, either accidentally or intentionally. If technological determinism is unacceptably reductionist, then so is social determinism. This problem won’t be fixed unless we make up our minds that it needs to be fixed.

Finally, Cohen seems to miss the many ways social and technological change have benefitted the consumer to the detriment of the rights holders. For example, on page 10, Cohen notes the lawsuits designed to inhibit automated acquisition of pricing information from web sites to aid consumer shopping. But this is a relatively new phenomenon. Prior to the web technologies, consumers didn’t really have access to automated pricing services. And in fact, at the wholesale and jobber level, pricing agreements are almost always treated as confidential. In this case, the balance has already shifted in favor of the consumer. Mass copying and file sharing has certainly also benefitted the consumer, albeit not in ways most intellectual property holders think is fair or ethical.

It’s fair to ask, in these cases and others, what the balance should be.

Van den HOVEN – Distributive Justice and the Value of Information

I think overall I don’t fully buy into the argument that either information or information access is a primary Rawlsian good. In spite of an attempt to tease apart differences among information, knowledge and access, these nevertheless are conflated in the argument to my way of thinking. The availability of access to the internet is discussed in the first couple of pages as an example of ICTs worsening the information divide. But increased access to the internet isn’t necessarily the answer because the problem isn’t access to the internet; the problem is lack of information and knowledge. The internet is only one way to get it, and not always the best way (as the authors confirm). So while the problem really is lack of information (and while acknowledging that ICTs are not the only way to access information), van den Hoven elects to defend access to information as what should be considered a primary good, under the theory that access to information necessarily resolves the underlying shortage. But if the means of accessing information is not important, then it’s information that is the underlying primary need.

If we accept that information access (and not information) is the primary Rawlsian good, then it meets at least the first of Rawls’ requirements, that it is rational to want it. But it is not always necessarily true that a person would want more rather than less access. A person rationally only wants what is necessary to get what is really needed – the information.

But if we accept that information (and not information access) is the primary Rawlsian good, then it too fails the second test, that more information is better than less information. Most people want the amount of information necessary to make a decision or to carry through with a rational plan. Too much information can impede the rational plan.

It seems to me far more logical to argue that both information and access to it are opportunities, distributed under the opportunity principle. Access to information, or lack thereof, is a social and economic inequality, because information has a cost of production and a cost of acquisition associated with it and both production and means of acquisition are limited commodities. Further, not everyone has the resources (again, social and economic capital), to make the best use of an unlimited amount of information.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

LIS School Google Search

This search looks at the web pages of LIS schools based on the ALA list of accredited schools. It was last updated a year or so ago, but should still be largely applicable.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Info Lit a subject?

I posted this into the AASL listserv today. What do you think?

It seems to me that it is vitally important ... that information literacy be recognized and promoted as a core subject and furthermore promoted as the particular subject that certified school librarians are highly qualified to teach. Right now, very few people understand that librarians are primary teachers because there is no readily identifiable subject associated with them. If the public really understood that information literacy is a core 21st century subject on which proper understanding of other core subjects depends, and that librarians are the only ones highly qualified to teach it, it would put librarians on parity with classroom teachers in a fundamental way that cuts off at the knees arguments that librarians are ancillary.

No one who understands the importance of information literacy would accept the argument that library aids and paraprofessionals are qualified to teach a core subject. Given that many states actually have academic standards relating to information literacy, this should be obvious, but I rarely see this case being publicly made. It places far more emphasis on the librarian than it does the library, and I think this would be a good thing for school librarians.

Those who know me know that I’m no fan of NCLB, but perhaps at least some effort should be directed at amending the next version of ESEA to reflect information literacy among the other core subjects explicitly recognized. A strong, united front that included other organizations such as ISTE and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills could help move it along.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Digital Information Management Certificate Program Application Deadline Extended; Scholarships available

The University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science is pleased to announce that openings are available, as well as a number of full scholarships, in the school’s graduate certificate program in Digital Information Management. The program is scheduled to begin a new series of courses starting this summer. Prospects have until April 1, 2008 to apply for one of the openings and available financial aid.

