Saturday, April 01, 2006

teaching 1

Just taught a fundamentals-of-the-Web class. It went well, I reckon. I start with DARPA and ARPANET, talk about the importance of a non-hierarchical network in case of nuclear war. Then it's all about navigation, searching, directories -- topped off with a note on evaluating info & thinking critically. I hit on the difference between "internet" and "world wide web". I draw maps and Boolean logic diagrams.

It's an extra credit thing. Faculty send students to the library for instruction, and then the students can make 2 points on the final or whatnot. I go through phases where I get flustered from having 30 faces staring up at me, especially when they aren't responsive, and I get kind of locked in a mode wherein I make them more uncomfortable. A kind of mean-teacher-mode. It's better to get out of that as soon as possible -- for them, and me. Sometimes it takes a while to warm them up, though. I don't make a lot of "jokes".

There's this presumption now that everything ought to be available. All information should be readily accessed by websearch. Every person, thing, or concept should have its own webpage. I talk a lot about the invisble web. About how there are oceans of information we aren't meant to see, cannot google for. Students come in with unrealistic ideas about the nature of information and its availability. It's funny -- there's a presumption on one hand that everything should be easy to access, but, on the other hand, a distaste for reading "content". Bullet-point it, please. Students wrinkle their noses when I suggest they "read the book". It stinks too much of being linear, I reckon. Smells like dust.

With that in mind, I teach advanced search techniques to show them that finding information (especially info that might otherwise forever remain mostly invisible) is an art and a science, and it's a responsibility. It's an individual responsibility.

Bathe, pay your taxes, tie your shoes, get the oil changed now and then, be info-literate. One of those kinds of responsibilities -- basic and personal. And no one else is going to do it for you. No one is going to read the book for you, or understand it for you, even if someone else sells you a summary of it.

I like teaching these classes... once I get the students warmed up. I like it when they get excited. I like it when I tell them to use info-evaluation skills with books, too, and even when listening to their professors... I like it because I think it empowers them. I like it because it "uncools" the net, at once, and also "recools" it because they now know how to operate the freakin thing.


Watching: Good Bye, Lenin!
Listening: The Horse Flies

Mood: sleepy but caffinated... yikes!

comics 1

ImageText is a good journal dealing mostly with comics. Criticism and interpretation, peer-reviewed. There's not a lot out there like it.

Links from ImageText:

I get really weary of defending comics. I'm not a big fan of superhero genre, but that's what most people still seem to mean when they talk about comics. Comics is a medium. The number of genres represented in that medium is countless, you know. It's not all mysteries or romance or superheroes or science fiction or erotica or westerns or sea stories or histories or anything. It's not all anything. There are so many genres at work in the medium, in fact, that we've got these wonderful genre-mashups, like the political-thriller/superhero story Ex Machina, or a hardboiled/history story like Frank Miller's 300. And there are also really beautiful "pure" genre stories, like 100 Bullets, or the "coming of age romance" in Craig Thompson's Blankets. I'm probably preaching to the choir with this. You lot already like comics, right? Shed a tear for Vita Severn, didn't you? You read Guy Davis and Eddie Campbell and Ted McKeever and Colleen Doran.

So I'm preaching to the choir. ...And graphic novel collections are taking off in libraries, and mostly on the coat-tails of manga titles. After DVDs, graphic novels were the highest circulator at the last library I worked for, and this was in the middle of the desert. The hard part is getting adults (older than 25) to take notice. Graphic novel readers in libraries are mostly 1) teenage girls reading manga, 2) teenage boys reading manga, 3) young adults reading manga, 4) crusty old fanboy type guys reading American and British comics... and manga. What we lack here is the salon and afternoon tea party atmosphere of the chick-lit bookclub gatherings. I've found that lots of comics readers, especially the "crusty old fanboy" set, don't really like to sit around in library bookclubs foaming at the mouth about the merits of Watchmen. It's just one of those things. They'd rather be gaming.

So how do we get the non-fanboy set to wake to the wonders of comics? Librarians could start with veering away from the word "comics," as it brings to mind Superman and Peanuts (wonderful as they are)... and since wide swaths of the medium just isn't comedy work. Adult readers might be more inclined to pick up a "graphic novel", but then again, that sounds a bit edgy and dangerous and decidedly "adult". "Sequential Art Collection" is too wordy and cumbersome. I don't know. Try breaking out the 741.5's into their own little stand-alone collection. Others have suggested this elsewhere, and I've tried everything from doing GN 'booktalks' to writing news pieces about them... having punch and brownies and a GN discussion for the "anime" club... and comics never really seem to break out into a wider audience. No offense meant toward the fanboys -- some of them are my great friends.

