Yes? Digital Technology is the Future

Professor Monahan asks us to discuss where we lie are on the spectrum of digital generation theory.

Are we techno utopians that believe the internet can save the world?

Are we techno dystopians that believe the internet is a harbinger of the end of civilization?

Are we cautious enthusiasts who want to figure out how to use the new technological changes for good?

Are we skeptical of the entire discourse?

Yes?

To all of it?

We are in a transitional moment in our culture. This transition exists for many reasons, but one of the most profound is technology, especially digital technology. Our technology changes so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up or anticipate the possible outcomes or consequences.

The kids who are growing up in today’s world live in an entirely different technological landscape than I did, and I’m only thirty. While I think I fit the digital native category, I was born in 1985: I didn’t grow up with cell phones or with constant internet access. Computers and growing tech were prevalent throughout my childhood, but nowhere near to the extent that exist today.

Right before this class started, the mother in law of a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook titled “It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies.” I have multiple issues with this article, but I thought it was interesting that this sort of fearmongering and finger pointing towards technology is occurring in an age where technology is so ubiquitous. The thought struck me that this was written by someone who is not a digital native, and I wondered how scary this new world must be to someone who can’t keep up (or apparently take responsibility for their parenting styles)? (It should also be noted that the author of this article is a doctor in a rehabilitation clinic for addictions and might have more than a small personal agenda to support here). This sort of digital immigrant, as Marc Prensky points out, “w[as] ‘socialized’ differently from their kids, and [is] now in the process of learning a new language” (Prensky, 2001). And of course, this is exactly the topic of the article we read by Plowman and McPake on “Seven myths about young children and technology”.

This is certainly not a new idea either, Alvin Toffler addressed this in his 1970 novel Future Shock and the debate has continued to rage ever since.

In one of my other classes, Children’s Resources, one of the very first things we discussed was the necessity of not limiting information given to children because we think it might be too advanced for them. Children need to be able to take in information and extrapolate from it what they need without adults interfering in the process. I think this point is also necessary when looking at children and what technology we present to them. My first response to the article comparing ipads to heroine was thinking about how I would never deny my children access to the tools that they will need to succeed.

I absolutely believe that digital technology is the current state of the future, and that children today must be exposed early and often to what is available to them in order to afford them future success.

My mother did not let me play videogames as a child. Much like the themes in the above article, she believed that too much screen time was detrimental to my well-being and would firmly boot me outside to go play in the sunlight. Granted, I was much more “addicted” to reading, and she had larger problems prying books out of my hands when it came time to focus elsewhere, but…at the end of the day, one of the things I’ve noticed when comparing myself with friends of mine who did avidly play video games is the extreme difference in technological skills that we carried out of childhood. My friends who were gamers did much better in the STEM areas than I ever did, and have largely chosen professions that utilize technologies that quite frankly I can’t even begin to understand. And again, that was over twenty years ago, so I can only imagine what might happen to child today who is denied access to technology. As Bennett, Maton and Kervin state in their article on digital natives: “Immersion in this technology-rich culture is said to influence the skills and interests of digital natives in ways significant for education” (Bennett, Maton and Kervin, 2008). If digital technology is the wave of the future, the children who will succeed will be those who are comfortable with that technology and understand how to use and create it.

Marc Presnky’s article on digital natives starts with the quote “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach” (Prensky, 2001). I think this is extremely true. The sister of a friend I grew up with recently began high school. Her school required all incoming freshmen to have Mac laptops. Would this have happened even ten years ago? Probably not. My own elementary school now teaches classes on how to use the internet, on internet safety, and incorporates that discussion into regular coursework. Students use Twitter to talk to others all over the world, and introduce video-making and social media into their arsenal of regular classroom tools. They do this because:

If we want the children of today to continue to be learners tomorrow, we need to help them develop a sense of themselves as competent learners who can function in diverse settings. In order to accomplish this goal, the Lower School curriculum exposes children to different approaches in learning, enhances their awareness of their own individual learning styles, and aids them in discovering that there are many resources for information and knowledge, both within and outside of school. (The Columbus Academy, Lower School)

Can the internet save the world? I think the Egyptian Revolution is a good example of how the internet can cause drastic change for both good and ill. A Wired article about the Egyptian Uprising and social media says: “Did social media like Facebook and Twitter cause the revolution? No. But these tools did speed up the process by helping to organize the revolutionaries, transmit their message to the world and galvanize international support” (Gustin, 2011).

We can certainly argue over the politics and whether we believe what happened in Egypt was right or wrong…but think about that: The fact that common people were able to use a tool like Twitter to help an actual revolution take place. That is no small thing.

In the long run, are the Egyptians better off? I’m sure that only someone living in Egypt right now could even begin to give you that sort of answer. The Wired article makes a good point though, social media and other digital technology is a tool, a tool that is still being used by humans, which we all know are capable of great good and great evil. So while these tools can cause wonderful things, they can also cause terrible things. Globalization, which I believe to be one of the major things that digital technology is ensuring will happen, can be both good and bad. It can bring jobs, communication and assistance to those who need it; it can also take them away.

The protests at Standing Rock are a good example of this as well. It seems like most mainstream media is refusing to cover the protests, but Facebook has allowed continual information and communication to spread. The fact that journalists who are covering the action are being arrested, point to social media becoming a safer, more efficient way of covering future revolutions.

But am I skeptical? Of course. We are only in the beginning of the digital world. Even if we consider technology that was developed in the World War eras of the mid twentieth century, we have not yet even ventured for a century into this new world of technology. In the span of human history, that is a mere drop in the bucket.

I think there’s a huge reason that dystopian futures are so popular right now. People can obviously see the possibilities of a world brought about by technologies with devastating effects, effects we cannot predict.

But I am hopeful. I think that technology gives us the capabilities to do things that we have never imagined before. I think I will see the types of change in my lifetime that my grandparents couldn’t even dream about.

What will these drastic changes in our technological landscape bring? Only time will tell.

 

References:

Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The digital natives debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786.

Gustin, S. (2011). Social Media Sparked, Accelerated Egypt’s Revolutionary Fire. Wired.

https://www.wired.com/2011/02/egypts-revolutionary-fire/

Lower School. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2016, from

http://www.columbusacademy.org/Page/Academics/Lower-School

Kardaras, N. (2016). It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies. New York Post.

http://nypost.com/2016/08/27/its-digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/

Plowman, L., & McPake, J. (2013). Seven myths about young children and technology. Childhood Education, 89(1), 27.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, Digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

Toffler, A. (1970). Future shock. New York: Random House.

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Google, Digitization, Internet Privacy and the Library

I thought a good way of opening this blog is through discussing one of our first assignments: we watched the film, Google and the World Brain and were asked several different questions that we could choose to answer.

Through their ‘Google Books’ project, Google wants to digitize the world’s books and work to create H.G. Well’s idea of the world brain. (If you would like to read more about Wells and the idea of the world brain, you can check this article out.) The film takes a look at Google’s interactions with university and other academic libraries, exploring the legalities, fears and possible outcomes of Google’s digitization project and its effect on libraries, publishers, authors and other book concerns. Just because we have the technology to digitize libraries, should we and how far should we go? And what concerns do we need to pay attention to?

In the film, we see Google first approach Harvard and ask to digitize their collections, which is an expensive and time consuming process which most libraries can’t afford. Harvard jumped right in and joined the project, as did several other libraries, despite many of the red flags: Google did not seek copyright permission from publishers and authors, and eventually a lawsuit was brought to bear on Google. In contrast, many libraries opposed the project and started their own digitization projects in response.

The question I decided to discuss deals with internet privacy and technology. “The issue of online privacy is a major theme in this film.  What do you think of the comment that if people don’t like the privacy policies of a particular technology, then they should retreat: go hide in the mountains? Is that a real option in our society?  Why are people worried about privacy? Are these concerns valid? What problems do these issues create for information professionals?”

In watching this film, My attention was caught by this comment, made by Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine. There is a certain level of blind arrogance in this comment that shows an unwillingness to really recognize and study the privacy issues at hand. I do not believe that anyone involved in the information age has the option of simply opting out of a technology. We are constantly surrounded by technology: there is no escaping it in the modern, American, world. I can’t think of a single job that does not require the use of some form of technology: I’ve seen statistics that show that a good majority of Americans use smartphones in one form or another. The Pew Research Center reports that:

  • 90% of American adults own a cell phone
  • 32% of American adults own an e-reader
  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer

These are not small numbers, and the data shows that most of our population relies in one form or another on technology to connect them to the rest of the world.

What really shocked me was the source of this statement:  the co-founder of Wired Magazine, someone who would certainly have an interest in copyright and use of the work he makes available to his readership. Technology is inescapable, and just because it is a requirement of daily life does not mean that we should have to sacrifice our private lives to enjoy it.

As librarians, we are invested in making information available to everyone. I think we saw that in how the Harvard libraries reacted when Google first approached them with this idea of Google Books: excitement over the tools to digitize their massive collections, which libraries are often unable to do because of the various issues discussed. I was personally shocked that they so willingly decided to allow Google to scan their books, and I was somewhat relieved that the Director of the French National Library, Jean-Noël Jeanneney, had the same reaction I had. How did the Harvard libraries not see the possible outcome of a digitization project of this level without the legalities hammered out beforehand? In my current professional position in Acquisitions at a large ARL library, one of the larger parts of my job is dealing with licensing issues during the purchase books and other library materials. Just because we make our materials available to the public does not mean that we lose sight of copyright issues and publisher requirements. As a writer and artist myself, I was horrified when Kevin Kelly stated that “artists do not own their ideas” (@45:00). This statement in fact blatantly contradicts the U. S. Copyright Act of 1976.

I might confess to having a cursh on Jean-Noël Jeanneney after watching this film.

I might confess to having a crush on Jean-Noël Jeanneney after watching this film.

When one librarian was asked what he thought about the possibility of Google profiting from the digitization of the books they scanned from that particular library, his face registered complete shock and he couldn’t think of what to say. He finally fell back on the legal agreement his library made with Google that stated that he couldn’t discuss those sorts of details.

Privacy issues are of extreme concern when we are looking at corporations like Google and Facebook. Google may say they have grand ideals, but at the end of the day, they are a for-profit corporation. There is nothing to stop them from handing over vast quantities of personal information when someone (anyone) offers them enough financial incentive to do so. The government absolutely does not need to know what books I am reading (or anything else I am doing). The fact that Google seems willing to gloss over the possible use of this information is a huge red flag.

Google simply does not understand books as anything other than a profit-making asset. The idea of “Leaves of Grass” originally being filed under the subject heading ‘Gardening’ is both hilarious and tragic at the same time. Why should we put such important archival work into the hands of corporations that do not have the academic integrity to understand what they are actually doing? As someone in the film said, Google has these great ideas and implements them without thinking of the possible consequences of their actions. I see one of my roles as Librarian as not simply making the information available, but to do so in a responsible way so that the people that need that information can find it and use it without forgetting where that information came from. Jaron Lanier said: ““Copyright is our way of remembering who those people are” and that “cyber culture is missing the point of copyright” (@45:30). Copyright is not an outdated issue; it is a something that we as librarians have a responsibility to understand and help others understand so that they can use it in furthering the work that has already been done. Copyright is not dead. In fact in an age of instant transmission of information, it becomes an even greater issue.

I am very glad that Judge Chin ruled against the original settlement. Privacy is a major concern in today’s world and what we decide to do with it now will affect all of our future generations who are not being exposed to this technology for the first time.

Judge Denny Chin.

Judge Denny Chin.

As a writer and artist myself, copyright exists for a reason. I may be building on the ideas of those who came before me, but just like those who came before, I deserve recognition for the work that I am adding to the canon. And just like Google, I too make money from my work. While most authors and artists love what they do, they also publish their work for the revenue it generates. We aren’t in this simply for the fun of it, we also have bills to pay.

One of the first lessons we are taught as college students is citation and the importance of not plagiarizing the work of other authors. The consequences of plagiarism are extreme and can result in being kicked out of schools or permanently having our academic records blemished. Google seems to have gone with the theory that they are too big to be punished in a similar manner. Thankfully it seems that this is not the case.