DigIn, as the program is known, provides hands-on experience and focused instruction supporting careers in libraries and archives, cultural heritage institutions and digital collections, information repositories in government and the private sector and similar institutions. The certificate is comprised of six courses covering diverse topics including digital collections, applied technology, technology planning and leadership, policy and ethics, digital preservation and curation, and other subjects relevant to today’s digital information environments.

For people just starting in the field or considering career changes, the DigIn certificate program offers an alternative path to graduate studies that helps prepare students for success in traditional graduate programs or the workplace. The certificate also provides a means for working professionals and those who already have advanced graduate degrees in the library and information sciences to broaden their knowledge and skills in today’s rapidly evolving digital information landscape.

The program is delivered in a 100% virtual environment and has no residency requirements. Students may choose to complete the certificate in fifteen or twenty-seven months.

The certificate program has been developed in cooperation with the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records and the University of Arizona Office of Continuing Education and Academic Outreach. Major funding for program development comes from the federal government’s Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which has also provided funding for a number of scholarships.

Additional details on the program including course descriptions, admissions requirements and application forms may be found on the program website at Or, contact the UA School of Information Resources and Library Science by phone at 520-621-3565 or email at

# # #

Contact: Bruce Fulton, Communications and Outreach Librarian

Friday, October 26, 2007

Warm up your broadband and set your alarm

Found on the net: “The Librarians is a new six-part comedy series from the Australian Broadcast Company based around the highly-strung head librarian of an outer suburban Melbourne library. This new social satire premieres on Wednesday October 31 at 9.30pm. You can also watch it online at from 10:00pm.”

The website is up now, and there is a trailer on YouTube at If the info is correct, 10:00pm in Melbourne will be 4:00am here. I suspect someone will post it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Duly Noted on Heros, 10/15/2007

Annoying friend of the family: "I thought for dessert, we'd go to that wonderful yogurt place near the depot."
Our Hero: "I can't, I have to go to the library for a research paper."
Dufus friend: "The library… Haven't you ever heard of the Internet?"
Our Hero: "Actually, the research paper is on libraries and how, during the digital age, they're becoming increasingly obsolete for our generation."
[Approving nod from father and annoying friend of the family.]
Father: Do you need a lift?

Hmmm. What more can be said?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

YouTube U

If we're not there already, I suspect the time is not too far away when we'll be able to string together a class or lecture on practically any topic just by linking to YouTube/Google videos. This week's topic in the class on social computing is social bookmarking. Plugging in key words like, flickr, social bookmarking and a few other tags in the video web sites like YouTube quickly uncovers a good selection of instructional videos. Of course some of them aren't so good, but many are both educational and entertaining. Some of them are actually videocasts from lectures or workshops at universities; others by amateurs, some of whom are releasing entire series of do-it-yourself and instructional material. Here are just a few I found to give you an idea:

I think providing multiple pathways to content is especially important with distance/virtual learning, where there isn't regular face to face contact with students. Some students do better with the printed word; others may prefer visual, spatial, or audio modalities. Videos and podcasts offer alternatives to students who prefer them.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Libraries and social networks.

After spending the last week with readings on online communities, mostly scholarly, we're looking at Social Networks in the social computing class this coming week. I usually try to come up with a quote or two to begin the online lecture, something to get the thought processes percolating. These two quotes both came across my news crawlers, and I though they made a really poignant juxtaposition:

  • Each day hundreds of people go to the Temple Terrace Public Library to use the computers and surf the web. But patrons should not expect to check out one of the most popular sites online at the library. That's because Temple Terrace has a ban on, as well as chat rooms and some online blogs. Michael Dunn, Temple Terrace Spokesperson says, “We're not there to promote websites. We're there to help people find a job, acquire information, learn things that could help them in their lives.” [Retrieved 9/22/2007 from].
  • “…It's not just about Jena, but about inequalities and disparities around the country,” said Stephanie Brown, 26, national youth director for the NAACP, who estimated that about 2,000 college students were among the throngs of mostly black protesters who overwhelmed the tiny central Louisiana town. …Brown said the Jena case resonates with the college-aged crowd because they aren't much older than the six youths charged. Many of the student protesters had been sharing information about the case through Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking Web sites. [Retrieved 9/22/2007 from].