Despite Alan Moore's grumpiness, the movies are helping.

Other resources to remember:
ArtBomb (now defunt) intro to GNs and archived reviews.

Friday, March 31, 2006

new sense metaphors

Spimes will smell each other, more than see or hear each other. If we were an olfactory people, spimes might not seem so novel. Pheramones are rich with information about who's been where, who's been doing what, and who's who -- rich with information about what a thing is, what a thing does, what group a thing belongs to, whether there are more of the thing, what the thing might do next, and when it's going to make more of itself. My dog lives more nearly in a spime world than I do. Taste and smell and make some spimes.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

political flashmobbing

From the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, TX:

"Fueled by a frenzy of text messaging and radio and television reports, hundreds of Tarrant County students walked out of their schools Tuesday to protest proposed changes in federal immigration laws.

Throngs of students waving Mexican flags and chanting slogans converged on downtown Fort Worth. Police officers in patrol cars and on horseback struggled to keep them on sidewalks.

Some students with cellphones said they had received this text message: 'Latinos, Tuesday is the day 4 u 2 wear ur white shirt 2 let them know we are against law HR 4437. Pass 2 all Latinos.'"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

kirkyan timesuits for books 3

Bruce Sterling has been grinding the spime ax for a while, and I hope he continues. This line (from his column in the October '04 WIRED) is one of the most interesting things he's ever said on the matter:

"Forewarned is forearmed. Get ready for... unpredictable emergent forms of networked spime behavior." In the same article he talks about books as spimes.

It keeps me thinking about spimed libraries.

Imagine a hypothetical library... a meta-library which is the aggregate of all collections of all libraries in existence. Every book in it is a spime that kirks (grows in complexity, in consciousness, in time, across all instances of itself). Every kirking spime in the whole kirking thing learns from every interaction it has with every person who uses any kirking "book" in this meta-library.

Such a situation would become a platform for emergent consciousness. The conditions would be right for the spontaneous development of conscious complexity (artificial intelligence, that is). Packets of information coming to know themselves as parts of a whole body of information through their individual interactions with other packets and with something wholly other (the human users).

If this kind of thing is actually possible, then libraries will become the mommas of A.I. in more ways than one. Is this already beginning?

kirkyan timesuits for books 2

Body parts or bodies as spimes or kirkyans... I'm thinking about what life might be like in a far-flung transhumanist future.

We wouldn't have bodies. Not even "foglet" clouds of nanites. We wouldn't have anything material at all, so much as we might sometimes use matter. "Bodies" would be spimes (or kirkyans if you like), which we would fabricate as needed on the fly, update as we use, then drop away like a dead carapice to be recycled (or reused, more likely).

Our kirkyan "bodies" would only be limited by licensing rights to access the matter we need -- like a login name and password gets you access to millions of files in a database, we might "subscribe" to bodies on a time-share type agreement with other users.

This stuff treads heavily into Actor-Network Theory territory, and transhumanism owes alot to ANT if you ask me, whether it knows it or not. ANT holds that all objects we encounter or use have a social aspect that in turn alters our original social world -- that all "objects" are social mediators and social actors. In this way, our technological world (and our natural world) are not seperate from any human social or psychological worlds -- it's a single field of activity, a network of social actors. A human doesn't have to have more prominence than a doorknob in the network, because the importance of a node in the network is determined by the number of social interactions or relationships that node has. I reckon cows fit in too, somehow.

In a library, every book is a social actor, and every book's user is a social actor. But in a spimey/kirkyan world where amaterial (wholly informational?) human actors can up- and download into blobs or fogs of matter at will, books (if they still exist in any meaningful way) become kinda like neural nets that hold memories. We'll go to (or become) "books" to access the information we need... and that's where this gets distinctly kirkyan, because the act of negotiating with the information "object" alters the "one" who does the negotiating. In this kind of world, we don't just read anymore -- where a person is information, "reading" re-writes a person.