Friends of mine are often shocked to hear how expensive ebooks are for libraries to purchase. They don’t realize that we have to choose user licenses and make agreements with the publishers on how the ebook will be used. While on average I might pay around $35 for a physical book, if I buy a multi-user license for the same book, I might pay anywhere from $125 and $350 for the same title. At the same time, unlike use of the physical book, I have no guarantee that this title will always be available. The publisher can yank that title off their platform at any time and we will not receive any money back for that title. The physical book is permanent; the ebook is definitely not.

And I can’t even blame publishers for their strict control over their titles. Google’s blatant refusal to acknowledge copyright and the legalities of digitization shows they have a right to fear for the loss of control over the content they are spending massive amounts of money to produce.

The Hachette/Amazon dustup over ebooks is another good example. Hachette argued with Amazon over whether or not they, the publisher, has the right to set their own prices on their ebooks. A New York times article stated: “What began as a spat between supplier and retailer — completely routine, Amazon said — soon became a public standoff. Depending on where you stood, it was a struggle between the future and the past, the East Coast and the West Coast, culture and commerce, the masses and the elite, technologists and traditionalists, predator and prey.”

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/isbnsnet-allows-book-buyers-to-avoid-amazon-vs-hachette-saga-261239931.html

As librarians I think we have a duty to make knowledge freely available to everyone, but I think we also have to pay attention to copyright and the bigger picture aspects of disseminating information. We need to educate our patrons on current copyright issues, and keep our communities informed on the latest news and updates on issues like personal privacy and security. We also need to realize that taking the easy way out when it is offered to us is not the right way to go. We need to digitize our collections properly and take the time and spend the money we need to ensure that our information is preserved in the best way possible.

About a year ago the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article titled “A Good, Dumb Way to Learn from Libraries.” The author expressed dismay at the unwillingness of libraries to release their user data and statistics. Each year our libraries collect huge amounts of data about how our information is used and we do not publish that information outside of very specific library groups like the ALA and ACRL. Of course we use this information to determine how to improve the informational resources we provide our patrons, but as this article points out, many people are extremely upset by the refusal of libraries to release this data due to privacy concerns. This author seems to think that we are “crippled” by our unwillingness to release this data. I think that in this digital age people are unwilling to take a deeper look at privacy concerns and really examine the sheer amount of data that is collected from even simple user statistics. One of the reasons I am so happy to pursue this particular career path is because of the code of ethics that the ALA maintains: “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”

As the author of the article points out: “Library search engines could be tuned to what’s shown itself to be relevant to their communities. Researchers could explore usage patterns over time and across disciplines, schools, geographies, and economies. Libraries could be guided in their acquisitions by what they’ve learned from the behavior of communities around the corner and around the globe” (Weinberger). This author seems to think that this information could just make everything infinitely better, but like Kevin Kelly, this author also seems to blindly refuse to acknowledge the possible outcomes of this invasion of privacy.

I think we are at a very pivotal moment of the information age. It is absolutely vital that we do not ignore privacy concerns and continue to stand up and say no to this seemingly unthinking need for whatever information anyone can get their hands on. I like the thought that one of the ways we can do this as librarians is by keeping our patrons informed and provide the training on how to do that. I also think that it is very important that we as librarians continue to stand up for privacy issues and to continually remind people that privacy is a fundamental right.

Introduction to the Library Ghoul!

Hi Everyone! I just started my MLIS at Pittsburgh University. I am going to use this blog to explore the issues that we examine in class, post assignments for those classes and generally discuss the things that interest me about library issues. Hopefully in the long run, I can turn this blog into a tool I use throughout my professional career.

Privacy is a huge concern of mine. I think online portfolios and resumes are amazing! But not necessarily for me at the moment. I have unfortunately learned the hard way that privacy is a very important issue and that putting certain information out there can be really harmful. So I’ll keep my real identity secret and simply introduce myself under my library persona, Library Ghoul! There have always been monsters in the Stacks and I am simply one of them! (My real name will crop up here and there, but just like Batman’s real identity, hopefully you can all happily ignore it and realize that Library Ghoul is much cooler anyway!)