Interesting times ahead for libraries, I think. I know many librarians are a bit soured on the social networking programs, but I think we need to look at libraries' involvment with these applications through a different lens. Throwing up a profile page hasn't been effective for most libraries, but that doesn't mean they can turn their backs on the phenomenon. We'll be looking at what does make sense this week. I'll be interested to see what the class thinks after some of the readings and assignments.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Banned Book Week, virtually.

I posted this into the announcements for the course in social computing I'm teaching this fall at the University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science:

"This is somewhat out of synch with the class (although Social Networks are up next), but I would encourage you to use these events to help introduce you to the technologies. Give yourself some time with Second Life ( You only need a free, basic account. You'll spend a while on orientation island learning how to get around. If/when you're ready to move on, let me know and I'll offer a teleport to one of the information islands. Note: you need a reasonably good graphics card to run the software.

"The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has announced Banned Books Week activities for librarians and the general public in virtual worlds Second Life, Teen Second Life and on social networking sites MySpace and Facebook. ALA is working with other library partners to provide an interactive experience centered on Banned Books Week, September 29-October 6, 2007, to help librarians and others to feel comfortable in social networking spaces and to reach out to new audiences. Partners include Alliance Library System, Alliance Second Life Library, TAP Information Services and the new ALA membership group Virtual Communities and Libraries. For the schedule of activities and events, see the full announcement here."

I hope to see several of the students explore this. It's always a good learning experience when the things you are studying relate to ongoing current events and real world happenings. That's also one of the reasons I've provided a news feed on social computing current events that goes directly into the D2L learning management system via RSS.

If you plan on using any of the banned book week virtual events in your teaching or learning, let me know and we'll compare notes.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Prisons Purge Books on Faith From Libraries - New York Times

Prisons Purge Books on Faith From Libraries - New York Times: "Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries. "

I'm not sure this even needs or warrants editorial comment. I would imagine most librarians are suitably appalled. You might think that with a librarian in the first lady's seat, we wouldn't see this sort of blatent political interference from the White House even given the charged nature of prison libraries. The problem is, once the books and resources are gone, even a new administration won't bring them back. Sigh.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Early thoughts on the social computing class

The social computing class I'm teaching this fall is finishing up its third week. The class is small, but the students are engaged and thinking. I'm a little surprised (but not altogether displeased) at the rather healthy skepticism I'm seeing in the student writing so far concerning the whole Library 2.0 meme. Is it really new, is it really inclusive, is it all about the tech, those kinds of things. I'm using Casey and Sevastinuk's Library 2.0 text and the final project will be to plan an implementation of some aspect of social computing in a library setting, so we'll see how opinions are shaped as we move through the course.

I posted this comment in the instructor's blog:

...One thing that concerns me at this point is how many students are waiting til the weekend to post anything into the blogs and discussion sections. Ideally, we will have a strong dialog going on; if everyone waits to post, it's hard to have a conversation. Remember that responding to your fellow students' observations is as important as making your own. We'll see how it goes, but think about getting at least some of your thoughts in earlier in the week....

On the other hand, the students are doing a great job with the blogs, and the commentary is good. One of the differences between face to face classes, especially ones that meet face to face once a week, and online classes is that the online classes really are, or can be, 24x7. I've always thought there is more potential for interaction and personalization in the online deliveries, even though they are asynchronous. That's a strong argument in favor of them. I'll probably need to give more thought to structuring the activites to encourage more participation during the week.



Thursday, August 30, 2007

SIRLS Podcast

The first SIRLS podcast for this school year is up. I played around quite a bit with a new page template to embed the audio and video streams when the user clicks on the play or download link. I'm still not entirely happy with the object and embed tags, but it seems to work with the latest versions of IE, Firefox and Safari. Here's a snip:

SIRLS Podcast: "August 29, 2007 - SIRLS Brown Bag Research Lecture. Kay Mathiesen - Group Rights to Control Information versus Individual Rights to Access Information. Play or Download Abstract: Intellectual Freedom is the core value of the Library and Information Profession. As the American Library Association puts it, 'In a free society individuals are free to determine ..."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

News Feed

I'm teaching a course in Social Computing this semester and one of the tools I'm using is a FURL RSS feed of news articles and posts I find interesting or applicable. If you'd like to add the feed to your newsreader to see what I'm posting, you can subscribe using this RSS link.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ancient Rome is rebuilt digitally - Yahoo! News

A couple of projects have come to my attention lately that underscore the role digitization and virtual reality will have in making collections of all kinds available to scholars, students and the public.
Ancient Rome is rebuilt digitally - Yahoo! News with a link to Rome Reborn 1.0 is one and the article from associated press, Virtual Tours offer trips through time with links to other projects is another.

If you are wondering why you might bother with Second Life, I think this should give at least a partial answer. I think this could lead to an interesting integration of collections of artifacts that will be digitized not just in the traditional sense of creating an image, but actually rendered in a 3-d virtual sense that would allow them to be embedded in virtual world simulations and manipulated as objects in the virtual space.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Wikpedia, once again

The subject of Wikipedia's accuracy and authority reared it's head again recently on the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) listserv. Librarians - many of them anyway - sure do seem to hate Wikipedia. The thread was prompted by a comment that said basically that school librarians should neither use it nor link to it, nor tolerate its use. I entered two responses, which I think are self explanatory, and I'll share them here.

The first post:
Well, RUSA named Wikipedia
one of the best free reference sites in 2005 and it remains on the combined 1999-2006 index: "This is an index of the web sites included in the 1999-2006 annual lists issued by theMars Best of Free Reference Web Sites Committee of the Machine-AssistedReference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association(RUSA) of ALA to recognize outstanding reference sites on the World WideWeb."

The individual RUSA site review notes the well-known potential issues. There are potential issues with any reference source, which users should be aware of and consider. That's what becoming information literate is about, in part.

To dismiss everything in Wikipedia out of hand along with any open sourceweb site in general seems almost bizarre, given the studies that have found overall reliability and accuracy of Wikipedia on par with more traditionalgeneral purpose reference resources, and superior in some areas.

That Wikipedia is not considered sufficient as a primary research source for academic assignments in higher ed is an entirely different argument with an entirely different set of guiding principles. Traditional encyclopedias thatare not open source would be equally insufficient for these purposes.

That doesn't mean, though, that Wikipedia is not an outstanding reference resource when used appropriately with an understanding of its strengths and limitations. Even in higher ed, it's often quite suitable as a ready-reference resource and also serves to seed further exploration and examination of original sources that are often cited in article bodies.

Over the course of a semester or year, students should be exposed to a variety of information resources, and they should understand when each is appropriate for a given purpose.

To take one thing out of context and condemn an entire category of reference resources that is generally held in relatively high esteem by manydistinguished colleagues in library and information science seems extreme.

And here is the second:

With all due respect, and I mean that sincerely, I don't think we can afford to be complacent about the changes that are occurring in online ready reference and the profound impact the read/write web has on our understanding of how information is mediated. Authority is important and students need to understand it. But it may not always be the best or only way to evaluate information resources.

Tomorrow, 5/31/2007 is a blue moon, say some. That would be the second full moon in a calendar month, according to conventional wisdom.