As the nanoseconds tick away, we will see that identity is never static.

open access matters

Grad students! Perk up. Here's a great idea for your thesis: do a bibliometric trick to analyze how often articles from open access journals are cited by other authors in 'traditional' journals, for a start. I'm curious, but don't have the time myself. DoOAJ is where to begin looking.

How does this play into the set of notions that span Creative Commons, peer-to-peer file sharing, open-source software, and wikis? Is there a cultural or generational divide at play in this stuff? Where's Brazil? Where are libaries? Where are the scholars (and artists and artists and artists)? Where are penguins?

How have traditional journal responded to open access? Who's squirming, who's smiling, who's frowning. What sort of structural and organizational changes are happening now? Etc.

Get to work.


Listening: Morrissey
Reading: Northrop Frye, or trying to.

library of stone tablets from Ur?

Archeaologists find tablets ranging from 2700 b.c.e. to 2100 b.c.e. so far at site in Iraq.
Link via . Could be more -- could be that they're uncovering a library.

cubism in argentina

"Time after time, our parents told us of some friend who was going away to live in another place. These were years in which it was not possible to think. The military killed people because they had books on cubism. Cubism and Cuba were the same, obviously. Millions of books were set afire and publishers were assassinated."

From "Growing Up Under Dictatorship".

geopolitical sources to remember 1

Stratfor has a new "free podcast" service here: -- Geopolitcal opinion, but usually very informed opinion.

CIA World Factbook: -- Basic maps, demographic, economic, political info.

Annotated bibliography on terrorism from University of California's Center for Unconventional Security Affairs:

University of Florida Libraries webliography for terrorism info (federal terrorism resources):

Diaster News from the Red Cross:,1074,0_507_,00.html.

Terrorism Research Center: -- A private "research" group. Good for news and good for keeping tabs on mercenaries.

Amnesty International's RSS feed for news related to worldwide human rights abuses:

The War in Context: -- Critical perspectives on the war against terror.

US AF News and Talking points: -- Half news / half PR, pretty useful.

News from the UN Security Council: and its resolutions relating to terrorism:

Human Rights Watch's news on Columbia: -- info on FARC, drugs, etc.

Great geopol resources from Princeton's Firestone library:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

kirkyan timesuits for books 1

This idea of the "kirkyan" ( got me thinking about the "timesuit" metaphor Grant Morrison uses in Invisibles. Timesuits are what we wear in 4-dimensional (?) spacetime to experience the physical universe -- our bodies. Without them, we would exist in an eternal or timeless state.

This is dearly related to all this spime talk. Spimes are mostly temporal. Their histories are more important than their material. Kirkyans sound like spimes that sort of blossom forward in time. These are the spimes that are conscious of their own timesuits.

This matter sort of trumps debates over the future of the "book". Physicality means less and less, and more and more -- material objects become more dear to us when their they're singular -- that Benjamin "aura" of the unique art object. But in a spime world where books can be quick fabbed in print and recycled, or downloaded to whatever kind of re-usable screen reader you like and updated as you read with the comments of other readers, e-mail to the author, corrections and expansions, etc., the line between the "we've got to protect traditional printed media" camp and the "I don't care about paper -- I want books e-mailed to my brain" camp just sort of fizzles out.

If books are kirkyans, you can have both -- and something more: you can have a hybrid book that changes itself over time based on the experiences of all the other copies of itself out there, and all the responses to those other copies. It's information that blossoms forward in time to become better, more accurate perhaps, more current perhaps, and always growing in scope (but not necessarily authority).

A kirkyan book becomes a community of responses to the information that drives the book toward always new (even if not better) content. This means that books become aware of the changes in their own material manifestations (or timesuits). Ranganathan might've said: every book, its book. See also: NetLibrary. The lines are already getting blurry. Paper is just a means, and it's a really sluggish way to, um, git-r-done.


Listening to: Sterolab.
Watching: Steamboy.
Surfing: UBUWEB.

Monday, March 27, 2006

cell phones in the library 2

(img source:

I like this application:

Imagine strolling up to the end of a shelving unit, clicking a quick pic of the 2-d barcode afixed to it, and accessing a website rich with faculty notes, a syllabus, a message-board for your class, perma-links to database searches dealing with the subject/project you need, and maybe even a wiki. Or in a public library -- you're connected to a site with local events related to the subject (say, a drumming circle, or a writer's group) like, suggestions for further reading, and news stories.

This has potential. Cell phone optical applications as a vehicle for content delivery TO cell phones or computers...