It is difficult to speak of the benefits or detractions of Web 2.0 applications in an abstract and theoretical way as I believe that their success or failure is greatly depended on the context of the library: it’s user base, the services its promoting, the other resources available etc.

I think it’s been stated ad nauseum, but it bears repeating, that the key to the success of social software depends on the library itself reaching out to the community (or whatever their base might be), understanding their needs and expectations. Ultimately social software is merely a means of improving an already communication in an already existing relationship between patrons and the library and not something to act in lieu of other forms of interaction.

I think that the main advantage of most of the social software applications (with the exception of social bookmarking in my opinion), is that the cost of failure is relatively low. I don’t think that any application requires an enormous amount of technical knowledge, staff time or money. That’s not to say that a library shouldn’t do research and planning before any kind of implementation but there really is no way of knowing whether what you do will take off or not except by experimenting and putting it out there.

I find myself sceptical about the benefits that applying digital game based learning (DGBL) or how virtual worlds, such as second life, can benefits libraries in the immediate circumstances, or even through their development or evolution in the future.  However, I do agree with Jenny Levine’s  point that librarians should at least try and get in on the ground floor to try and understand what they are and how people use them despite the hyperbolic comparison to the development of the internet. 

 

One suggestion that I liked was brought up in library journal by Kurt Squire & Constance Steinkuehler in which they described a form of virtual world wiki library where users make the major decisions about content and service.  It wouldn’t even be a bad idea to take the ideas that patrons put into such a virtual library into actual libraries.

 As for DGBL, I believe it’s still too in its infancy to comment with any confidence but I do like the idea brought up by David M. Antonacci and Nellie Modaress, that it encourages constructivist learning “where knowledge is constructed by the learners as they are actively problem solving in an authentic context”.  It will be interesting to see how things develop in these areas over the next 5-10 years down the road.

 The best reading from this week was clearly from Farkas, who really summed up the libraries and social networks (or Web 2.0 in general) situation:

 When you decide to put up a library profile on MySpace or Facebook, what is your goal? If it’s to look cool or to make students more aware of the library, don’t bother. A profile that offers nothing but a picture of the library, a blog post or two and a cutesy thing about how we won’t shush you just looks cheesy. I think there is a big difference between “being where our patrons are” and “being USEFUL to our patrons where they are.”

The point should be made while considering implementing and kind of program or service at the library whether or not it serves a specific purpose, and in the case of social networking it can.  I liked the example she brings up about The Crossett Library at Bennington College getting patrons to request items via Facebook, as I think many people would be unaware of acquisition request forms. 

I do agree with Helene Blowers point that Myspace is where “the kids” are these days and it does get a considerable amount of traffic but I don’t think that alone justifies a library getting a site.  Aaron Schmidt’s unqualified enthusiasm of Myspace, even expressing a desire that the ALA set up a site, is a bit premature.  While social networking may be here to stay Myspace could just as easily become the next Friendster, as could Facebook.  It’s like getting a puppy with diabetes, sure he’s cute and playful, but do you want to name him and get all attached?

UWO – Western community and live journal

This I think is a very good idea, though I think it would be good to have specific social networks based on subject of study, or issue (like housing or events on campus).  This particular community  is a little all over the place, and also is needs a needs a better colour scheme.  Students able to post their questions and ideas to others is a good idea but I can see that many of the problems that some students encounter may come up several times and a blog format like this doesn’t allow for good archiving.  Maybe if there was a wiki as well it may be as useful. 

My Space & Teens

 I think the big detraction from this is the lack of actual items on what practices are being employed in terms of libraries using My Space as well as why these libraries are using it and what makes them successful.  I think it is a good idea that libraries employing My Space network together to see how each of them employs it.

 My Own Cafe 

This I think is one of the best applications of anything from Web 2.0 in a library.  Maybe a little too much Harry Potter and Dance Dance Revolution stuff, but I guess that’s what the kids are into these days.  Having a something that allows people to network over specific common interests is best and this does that very well by allowing people to discuss their tastes in music and books.  However if it is a site for teens to connect to library services it may be best to emphasize the info centre section more, and perhaps drop the term “reference” for something more relatable.

