mamamusings: June 24, 2003

elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Tuesday, 24 June 2003

a radical process

I’m back from Toronto, and about to retrospectively blog some of the best sessions. But before I do, as a followup to my “women’s voices” post (which, as I predicted, has far more men’s voices than women’s), I’d like to thank xian for pointing me to Dan Spalding’s “An open letter to other men in the movement: Shut the Fuck Up (or, How to act better in meetings).”

This essay is about how men act in meetings. Mostly it’s about how we act badly, but it includes suggestions on how we can do better. Men in the movement reproduce patriarchy within the movement and benefit from it. By patriarchy I mean a system of values, behaviors, and relationships that keeps men in power. It relies on domination, claiming authority, and belligerence.


What’s to be done? I’ve come up with a little idea I like to call, “Shut the fuck up.” It goes as follows: Every time someone…

  • Says something you think is irrelevant,
  • Asks a (seemingly) obvious question,
  • Criticizes your proposal or makes a contradictory observation,
  • Makes a proposal
  • Asks a question, or
  • Asks for more input because there’s a brief lull in the discussion…
Shut the fuck up. It’s a radical process, but I think you’ll like it.

Along those lines, I’d like to thank all the men who didn’t post a response to “women’s voices”—including those who sent me private notes of support. :) You guys rock. Thanks for listening.

Posted at 2:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (2)
more like this: gender

ala conference: top tech trends panel

For the past several years, I’ve been mostly an in-name-only member of the Library & Information Technology Association’s “Top Technology Trend Experts.” Since I was actually at ALA this year, however, I participated in the panel discussion. The first time I did this, 4-5 years ago, it was a lot like a committee meeting, and there were more experts in the meeting room than audience members. This year, however, we filled our 300-person meeting room in the convention center, then opened the panels to the room next door and filled it, as well. Guess people are hungry for information on new technologies!

As predicted, there was no wifi to be found, so I didn’t bother bringing my computer. Instead, I took notes the old-fashioned way, on tiny pads of paper stolen from hotel meeting rooms.

The way the program works is each of the “trendspotters” participating gets 5-6 minutes to talk about what they see as the important or interesting technology trends in the library world, and then we answer questions, argue amongst ourselves, etc.

First to speak was Karen Coyle, from the California Digital Library project at UC. Not unexpectedly, she had one of the most radical suggestions for the audience…calling not just for the end of MARC cataloging (something others have been saying in library land lately), but for “the death of alphabetical order.” Given the power of current searching tools, she said, we don’t need to organize materials using predetermined or universal “known order.” Interesting food for thought. Not sure I agree, but it’s a great conversation starter!

Next up was public library consultant Joan Frye Williams. She talked about the way some public sites (I think she used a museum as an example) are “annotating” their physical spaces with information online, allowing people to combine physical and virtual “hunting and gathering” of information. That’s made easier by the number of people now “packing heat” in the form of portable electronic devices with wireless connectivity. The underlying trend she identified was the move towards information providers interfacing directly with user equipment—users no longer draw a line between the device and the content.

After Joan came Cliff Lynch, director of the Coalition for Networked Information. Cliff remarked on the impact of “last-mile” wireless changing network dynamics—the last mile used to be the most difficult, slowest piece, but WiFi changes that. He noted the change in Federal funding of science and technology infrastructure, which now includes a “third leg” of data curation and management—an obvious area for libraries to play a key role in. He ended by questioning the value of descriptive metadata (a bit of a sacred cow for libraries, for obvious reasons) because of the growing promise of computational linguistics for discovering information resources.

Cliff was followed by Walt Crawford, from RLG. Walt’s a member of a decade-old informal group I’m in that meets for dinner at each ALA conference. When he started talking, I started thinking about this year’s dinner, which got me distracted, and I missed his main points. :( Sorry, Walt! (I know you’re reading this, so I feel doubly bad about spacing out here. Feel free to supplement in the comments!) I did hear him toss off one line that stuck in my brain, however…it was when he awarded the “Deader than DIVX” award to eBook technology.

Next up was Tom Dowling from OhioLink. He talked about the power of Bayesian filtering for catching spam in email, and speculated about the use of such filters (“trainable” tools) for determining usefulness of search results. (Cliff noted later that this is in fact being looked at in some places…he didn’t say where.) He also talked about the growing need for libraries (and publishers who supply libraries) to do a better job on identifying, authenticating, and authorizing users of online resources. He suggested Shibboleth as a technology that libraries should explore.

I was next, and my two words to the audience were “decentralization” and “weblogs.” (Obviously, SuperNova 2003 is much on my mind these days!) Among other things, I talked about how the combination of decentralized (wifi-based) internet access and personal publishing through blogs can change the entire conference experience for attendees. After my presentation, I was approached about possibly doing a blog-related presentation at the Internet Librarian conference this fall in Monterey. Am hoping that will work out!

After me was my old friend—and the new LITA president—Tom Wilson from the University of Maryland. He followed up on Joan’s discussion of information provision to user devices by talking about the need to be aware of the increasingly smaller “window” onto content that these small devices offer and ensure that information services work in that environment. He then talked about the growth of “web services,” and encouraged librarians to think about what they’re actually “buying” when they get information in this form. Are they paying for the data? Or only for temporary access to that data? (This is an issue with electronic access generally. If you subscribe to a print journal, even if your subscription lapses you still retain the issues you purchased. With electronic resources, how can comparable persistent access be preserved?

The last speaker was Marshall Breeding, from Vanderbilt University. He talked about his perception that there’s nothing “new and exciting” happening in library automation these days. He sees this as a result of the trend towards more and more integration of functions into large-scale automated systems, and the library RFP process forcing vendors to replicate each other’s features rather than innovating. He also mentioned technologies like OpenURL and meta-searching as important things to watch in the library world.

Marshall’s comments led to a discussion among panel members about the possible need for integrated library systems to become less integrated and more modular, allowing for “plug and play” components from different vendors. This “dis-integration” of library systems is an interesting concept—it will be interesting to see whether it can happen. The relatively small size of the ILS market makes it fairly cut-throat; there’s not a lot of incentive for vendors to work in a way that allows their customers to use their competitors’ systems, even in part.

So, that’s my not-so-brief summary of the panel. Later tonight, or tomorrow, I’ll post impressions and information from the scholarly publishing presentation I attended yesterday; I know that’s one that several people are waiting for.

Posted at 5:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
more like this: librarianship
Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna