Friday, May 30, 2008

Red Baron Hotwheels and Accessories

I've been pondering what I posted last week and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with my conclusion. I wrote:
Maybe that's what we should do with all the cool stuff we have in special collections -- create the containers for the toys and allow our players to spill the stuff out on the floor and let them dream new things into existence.
Its the "creating containers" part of that post that's still bugging me -- what's the difference between creating a container and building a tree-house? Not much. Its creepy. So I need a different image.

But I kind of like the toy theme (special collection items as toys), so let me play around a bit. Lynne Thomas wrote in comment to my last post:
At least we have the old, cool materials to entice them . . . but I wonder if that comes across as creepy? Where is the line between friendly and creepy?
Good question and it reminds me of something related. Not to mix the toy image with television, but . . . are members of the Addams Family friendly or creepy? Remember the lyrics to the opening song?

They're creepy and they're kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They're all together ooky,
The Addams Family.

Their house is a museum
Where people come to see 'em
They really are a scream
The Addams Family.


So get a witches shawl on
A broomstick you can crawl on
We're gonna pay a call on
The Addams Family.

How about the Munsters? (Both shows debuted within a week of each other, in 1964, according to IMDB.)

Maybe the image I'm thinking of is more along the lines of an accessory. (Not the kind of accessory that Sid Phillips, that nasty kid next door, had in mind in "Toy Story" -- or maybe so -- its an interesting cross-over with Pugsley Addams (or Uncle Fester) -- but I digress. At the same time, note this little bit of trivia from the IMDB site: "Sid Phillips is said to be inspired by a former Pixar employee of the same last name who was known to disassemble toys and use the parts to build bizarre creations." Isn't that what we do with mash-ups? But back to the toys for a moment.

When my brother and I were kids we collected Hot Wheels cars. Now, Hot Wheels cars begged to be accessorized. First we had the cars (which we ran down old carpet tubes or across the floor). But then we needed to buy the special track for the cars. And the clamp and starting gate to attach the track to a table or chair (for the necessary height so that gravity could power the car down the track). And then there were the special curves that attached to the track. And then there were the double curves so you can run the cars in an oval or figure-eight. But to do that you needed something called a "supercharger" because once you closed the system, i.e. didn't have a long length of track to just run out on using gravity, you needed some way to keep the car running around and around the closed loop of track. And of course, you needed somewhere to store your cars. The accessorizing from Mattel went on and on (and on; they learned a lot from Barbie).

Anyway, to get us back to the point, maybe what we're about is accessorizing our special collections and rarities. We're expanding the field of play, or allowing our "toys" to do more than they were maybe initially designed for. We're not building new containers. We're not creeping people out with our treehouses. We're just adding tracks and curves and superchargers so we (and our players) can have more fun. We're just taking all our cool stuff "to infinity, and beyond."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Creepy Treehouses

Barbara Fister had an interesting post the other day on the ACRLog. The topic was a new tech term she'd come across--"creepy treehouse." She defined the term this way:

A creepy treehouse is a place built by scheming adults to lure in kids. Kids tend to sense there’s something creepy about that treehouse and avoid it. Hence, a new definition: “Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards.”

It’s an interesting take on that vaguely unsettled response we sometimes get from students when we try to be too cool, try too hard to seem fun and playful, when we make familiar toys unpalatably “educational.” Setting up an outpost in an attractive playspace with an ulterior motive is just . . . creepy.

That got me to wondering. . . what sites have I created (along with my colleagues) that might fit the creepy treehouse model? At the same time, in the same post, Barbara also brings in the notion of play.

[W]e learn by playing, and at its best, our learning is play. . . . Maybe the library itself is a place for that form of play, once students get clued into the fact they can join the conversation. Then we won’t have to build a creepy treehouse to entice them in.

The nub of the issue, as I read Barbara's post, was kind of a combination of "where do we play?" and a "Field of Dreams" notion of "if you build it, they will come." What created the "creepy treehouse" reaction was when the built environment got pushed to the student, as in the example Barbara gave of Blackboard Sync pushing readings and assignments into Facebook space. Happily, in my quick review of web sites I'm responsible for, I didn't find any examples of content being pushed out to students, into spaces that are their own. But I'm still wondering. . .

