The future of knowledge (without the futurists).

It looks to me like there is an incipient backlash against library futurists. I have to admit, I dabbled in this myself recently. It’s kind of an easy target and as a friend pointed out: the internet is for backlashes (or something like that), but now I've been thinking that this backlash against library futurists is problem: we don't know the future but we know the present is changing before our eyes.  So, how do we figure out what to do if we don't look to the future. Maybe tarring all futurists with the same brush is throwing out baby with bathwater.


Our current public library approach...

Register to

A Little Bit About Echo Chambers and More

There are many variations and tangents on the topic of Echo Chambers in the internet. We don't have to discuss these in detail on Monday (in fact, you participants are ultimately going to decide what we talk about, anyway), but here is a smattering of reading that you might wish to skim and pick out what you find useful. This is an admittedly idiosyncratic tour of these subjects based on what I'm thinking and also what I just happened upon. And it's not that I'm suggesting you create your own Filter Bubble or anything like that!  ;-)

Echo Chambers:
It turns out to be surprisingly hard to find a concise descripton of the concept. It's mentioned all over the place but I don't see much agreement about exactly how it's defined, even though there's considerable agreement that it is a problem, although this isn't universal.
At least there are some articles and sites that propose what to do the combat the echo chamber. This one is superficial but maybe suggests useful ways to reduce it. This is a decent (but also superficial) intro from Wired. And Navid Hassanpour has famously concluded that losing connectivity can actually help social movements (I think): (here's the NYTimes "Coles Notes" version).

A related concept is "Filter bubbles". The wikipedia entry appears to be a good place to start.

In addition, here are two tangential concepts for librarians (beyond those above):
Serendipity: I like this as a goal for librarians. I think this could even be an alternate subject of our conversation. I recently read Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. Among other things, he points out that hypertext is the web's natural state; filters [and echo chambers, I might add] were a second generation add-on to manage the flow that hypertext (and sefl-publishing) unleashed. Further, he contends that Hypertext and ease of publishing are the key to serendipity on the web. As soon as I read that, it ocurred to me that serendipity should, in fact, still be one of librarians' stock-in-trade, Now, I realize that it has been recognized as that for a long time but, as we all know, librarians' have had a habit of designing these concepts into their infrastructure, services, and buildings and then resting on their laurels. I want to know, how can we build this concept into the discourse of our communities? This is somewhat interesting, actually (and, yes, I know it's written by a designer for an advertising company)


Transliteracy : This concept feels a bit "buzzwordy" to me.  It's defined as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks”. That may be so broad so as to be something everybody already knows about but which the authors just found a good name for. But, nevermind my cynicism, here and here.

Lastly, the following two authors are somewhat on the periphery of our current subject, but definitely part of the big picture: 
Bonnie Nardi,  Sherry Turkle .

And Don't forget
that, whatever we talk about, we are supposed to fit our discussion into the context of the overall theme (here's the link to the discussion guide that I sent before, just in case).


Save the date! Librarians' Community Conversation

Thanks for everyone who responded about choosing a date for the Librarians' Community Conversation. Here is the Date and Time: Monday Sept. 9th, 7-10pm

  • Location:  TBA. I'm still keen to solicit offers from anyone with a livingroom in, say, Vancouver or Burnaby who has room for about a dozen people and would love to host the evening. You won't have to do much work! Let me know by this Thursday (August 1st) if you think you could do this. Otherwise, I can ask the SFU PublicSquare to book us a room on one of their campuses. I think Harbour Centre would be our first choice.

  • Next Steps (aka "Here's the fun part!"): Let's build a discussion list.  Everyone suggest two things that they find really enlightening, useful, or elucidating and that helps us understand knowledge, learning, and taking-action in society: a book, site, video, audio, or what-have-you. Nominate one thing that's specific to our particular topic. The more specific the better. The other thing you choose can be as big-picture as you want. The bigger-picture the better.
  • No one has time to read, watch, or listen to all of these. Some of us probably won't even have time to read anything extra, I suspect. But this ersatz reading list will help us frame the conversation we're going to have. Please just add a comment to this article with your suggestions.

  • One more thing: why am I posting things for you all on this website? Since I am communicating with some of you on Facebook and some on Twitter there's no easy place to get us all communicating together and since I have this website, I figure this works. If you want to suggest a better online venue for us to communicate before the event, let me know. Thanks!

Let's have a Community Conversation for Librarians

I want to host one of these SFU Community Conversations ( I'm sending Facebook and Twitter messages to a handful of colleagues. I think we could have a conversation among a small number of us (perhaps a dozen or so) as individual professionals. I know some of our institutions will probably hold Community Conversations and some of you my be part of those conversations instead. I also know that some of you are already impossibly busy. But I think our professional perspective is also valuable. I've emailed the SFU Public Square office about this idea and they like it. We have to hold the conversation in September. I don't have a venue but I think we could get a meeting room or even someone's house.
The "conversation" I think we could have that supports Community Summit is this:
How do we build a culture that avoids the echo chamber?  How do we use our expertise, training, and disposition for neutral, problem-solving points of view to educate and inculcate our communities to tolerate opposing viewpoints? Knowledge and information are changing and they have left the confines of the library collection, but what we have to offer now is the ability to take information from where ever it can be found and build knowledge that is informed by all perspectives, not just the one that echoes  what you already believe.
Of course, I know that if I get twelve or fifteen of you in a room you might just choose an entirely different topic; one that is better and that I could never have expected! Let me know if you're interested, I'd love to hear from you.  If you're here, you probably already got a message from me. You could reply to that or just send a "comment" to this site.

More Articles...

  1. JustAsk virtual reference is a glimmer of what our irrelevance looks like
  2. Christina Neigel lights up BCLC 2013
  3. Watch this Blog.
  4. On finding an elementary school on my ride in Burnaby