Today on NPR, I heard that Sky and Telescope finally 'fessed up about their complicity in fostering this wrong notion about the meaning of 'blue moon.' They tracked it back to an article originally published in Sky and Telescope that referenced an authoritative source (meaning that the sources were identified and deemed authoritative) dating to 1985. Sky and Telescope now spin it this way, "Where the authors, Margo McLoone-Basta and Alice Siegel, got it, no one seemed to know. Used in this way, the term was certainly very, very local before they included it in their book. It seemed never to have been written down before. Of course, authors sometimes "invent" information to protect themselves against plagiarists. Well, if that were the case they'd already lost, because the new "blue Moon" almost immediately entered the folklore of the modern world. It became as living a meaning as any of its predecessors."

Today alone, the Wikipedia article on Blue Moon [astronomical phenomenon] has been updated nearly a dozen times to reflect the new information. The article provides original source links to today's Sky and Telescope printed retraction and other sources reflecting scholars' interpretations of the phrase. There are a dozen citations and external links.

In contrast, searching Blue Moon in the University of Arizona's very expensive and restricted subscription to the Academic Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica references 94 articles on the query, none of which has anything to do with the blue moon topic in question. Restricting it to the phrase "blue moon" narrows the field to 13, not a single one of which is relevant. Linked articles to the phrase range from "beer" to "Mel Torme" to "Credence Clearwater Revival."

Telling students to "just say no" to Wikipedia does as much good as telling them to just say no to sex or drugs. They're perfectly capable of looking up Blue Moon both in Wikipedia and EB, and they will. We can peer down disapprovingly of their naiveté and insist on academic purity, but I think we owe them better than that. If we don't address the current environment honestly, take the time to understand it ourselves, and work with students to help them navigate it confidently, appropriately and with the requisite skepticism, we've failed.

Students today need to deal with a sea change in how information is collected, stored and accessed. As educators and information specialists, we need to mediate, not castigate. Authority is only one metric used to evaluate information resources. Today's students are tomorrow's information workers who will be using wikis and other community-based information resources and collaborative software along with both traditional and 21 st century tools to build the next generation of information resources.

Let's make sure we provide them with the analytical and higher order thinking skills to manage and use them effectively and work with them to bring them to a level of competence as knowledgeable consumers and creators of society's archive.

What do you think? Let me know!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

David Warlick is not usually on the short list of blogs followed by librarians, but this is relevant:

"While at the National School Boards Association Conference the other day, more than one school board member came up to me, a tech guy, and asked, "We're trying desperately to find ways to deal with budget crunches. With all of these computers and access to online information, do we really need librarians or libraries any more?" more at and the requisite discussion and followup.

Put David Warlick on your short list.

Librarians are obsolete; kill them.

In a dystopic future, what if the librarian is obsolete? What if there are no more books? In a totalitarian society, how does the librarian choose the manner of his execution for his obsolescence ?

These questions and more at

I admit to being a Twilight Zone fan and was watching it in my youth in original broadcast. I’m a fan and when there’s a TZ marathon, I’m there. OK, so I’m dating myself. I don’t remember this original broadcast (either 1959 or 1961, and to tell the truth, I was pretty young then) but then there’s Google and YouTube video to bring it back to us, legal or not. Watch it while you can ;)

This access point raises a number of questions. Even given its 1959 naiveté, still, it raises some issues we are debating a half century later, and how interesting it was anticipated that long ago. What do you think of the episode? What do you think of the idea that it’s important for LIS students to see it? What do you think of the notion that the only way LIS students might access it is through a video link that may violate the copyright owner’s rights? How is watching it replayed on Web video services different from Tivo’ing it from an obscure cable TV’s marathon and saving it? If I save it (legally?), how can I share it? If I’m researching topics for a paper, how do I find this, if not on a Google Video or Youtube site? You’re a librarian, how do you catalog this and provide your patrons access to it? Aaargh, the questions!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Free Google Tools?