So what's a good model, instead of the creepy treehouse? For me, I'm thinking Tinkertoys, or Legos, or Lincoln Logs, or Erector Sets--all the toys my brother and I had as kids that provided hours of fun, hours of play and creativity. (We never had a treehouse, but loved to climb in trees.) We built things (and destroyed things) and had fun doing it, all because we could open the box (or the large can), spill the pieces onto the floor, look at all the possibilities, and dream something into existence. Maybe that's what we should do with all the cool stuff we have in special collections--create the containers for the toys and allow our players to spill the stuff out on the floor and let them dream new things into existence. And maybe we shouldn't worry about the stuff getting mixed up now and then. Every once in a while my brother and I would launch pieces of Lincoln Logs into our Lego creations to see how they stood up. Maybe we should allow that same sense of playfulness--and testing--in our own spaces. We might even has some fun in the process.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Artist's Books (or Artists' Books)

Yesterday I participated in a very interesting meeting with some colleagues from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and Carleton College. The purpose of our meeting was basically to come up with "who, what, where, when, how & why" ideas and thoughts related to planning a symposium around the themes or threads of curricular connections, book artists, and institutional collectors. We're looking for those unexpected connections between artist's books, the classroom, and the library. There were lots of ideas and thoughts flowing around the table and I've continued to ponder our discussions.

This image, by the way, is from The Book of Ruth: King James Version published by Sutton Hoo Press in 2002. "100 copies were printed from hand set Lutetia types by C.M. Oness with engravings by Ladislav Hanka." We have most, if not all, of Sutton Hoo Press books in our collection. While not an artist's book according to most (if not all) definitions (Sutton Hoo defines itself as "a literary fine press"), it is a beautiful work of the book arts (and an image that I am fond of and had readily at hand).

Another image (here at the left, also readily at hand, and probably more in line with the accepted definition), comes from Harriet Bart's work Poetry of Chance Encounters. We are delighted to have her work in our collection. One of her commissioned works, Cento, is in Walter Library on the East Bank campus of the University of Minnesota. If you ever have the chance, I would encourage a visit to view the work. It is wonderful!

One of the big questions is what do we mean by artists' books? The Wikipedia article is a start towards the answer to that question and gives a straightforward defintion: "Artists' books (also called bookworks) are works of art realized in the form of a book. They are usually published in small editions, though sometimes they are one-of-a-kind objects. Artists' books have employed a wide range of forms, including scrolls, fold-outs or loose items contained in a box. Although artists have been active in printing and book production for centuries, the artist's book is primarily a 20th century form." The full article is worth a look.

At the core of our discussions yesterday was the question "how do you use an artist's book?" It is a complex question framed, for our purposes, within the context of academic institutions. Maybe not surprisingly, the question itself came up towards the end of our meeting, after we had talked a lot about other things.

For much of the meeting, I was trying to get a sense of the landscape and the folks interacting on that landscape. For the moment, let me simply list some of the places and people that crossed my radar. I'm sure I'll be revisiting a number of these places later on and adding to my list.

One resource is Artists' Books Online. According to their web site, the mission of the site "is designed to promote critical engagement with artists books and to provide access to a digital repository of metadata, scans, and commentary. The project serves several different communities: artists, scholars and critics, librarians and curators, and interested readers. ABsOnline operates as an online collection with curatorial guidelines established by an advisory board of professionals. Founded in 2004 ABsOnline is an ongoing project hosted at the University of Virginia under the direction of Johanna Drucker and with assistance from staff and interns working with the University Library and its units in digital scholarship. Anyone interested in participating in the project should contact us directly for guidelines on submissions."