I’ve been working in libraries for years. I started out shelving and assisting the librarians in my middle school and high school libraries and moved on to become a student aid for my undergraduate science library. When I graduated, I managed the reference desk for the main library of my alma mater and worked with faculty and students to help facilitate the research they needed. I liaised with librarians and other library staff members to ensure our patrons had the best research help possible and oversaw student staff members, in turn teaching them how to aid others with their research needs. I oversaw the care of the reference collection and assisted in the student computer and printing labs. I gained valuable knowledge of library databases, research methods and technology.

When the economy took a hit in 2005, I moved to the Government Documents department, which existed within the education library. There I processed all incoming gov docs and managed the circulation desk for the education and audiovisual collections. This is where I was introduced to technical services, cataloging, OCLC, sudoc numbers and many other valuable aspects of the more technical aspects of library work. I also got to continue working with patrons and oversaw a large, always wonderful collection of student workers.

I also got to have a lot of fun with our materials. I got to use gov docs to prove that there really might be something to Abraham Lincoln killing vampires…

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Government Document Display

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Government Document Display

I saw that the government contemplated a lot of really interesting issues:

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Good to know that piracy on the high seas is still going strong…

And I enjoyed the fact that the government puts out a lot of really ridiculous and fun things for the kid in all of us, like coloring books. (Who knew the gov had a sense of humor?) I used to make copies and have coloring contests during exam weeks when the undergrads were stressed and needed a break! This was one of my favorites:

Don't do drugs, kids!

Don’t do drugs, kids!

When the economy finally hit rock bottom for my university, I took a job at a state university in my home town managing the circulation desk for the law library. This was a completely new experience! We were the only law library open to the public after hours and I never knew who would walk through the door! We had supreme court justices, lawyers, activists, faculty, students and just normal, everyday people who needed help with legal research. I learned many new skills and worked closely with faculty on their individual research. I also got to contemplate issues that I had never taken seriously before!

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The law library was a great experience, but unfortunately I fell in love. Yup, that’s right, library nerds have deathless romance stories too! My love interest lived in New Orleans and in 2011 I moved to this amazing city and became the acquisitions coordinator for one of the big, fancy universities down here. I currently manage five full time staff members and work with the librarians and administration to oversee an eight million dollar materials buying budget. I deal with licensing issues, e-resources and anything else that is a part of the purchasing process. I work closely with cataloging, database management and the electronic resources librarian. Acquisitions is the beginning of the life cycle of any library material and I am pleased that I get to play such an active role in building the collections of such a cool place.

Also, I get to spend large sums of money on the types of things I would love to buy for myself, but could never afford.

This is $60,000 worth of facsimiles, which are available for anyone to look at in our special collections!

This is $60,000 worth of facsimiles, which are available for anyone to look at in our special collections!

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Ediciones Vigia are some of my favorite purchases. They are handmade in Cuba by a women's collective and the money raised goes to help them.

Ediciones Vigia are some of my favorite purchases. They are handmade in Cuba by an artists’ collective who focus on re-purposing materials.

Last year I graduated with my M.A. in English Literature and I knew that it was finally time to pursue my MLIS. I got into a lot of great schools, but the University of Pittsburgh seemed to be the best choice out of all of them! I am super excited to embark on this degree and look forward to continuing to pursue this really amazing career.

In my spare time, I love to costume and parade. I am personally interested in mythology, folklore and magic and spend personal time researching all of the above.

Shhhhhh! Here’s where my real identity comes in! While I haven’t done a lot of presenting and writing in the library world, I have a little here and there. If you’re interested:

Cuthbertson, William, Lauren DeVoe and Ashley Jones. “Displaying Our History: Miami University Celebrates its FDL Centennial with Rich Displays.Docs Prescriptions 71(2009): 10-12. Print.

DeVoe, Lauren. “The Good, the Bad and the Unread Presentation.” Charleston Acquisitions Conference. The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC. 8 Nov. 2014. Poster Presentation. – https://thegooodthebadtheunread.wordpress.com/

Thesis: DeVoe, Lauren. Erichtho’s Mouth: Persuasive Speaking, Sexuality and Magic. MA Thesis. University of New Orleans, 2015. – http://scholarworks.uno.edu/td/2020/

If you want to contact me about anything, please email me at libraryghoul@gmail.com!