The blog on ALA Techsource describing some of Google's new features is worth a read. I've been playing around with several of them including the docs and spreadsheets for group editing, picasa for photo sharing and storage, and of course YouTube and GoogleVideo. In general, I like them and they work pretty much as advertised. Now, there's an easy webpage creation tool and free hosting. Free for now, anyway. It's clear that Google has a cohesive strategy in mind after reading how they are bringing these things together both for education and for commerce. The question is, what is the business model?

Most people think Google is in the Search business, but then, most people think Rolex is in the watch business. Wrong on both counts. Rolex is in the lifestyle business and doesn't compete with watch companies. In a way, it's the same with Google. Google is in the advertising business and don't you forget it!

All the talk in the click-through user agreements about being beta and extending some of the freebie tools for beta testers at no charge after the beta period is over tells me that at some point, the beta period will be over and it won't be quite as free. What are they up to? It looks to me like Google is taking a page right out of Microsoft's book. Hmm.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Do-it-yourself metasearch

The new Google co-op platform is interesting. Among other things, it allows one to create a custom search by entering a list of sites upon which a query will be executed. I have previously done this with excel spreadsheets (e.g. entering a list of sites, a cell to hold a search term, and a little bit of macro magic) but Google coop makes it easy. One search came back to mind immediately -- I put all the home pages from LIS schools as listed on the ALA web site into the source file. Enter a search term (e.g. "tuition") and all the LIS school pages are searched. These searches can be shared or embedded in web pages. You can try my LISSchoolSearch and let me know what you think.

If I have some time, I'd like to put together a simple-minded search using the pathfinders and subject guide pages of top libraries as the restricted set of resources. If you get to it before I do, let me know.

John Berry blogs

Former Library Journal editor John Berry has forayed into the blogosphere with his own column, Blatant Berry. I took a writing class from John as part of my MLS program at the University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science. John doesn't pull any punches and he knows as much about the real world of libraries and librarianship as any. Needless to say, it's on my subscription list.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Personal Technology -- Personal Technology from The Wall Street Journal.

Personal Technology -- Personal Technology from The Wall Street Journal.

In his March, 2005 Wall Street Journal Tech Column, writer Walter S. Mossberg inveighs against Google's Autolink, which changes the rendering of the display of a web site to facilitate additional search. His argument, basically, is that we outght to be bound by the author's vision of how the page should look. Here is my response:

Regarding your column on Google’s Autolink Feature -- What a strange argument! By this logic, I shouldn’t be blocking those carefully placed pop up ads web authors so thoughtfully provide, so the blocker must go. The sight and hearing impaired must deactivate their HTML rendering software, which alters the real-time presentation of web content with alternate text and links useful to them. I must not turn off picture, hyperlink and audio file rendering options in IE or Foxfire, all basic browser options today. That is what would be required, at least, if the faithfully rendered argument stands.

This article is highly problematic in that it leads readers to assume, mistakenly, that somehow the toolbar is changing the author’s copy of the page. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing changed is a particular arrangement of binary data on a temporary memory chip in my own computer. And I’m changing it by my own will, not someone else’s. It has absolutely no effect on how others want to consume this information.

And that’s what it is – information that I have acquired and may choose to consume in any number of ways that all copyright principles of fair use and first sale permit and uphold. I can, of course, parse the data stream with an HTML rendering software program (a browser), which is what most people do. I can also, without ever consuming it through a browser engine, convert its words to audio (a text to speech converter), erase or delete any portions I like (e.g. graphics that may contain hostile agents, or unwanted pop-ups, frames, annoying midi tunes and other questionable practices), or analyze it with an agent to extract key words and build an index.

While a newspaper columnist might wish this morning’s opus not be used as a bird cage liner, neither does he have the right to prevent his readers from using it thusly. Once I’ve taken possession of the copy, its fate is of my choosing. In much the same way, while a web designer may indeed have put as much thought into his carefully placed links and destinations as the columnist his considered prose, once the packets hit my registers and render my own personal copy, it’s between me and my processor.