Another player on the field is The Press at Colorado College. On their site is a bit of background, including this: "The Press at Colorado College, founded by Jim Trissel in 1978, is a letterpress printshop dedicated to the art of making limited edition books and broadsides. Under Trissel’s guidance, The Press became one of the finest letterpresses in the country, producing stunningly beautiful books on a variety of subjects, from 'Color for the Letterpress' to 'Twelve Mammal Skulls,' to 'A Selection of Poems by Helen Hunt Jackson and Emily Dickinson' and 'Silence,' the latter considered one of the most beautiful books ever made. Over the years the Press has published work by some of the best writers in the English language. Since Trissel’s death, The Press has continued its work under the supervision of Brian Molanphy, Chris Forsythe, and Colin Frazer."

Someone else of interest is Ruth Rogers, Special Collections librarian at Wellesley College. In 1995 Ruth helped organize ABC: The Artists' Books Conference at Wellesley. The panels and speakers page is of particular interest (Betty Bright is part of our committee). Artists' books have also been a subject of discussion at RBMS preconferences. There were a number of other folks mentioned as possible resources or participants. Please feel free to drop me a note or make a comment if you have other people or resources that should be kept in mind.

There's lots more that we talked about, some of if the kind of nuts and bolts stuff you need to put together a successful event. We're looking at having this sometime in the Spring of 2009, probably late April or early May. We're trying to make sure we don't conflict with other events scheduled at MCBA or with the FABS conference planned for later in May. MCBA will be the likely venue for the event, probably a day and a half symposium starting either Thursday or Friday evening. Given the three threads of curriculum, artist and institutional collector the main audience will probably be faculty, artists, and librarians connected in some way with colleges and universities in the Midwest. One of the possible outcomes of the event that we discussed was some kind of curricular design, a recipe that could be taken home to another institution and tried out or experimented with, that actively engages artists' books and students. Another possible outcome would be to collect case studies of how artists' books are currently used in the curriculum. Yet another outcome might be a greater understanding of how and why academic institutions collect artists' books and provide access to them, through individual study, classes, exhibits, or online. In the end, there were a number of other questions that might be explored in this setting.

For the moment, however, I need to put my pondering aside and go look for Betty Bright's book No Longer Innocent : Book Art in America : 1960-1980. I've got some reading to do.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Clay Shirky at Web 2.0 Expo

When you're a newbie to this stuff, as I know I am, you have the sense that there's a lot of unpacking to do, or a lot of catching up with the curve, or. . . whatever. You get the gist. And so in my case, I'm spending a bit of time, here and there, tracking stuff down (kind of like I feel about my reading--I hated to read as a kid and now that I like reading, I'm constantly playing catch-up to get to to the stuff I should have read a long time ago). All of which is to say, I'm probably going to play catch-up (a lot) with some of these posts or at least track things down to the point where they make some sense to me (and maybe to you). We'll see. Feel free to skip if all of this is old news to you.

So, I see this comment on Peter Brantley's Twitter site: "clay's web 2.0 talk nice short sweet - make every librarian or publishers listen." I take that as a challenge, and so follow the link to clay's talk. First of all, I'm wondering, "who's Clay?" Turns out, its Clay Shirky. I still don't know who he is, but I've got the link and follow it. But first, before following any links, I watch the video. Here it is:

What did I take away from Clay's talk that might have some bearing on working in the world of special collections & rare books? (A question I'll probably repeat again and again as I find new stuff.) First, there was a great quote I snatched from his talk: "Media that's targeted at you, but doesn't include you, may not be worth sitting still for." We probably do a whole lot of targeting. Or maybe we just make people sick. (We "throw up" content on the web--a terrible way to describe what we do--especially if you've ever been sick with the flu). But we don't give them the chance to interact with that content, to collaborate on the content, to produce something new and useful.

That brings me to the second takeaway from Clay's talk: this concept of the cognitive surplus. Time is not an issue. How time is used, is. Gin was the response in the 19th century; the sitcom was the response in the 20th. Given the orders of magnitude Clay mentioned in his talk, there are enormous possibilities to share, produce, and consume new kinds of information or products (instead of watching another episode of CSI).

