Life Squared

October 22, 2007

Dante Hotel

After reading this interview between archaeologist Michael Shanks and visual artist Lynn Hershman Leeson in Seed Magazine (read it!), I got all excited and worked up about their Life to the Second Power (or Life Squared) project. This project brings Hershman Leeson’s archive at Stanford into the virtual community of Second Life, where the pieces can be viewed, experienced, and recombined by visitors.

A keystone piece of the project is a re-envisioning of Hershman Leeson’s Dante Hotel work from the 1970s (pictured above), where she created a “life” with what she placed in a room in a run-down hotel in North Beach. Patrons could get a key from the front desk, go up to the room, look around, and stay as long as they wanted. This work in particular seems to translate well to the Second Life arena.

Check out the Seed interview for an illuminating look at how an archaeologist and an artist look at archives. I can’t say I agree with everything the two of them say, but it certainly gets my archival blood flowing.

[Photo from a Flickr set on the Dante Hotel project, here.]


(unofficial) SAA wiki is up!

June 20, 2007

I took a breather from booktruck a few weeks ago and ended up missing out in an exciting round of archivists scheming for future gatherings devoted to Web 2.0. Folks floated blogger gatherings, speed geeking, online tutorials, and an ArchivesCamp. Today, Archives Next and Spellbound Blog officially announced the UnOfficial Wiki of the 2007 Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting, an awesome stepping stone towards making this next SAA meeting transparent, well-recorded, and coordinated in our efforts. Of course, if you’re headed to Chicago, contribute.

Hookups at NYPL; MySpace rounding up predators

May 22, 2007
  • In honor of the opening of NYPL’s new Mulberry Street Branch, Gawker sends a Napoleon Dynamite/Bunny LeRoi impersonator to video report on the library as a pick-up spot.
  • Reuters and AP report, Broadsheet picks up: MySpace has been collecting personal information on registered sex offenders- over 7,000 of them- and state and federal governments have demanded it, thus possibly creating the first nationwide database of sex offenders (none existed before). Everyone’s bemused that MySpace now appears to be fighting sexual predators, and not, as accused, simply harboring them. But look for more handovers of this sort of data, and more overt use of networking sites for policing and surveillance in the future.

Things for Libraries

May 15, 2007

Stack of book bottoms

I love LibraryThing. I know not every library-type does, but I had a ton of fun entering in all the books from my library, uploading cover shots, and making a little blog widget of my books that pops up every time I refresh my blog. I even use the list of ten random books from my library to decide what to read next!

I got on the LibraryThing bus over a year ago, and since then a lot of things have changed. There are way more users, way more books, which makes for better automatic recommendations (better than Amazon for sure), and some interesting reviews. There is a well developed forum section (that I don’t use that much, but I’m glad it’s there), and a seriously intense tag library. I like that the developers are open to suggestions, responsive, and creative. New features are added at least monthly, and often more than that.

And if all that wasn’t enough, LibraryThing has just rolled out its first actual implementation of LibraryThing for Libraries at the Danbury Library in Danbury, CT. Read the article for all the details, and be impressed with how easy (and free!) the implementation of Web 2.0 funstuffs alongside regular old OPAC technology can be. Obviously there are still some bugs, and this is the first rollout, so not everything is going to be perfect, but I’m already excited about the implications for combining traditional and tag-based cataloging, as well as the recommendations that lead you to recommended books that your local library has on the shelves.

Don’t we all need more library things in our lives?

dissed! at news corp.

May 1, 2007

Members of our ranks should have plenty of reasons to bristle at the mention of Murdoch and News Corp. already. ( y’all know I do.) But in case you need an occasion to recoil at something that relates to librarians super-directly, check out Gawker’s roundup of inside dirt from News Corp. employees, which alleges serious mismanagement of information and technology throughout, with one item that outright disses the ‘corp’s librarians:

No individual Nexis accounts, but the computer program that reporters used to use to search for stories, Folio, went out of business. Reporters can ask the library to do a Nexis search for them, but insiders say that taking that route is essentially a black hole: “At the last minute, stories are often killed because some librarian didn’t catch that Newsday did the same story a few weeks before.”

mobile tools, form, and rewriting the web

April 24, 2007

One of many who was remotely following the Computers in Libraries conference last week, I was intrigued by the notes I’d seen on Megan Fox’s presentations on mobile tools. Everyone says that mobile devices are going to change the way we use the internet, either by presenting the web in smaller scale or bringing the browsing capabilities of a laptop to an affordable tiny device. It’s totally exciting to see this- Frontline’s piece on briefly discussed how the organization is working to facilitate micro-loans with mobile tools.

These past few weeks, my local hip-hop station has started using Meebo as their default line of communication with listeners. “Be the ninth Meebo message and win tickets to see Pretty Ricky!”

It’s exciting to witness rapid changes, but I’m so ambivalent. I worry that the digital divide isn’t going to go away, just permutate into something we have even less of an idea of how to fix. I worry about a version of the Web on mobile devices that exists mainly to sell things and exploit poor people. So I think it’s important to address information delivery across platforms, but I worry about hasty experiments, new glosses on old, bad tools. Why make a mobile adaptation of your library Web site when no one really knows how to use the old one? I also wonder about who we’re really serving- the advantage, and the duty that non-commercial enterprises have is that they can be thoughtful-and thus reflect the social ramifications of shifts in technology.

At a party last weekend, I met Tristan Perich, who had just performed at the Media Archeology festival. He carried with him his Portable Telephone, a working cell phone housed in a classic push-button phone. It’s a clever yet unobnoxious experiment in form and technological function. People peer at someone carrying around a bulky plastic telephone, but Tristan is happy to demonstrate its functionality. “These telephones are really well designed,” he said, “it makes people really happy to see that it works. “

making museum standards, making communication make sense

April 19, 2007

I spent the morning at a neighboring museum’s board meeting, where part of the discussion centered on the American Association of Museums’ Standards and Best Practices document, which proscribes accreditation guidelines for collection control, one of which states that backlog can’t exceed 20% of the collection. While it’s yet to be determined if this is an effective way to eliminate backlog, it’ll be interesting to see if this impacts the way that the museum community does accessions and processing, and if it has any echoes in libraries or archives. has a post today about outreach and context in new social technology, which pretty much puts together a lot of what I’ve been trying to figure out how to say. (It goes without saying that we have heaps of respect and admiration for Jessamyn.)

What is it about Twitter that’s such a lightning rod? Maybe it’s that it is by far, the most unadulterated social tool to come out- Danah Boyd put this in perspective last month- it’s Myspace bulletins without the calculated effort of profiles. There’s virtually no context building in it, and really not much incentive in lurking. So to take it up, you either have to be pulled in by people who are important to you, or you have to decide that the people or stuff going on on it is important enough to devote energy to. Unless it’s the norm for you, it’s useless.

(I think about my Mom’s reaction to IM: “Am I supposed to make new friends who use this?”)
Which is all really prickly for librarians, who need to balance what context makes information relevant with what’s effective in actually delivering information. And in terms of actually learning from this, facilitating open discussion needs to be a key part of building dynamic professional communities.