Now if you are talking about someone unethically hijacking my browser without my knowledge or will, that’s a different story -- one that has already been written, for which at least one technological solution is to scrub, preprocess and render in the manner I choose HTML code in which someone has carefully placed links and selected “special” destinations I may not want especially to visit. Altering my copy of someone else’s HTML isn’t always a bad thing, you know…

Bruce Fulton

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Want a job? Hand over your SAT results |

Want a job? Hand over your SAT results |

The private sector has long complained that high schools do not turn out students with critical thinking skills and the kind of cognitive abilities -- such as communication, collaboration and problem solving -- that comprise an effective workforce. Colleges and Universities echo that cry and provide remedial courses designed to scaffold students to a level of performance prerequisite to success.

Presumably, students do learn over the course of acquiring a degree. The private sector thinks so too, and doesn't recruit SAT wizards right out of high school. So it is curious indeed that a high school SAT score would be considered relevant four or more years and 120+ credit hours later. Presumably, a college graduate with four years of college math would better a high school score achieved through perhaps less than exemplary courses and teachers who in many cases may not even have majored in math.

We are all looking for that magical assessment bullet. The one that provides a real measure of a person's ablility to solve real-world problems and perform real-world work. The SAT is not that, and wasn't designed for that purpose. Indeed, it can be argued that such a test doesn't exist. To force it into that mold is, in the end, an admission of laziness and an inability or unwillingness to expend the time and effort needed to evaluate and place individual holistically based on proven ability and work product.

And then the question becomes, who really loses here?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Slashdot | The Flickering Mind

Slashdot | The Flickering Mind
see also comments on this debate at

An interesting thread.

I think the question is not really whether technology informs education, but rather how do we best assure that it does. In the real world, science, math, finance, international relations, and virtually all other disciplines embed technology intrinsically. Sometimes we forget that technology is more than general computing devices (pc’s) on the desktop. It is technology appliances, dedicated systems, assistive devices, scientific apparatus, communications infrastructures – all the range of 21st century tools.

In the real world, these shape the disciplines. Today, simple bookkeeping is not only computer-enabled but computer driven, and technology has changed fundamentally how accounting is done and what its impact on decision making systems really is. It is not so important that students learn a spreadsheet program, for example, as it is crucial that students achieve financial literacy. The spreadsheet program will happen if students are taught financial skills in a relevant and current context.

ICT literate teachers are an important part of the equation, but not the only solution. We need curriculum standards that incorporate knowledge of applications and tools within core subjects, not just within separate technology strands. We need policy decisions and leadership that value not just IT knowledge but an understanding of the contextual application of technology to solve real problems. And we need a unified vision that information and communication are the 21st century cornerstones of democracy – necessary for an individual to be informed and knowledgeable in the global village.

Friday, May 14, 2004

BBC NEWS | Education | 'Big improvement' in ICT teaching

BBC NEWS | Education | 'Big improvement' in ICT teaching

As this article illustrates, the notion that technology without context is insufficient to prepare students to thrive in a complex, global milieu of information, communication and change is universal. Clearly the measure of equitable access to technology in our schools today is not that of hardware distribution; rather it is access to information and communications literate teachers who can model 21st century learning for their students.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Arizona Charter Schools Lead The Way

Visionary step

As this article from the Arizona Republic illustrates, charter schools are becoming a significant element of the K-12 education landscape. One concern I have is the issue of access to technology. Here, I am not talking about classroom PCs so much as integration with statewide infrastructure, availability of educational resources, and assistive technologies for special needs students. Many charter schools are not plugged in to the network of resources and technologies available to traditional public schools. As the charter school movement continues to grow, what do we need to do to assure all students have equitable access to 21st century tools and how do we manage accountability for state supported education efforts that fall outside the traditional milieu?


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