How might this play out in our own situations? For example, I have a couple of web pages that include scanned images and metadata for medieval manuscript leaves. As they're currently presented, there's no easy way for people to collaborate on those leaves, to add new content (translations, provenance, notes, etc.) except for them to send me an e-mail with their suggested content and then for me to ponder, edit, or whatever the fruits of their labors before I put it up on the web. Its a mediated situation that works, but maybe it could work better. To use another image from Clay's talk, people want to know where the mouse is. They want to be able to interact with the material, to be included in the material. Now, maybe we're nervous about a totally un-mediated situation. So, maybe we look for a middle way, something that might limit the community of participants, but still opens it up to a greater level of participation and production than is currently available.

Maybe we do something similar with photograph collections. Instead of spending a lot of time fussing around with metadata, we post the images and let people have at it. I don't know. Since I'm from the Hawkeye Pierce school of meatball surgery (as it might apply to archives and libraries), I tend to want to get the basics done at then pass the patient off to someone else who can attend to the niceties of care and recovery. (Maybe I'm just mixing too many metaphors here!)

In any event, I think Shirky's on to something here, something worth exploring in the production and sharing of things special and rare. A "lightly edited" transcript of his talk is here.

More From Peter Brantley

Just went checking through some links and stuff I've accumulated over the last week or so and came across Peter Brantley's presentation on slideshare that he gave for the U of M Libraries folks. Peter's slides sometimes work as a bit of shorthand (its not your regular presentation--keeps you on your toes), but I think folks can get most, if not all, of what he's driving at. I picked up most of the points in an earlier post, but thought this might be a helpful link as well.

I've been monitoring Pete's Twitter traffic as well and may have another link to point to (after I get done watching it.)

Signature Statements

My colleague, Lynne Thomas, special collections librarian at Northern Illinois University, had an interesting post on her blog the other day, that picks up a thread from Steven Bell's piece on the ACRLog on the question "What's Your Signature Statement." I'd like to continue that thread (also, check out the comments to Steven's post for other takes on his challenge).

Steven defines a signature statement in the same terms as a chef's signature dish, drawing his inspiration from the TV reality show "Hell's Kitchen." Steven writes:
Without going into great detail about Hell’s Kitchen just know that in the first episode each aspiring chef must prepare and present his or her signature dish - which Gordon Ramsey promptly trashes in the most humiliating fashion possible. Nearer to the end of the show the surviving two contestants usually prepare their signature dish for a panel of food experts in one of their final competitions. A chef’s signature dish, according to Ramsey, defines the chef. It sums up in a single presentation all their skills, and expresses their creativity and accumulated experience. The signature dish says “this is who I am”.
The challenge, from Steven, is this:

So my humble proposal is that academic librarians should develop their own signature statement that provides insight into the distinctive characteristics that define them as a librarian. To guide you, consider [Robert J.] Thomas’ definition: a phrase or sentiment that serves as a source of inspiration that guides both the heart and the mind.
So, what is my signature statement? Such a statement comes, I think, from two sources. The first source is from a series of exchanges between Faramir and Sam Gamgee in one of my favorite books (and movies), The Lord of the Rings. The exchange concerns "quality." Faramir, at one point in the story, is tempted to take the great ring of power from Frodo, but avoids the temptation and, instead, assists and counsels Frodo and Sam on their mission to destroy the ring. Sam, in response to Faramir's actions, says "you have shown your quality, sir - the very highest," to which Faramir responds: "The Shire must truly be a great realm, Master Gamgee, where gardeners are held in high honor."

The second source is from another of my favorite books, Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. A few quotes from the book (not to minimize the lengthy and wonderful discussions of the book, but to give some flavor):

"But even though Quality cannot be defined, you know what Quality is!"

"Quality is not a thing. It is an event."

"Quality is what you see out of the corner of your eye. . ."

Those two sources argue more for a sentiment (Pirsig might argue with such a connection with Quality) as opposed to a statement. I have no statement that defines me as a librarian (or a human being). Rather, who I am and what I do is wrapped up, in some way, with Quality--something that is shown, something that is known, and yet something seen out of the corner of your eye, in a great realm, where gardeners are held in high honor. And maybe (to add another element from another of my favorite authors, with a slightly different twist) in that moment or understanding (or 'gardening'), we are surprised by joy.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Holmes and Doyle Bibliography

Here's a piece I wrote for the March issue of the "Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections" newsletter (with a few extra bits thrown in through the links).

"In summer it is a favourite resort of the people, but in winter it is desolate enough." (Valley of Fear)

The land of ten thousand lakes is in the midst of what might be characterized as a "typical" winter. The obligatory January thaw has come and gone, Alberta "clippers" have dusted the landscape, while International Falls secured its title as the nation's "icebox." In the midst of these whiteouts, sub-zero nights, and muffled waits for the morning bus the work of the Collections has continued. The winter, while desolate to some, provides its own sort of invigoration to the keeper of these collections. We, like the Post Office, have followed the creed that "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" stays us from our appointed rounds.

One of those rounds has been the rather interesting project of updating Ronald B. De Waal's Universal Sherlock Holmes bibliography, in the form of what we call, in shorthand, The Supplement. I've noted in the introduction to this work, now posted on our web site in ten volumes (in the portable document format—PDF), that this bibliography is a work in progress, does not claim to be exhaustive in content, that new works are continually discovered and added, and that readers and researchers are invited to suggest additional content. I have worked on this project for at least a year and there's still much to add. I've been aided by Peter Blau, Les Klinger, Fred Levin, Don Hobbs and many of you who have sent in suggested items for inclusion. Randall Stock and Gary Thaden offered helpful suggestions on improving the structure and form of the bibliography. It has been a joyful, collaborative effort. Thank you for the assistance you've offered!

Generally speaking, I update the bibliography every month, adding about two hundred periodical citations and another hundred monograph citations. All told, there are now about 6,100 citations covering the period 1994 to the present. The bibliography is organized both alphabetically by author and by subject headings. A gradual effort is being made to bring the bibliography into conformity with the organizational structure of De Waal's original work, using his subject structure. Also, since last August, I've posted monthly updates on the web site so that researchers and interested parties can see, at a glance, what has been added each month. As of January, these updates include both book and periodical article additions. One major difference between the original bibliography and this supplement is that I've tried to capture the "passing references" to Doyle and Holmes as well as the core materials. One might argue whether or not this is a worthy addition, but I've found it very interesting to see how the Master and the Literary Agent "pop up" in the general literature of our times. And I believe this will be of some use in future research. It provides evidence of how Holmes as a cultural icon is deeply embedded in the word and thought of modern times.

The bibliography continues to expand. At the moment, and with the help of Don Hobb's "Galactic Sherlock Holmes" bibliography of non-English translations of the Canon (and OCLC's WorldCat), more and more foreign material is being added. The Chinese material alone will probably occupy most of a coming month's addition. On top of that, I am contemplating creating another volume, with a separate listing of audio-visual material. I have already identified over a thousand entries, which are sitting in my database awaiting editing. Also, I have a large stack of materials provided by Karen Murdock on the scion societies that will occupy some of my time. And I continue to work my way through past issues of Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press to make sure I'm not missing anything. (I'm now up to 1999.) No doubt, other material will come my way in the near future that will add new depth and wrinkles to the bibliography. I'm also trying to go back and read (or skim) as much of the core material as possible, in order to provide a brief abstract of the article or book listed. This is a little more time consuming, but provides any number of pleasurable hours on the bus to and from work, or at home near the fire. I invite you to look at, and to use, this bibliographical supplement in your research and writing. And I'm always open to suggestions on how it might be improved.

When I've not been playing around with the Supplement, I've enjoyed getting out and about (or planning such gatherings in the future) and meeting with fellow travelers (or those with an interest in Holmes and the Collections). My time at the Birthday Festivities in New York, always a highlight of the year, was very enjoyable. This year seemed somewhat special, with the chance to have some longer, extended conversations with many of you, be it in the lobby of the Algonquin or over a meal. Thank you for those meaningful times, and for the joy of your company! In a few weeks I'll be speaking to one of the local Norwegian "torske" clubs about the Collections and in April I'll have the chance to address some University women about the Collections and our work. Before we know it, Spring will be here!

Finally, my continued thanks for the many gifts you continue to give to the Collections and its associated funds and endowments. Your giving brings us closer to our goal of an endowed curator's position and sustains the ongoing work of the Collections. May you find joy in the remaining clear, cold days of Winter and in the expectations of Spring.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Memories from Peter's Talk

I remembered two more things about Peter Brantley's talk as I was downtown waiting for my bus home.

The first was a very simple example involving whereby you find and buy products sold on Amazon using a mobile device. Pretty slick and pretty simple.

The second thing I remembered was another person Peter mentioned, and quoted during his presentation: Jan Chipchase (great name!). Jan's blog Future Perfect "is about the collision of people, society and technology, drawing on issues related to the design research that I conduct on behalf of my employer - Nokia." What Peter seemed to really like about Jan's work is how he travels to so many Third World places where the technology and the tools are used really hard and where its all boiled down to basics and priorities.

Peter noted that he used to be really careful citing all the web sites and blogs in his presentation, but that he doesn't do it any more. All he needs, he said, was a few pieces of the metadata, not the whole string. I think he's right. As I've poured over my memory from his talk this morning little bits and pieces keep popping up, and using those bits and pieces I've been able to reconstruct a lot of his presentation and note the significant items here. So here's another example--the one thing I couldn't remember, but really wanted to, that was driving me nuts--taken from a slide and story that I remembered Peter sharing this morning, a story from Jan. I couldn't remember the whole quotation, but I remembered some key words: Lhasa, rickshaw, Yak Hotel. I plugged those into Google, along with Jan's name, and I found the quote. Here it is:

A fortnight later and I’m huddled under the awning of a cycle rickshaw parked on the fringes of Lhasa’s Barkhor Square. The driver of the rickshaw is patiently explaining how Tibet has changed during his lifetime with a cheery demeanor that belies both his scant winter trade and his likely disposable income. It’s close to midnight and the traders selling incense, herbal remedies and prayer wheels to the devotional have left hours ago leaving the square deserted save for a light dusting of snow and a descending mist. A muffled ring tone can be heard under layers of clothes and he pulls off a glove, reaches into his coat, draws out a RAZR - his wife wants to know when he can be expected home. He drops me at the delightfully named Yak Hotel and cycles into the night.

I may remember more of Peter's talk, but I think I've squeezed out the most significant stuff. It's about people, communication, collaboration, and priorities. Now it's time to log off and go watch the last installment of "Carrier" on PBS. If you haven't had a chance to watch this, check out the web site for full episodes and clips. It's a very, very interesting documentary about life on board the U.S. carrier Nimitz.

Still Playing Around

I think the late Governor Elmer L. Andersen (for whom the library is named in which I work) would have been fascinated with Web 2.0 tools and the possibilities they present. In a couple of weeks we'll celebrate an anniversary associated with the life and work of Governor Andersen. Here's a bit from one of our web sites:

"What nobler purpose can there be for a University than to gather up the prizes of a culture--preserve them, propagate them, make them available--so that the best of what has gone before can be preserved and built on?"
-- Elmer L. Andersen

On May 14, 1999, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents unanimously voted to name the newest library facility in honor of former Governor Elmer L. Andersen. It was indeed a fitting tribute to a man who has been the most stalwart of friends to both the University and its Libraries for many years.

It is especially significant that a building housing the archives and special collections of the University Libraries be named for a man who has expressed his deep personal belief in the University's "Fourth Mission" in this way:

I've felt that the University has been a little lax in recognizing only three central missions: teaching, research and community service. They overlook a fourth mission -- an archival one. It falls to the universities in our culture -- and specifically to university libraries -- to preserve the sources of information, knowledge and culture, so they can be found and passed on.

I've been tinkering a bit with my blog and have added a few little wrinkles: links to interesting web sites and blogs, a link to my SlideShare site, and a Blogger logo. I've uploaded four presentations now to SlideShare and no doubt will add more in the future. All of which is another part of what Elmer wanted to happen--to make it possible for things to "be found and passed on."

Reminds me of a song. . .

Blogs Peter Brantley Referenced & Other Stuff

I'm scrathing my mind for some of the blogs that Peter mentioned in his talk. One was a blog by Hank Williams (not the musician) who is working on a new data and web development platform. His blog is Why Does Everything Suck.

Here's an interview with Peter on the Educause site.

Peter's SlideShare site.

Another of Peter's blogs at

Peter's Twitter site.

An Interesting Talk: Peter Brantley and the DLF

I just came from a very interesting talk given to the U of M Library staff by Peter Brantley, executive director of the Digital Library Federation. There was so much in his talk that I won't do it justice. Here is a summary; before the time (and my memory) slips away I wanted to try and capture a few of the ideas and thoughts that he gave us. Peter was in town for the DLF Spring Forum and the Libraries took advantage of his presence and brought him to campus for his presentation and interaction with the staff. Like I said, it was a very engaging talk with lots to think about. Peter's blog, by the way, is something I've just added to my rss feeds; I'm going to want to continue to read what he's got to say.

If Peter's talk could be summarized in one image, it was of two people sitting on a subway in Japan. The older man on the right, well-dressed, was reading a book. The younger man on the left, equally well-dressed, but in a different fashion, was reading his mobile phone. (I wish I had the image, but didn't make note of the photographer in his presentation). Anyway, this gets to the gist of his presentation, or at least one very big facet, that information needs to operate in a mobile world and not tied to a desktop. Most of what people want and need is (and will continue to be) coming to them through mobile devices. (Actually, I did remember the photographer in Peter's presentation: Joi Ito. A quick search of the web found his Flickr site and a quick search through his photostream found the image: "Generation Gap." Oh, man, was this just an instructive little bit of learning on the value of Web 2.0!!) Here's the picture:

This brings to mind a second major point that Peter made: people come first. It's not all about the content, it's about the people: the kinds of information they need, how they're using it, where they're using it, etc.

I'm kind of doing a data dump here (I wish I had taken notes!) to get through other elements in Peter's talk. Excuse the randomness. He started out talking about the kind of scientific data that's out there and how this data is created, manipulated, analyzed, etc. All kinds of data are there, from space probes and satellites to remote sensing devices on Earth. From there he went on to talk about virtual worlds and moving images. With moving images (video) the bar is lower in terms of entering into that data, of accessing it, than it is with text, and yet it offers a very rich and rewarding experience. In the case of virtual worlds, what is happening here, in a way, is a big huge mash-up with stuff in the VR and stuff in the Real World, so that you could be having a virtual experience (in 3-D) that is pulling in stuff from real world data to create an even richer experience and the allowance (in the case of space data) to move through spaces that would be impossible in the real world.

There were a number of video clips that were part of Peter's presentation. One, which combined the power of mobile devices with networks, was the ability to use a mobile phone to take video of a place or event. The video clip he showed was of someone traveling on a bus through Beijing, filming Tiananmen Square. He pointed out how this could be a powerful tool for someone working on human rights issues, or reporters in the field who, without lots of video equipment (and personnel) could clandestinely film important events as part of reporting a story and how this could go to the web in real time.

Another clip that Peter showed was how someone could walk into a store and take a picture on their phone of a DVD cover (in this case "Finding Nemo") and then send that photograph to a site that would recognize the visual image of the cover on the DVD case (even if the photography was not optimum) and then throw an e-mail back to the user with all kinds of information about "Finding Nemo" including a clip on YouTube, purchasing information, and lots of other info. This demo of a virtual search engine was done using an Apple iPhone, again pointing out the power of the mobile device to provide a person with information at the point of need (it's all about putting people first). Interesting, Peter also noted that ATT had not provisioned its own infrastructure to handle the huge growth in web traffic that was flowing back and forth with each iPhone. Here's the video that Peter shared with us on this demo of a virtual search engine.

Another clip that Peter shared with us was a conceptual design for a Nokia device called Morph. Here's the shorter version of that video from YouTube:

There's a lot more that Peter shared with us. This just scratches the surface. But it gives you some idea of how he wanted us to think beyond the walls of our libraries and wrestle with concepts that put people first and don't get all wrapped up in our content creation and associated tasks such as metadata.

That's probably enough of a brain dump for the moment. If other things pop back into my mind from this morning's presentation I'll post them here.