 Libraries on Myspace 

I find this to be very poorly organized and difficult to navigate but that may be just the nature of Myspace and my lack of experience with it.  It does improve on the My Space & Teens by actually encouraging conversation and interaction on the topic itself though.

My own feelings towards social networking sites are ambiguous and for personal use they really aren’t my thing.  I find they create very skewed and bizarre new social practises and pressures that I can live without.  However, my personal bias would not stop me from considering the potential benefits that sites like these can have in a library setting.  I think it would be preaching to the choir though for me to discuss the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), which seems more about pandering to the Republican party base than actually trying to protect children in a real way.

I think the article makes a good point by bringing up the issue of class and internet access and what DOPA would mean for them.  . “Already, you have a gap between kids who have 10 minutes of Internet access a day at the public library and kids who have 24-hour-a-day access at home.”  If there was real concern about predatory or bullying activities taking place via these networks then, as Henry Jenkins points out, there should be some commitment to educating youth on safe practices.

I like the idea brought up in the presentation that Facebook can be used to search a library’s OPAC as well as journal article databases and as a forum.  However, I am uncertain how patrons will embrace libraries on Facebook any more than students welcome the idea of professors on it, as brought up in the article by Anne Hewitt and Andrea Forte.  The study that the article undertook found that  “Many students indicated that the student/faculty relationship should remain professional and should not be familiar or sociable”.  Also Marco made a good point in his blog citing that that “people fit the technology in to their culture more than technology dominating culture.”  Though I disagree with the Wellman article’s assertion about the development with the superhighway and suburban sprawl.  While the development of sububrbia in the 1950s and 1960s had many interating factors mostly involving race and class, I think it was an example of a technological development that exacbated already existing social divisions and tensions.  Some highways were even purposefully designed to not allow busses from inner cities to travel on  them.  I’m not comparing super-highways to something as relatively innocuous as facebook, I just think that with each new technology we must understand what impacts they may have given the already existing social and economic dynamics of our society.

folksonomies…

June 27, 2007

 

From what I’ve gathered from the articles there appears to be no ideal means of organizing information given the “fuzziness” of human cognitive models.  The inherit benefits and flaws to folksonomies and taxonomies were detailed quite well in each of this week’s readings. The article by Quintarelli does a good job at summarizing the flaws of taxonomies in that they work well in classifying a relatively restricted corpus with pre-defined categories, stable and restricted items and clear edges.  In addition to this the already existing classification schemes employed by libraries (Dewey, LOC) are archaic and ethno- linguistically and culturally biased in their conceptualizations, which most of us are most likely familiar with after taking LIS 502. 

I also think that Kroski did a good job at summarizing the benefits of folksonomies: they are inclusive, democratic and self-moderating, follow “desire lines”, offer insight into user behaviour, are a low-cost alternative, and are easy to use. The readings taken together appear to come to the conclusion that the innate flaws of both systems make them equally unsuitable, though Carol Ou in “folksonomy? ethnoclassification? libraries? wha?” sees hope in an ideal “happy middle” between both systems.  

I think the fatal flaw of the straight-forward folksonomy is the absence of hierarchy, which is perhaps the most crucial means by which people organize information, even in their own minds.  In Kome’s article, he goes into significantly greater detail observing that folksonomies assume “equivalence relationships are the norm” and that hierarchies have hyponyms (words used to describe terms in this relationship include “is a”, or “is a kind of”) and meronyms (“part of” relations, where concept A is part of concept B; i.e. “grammar” is a part of “language”.).  Both allow for broadening and narrowing search and browsing actions, which I believe to be crucial in the search process or just in browsing.

In the study of semantics the work of Eleanor Rosch and George Lakoff is interesting when analyzing the problem of information organization.  They developed “Prototype Theory” (wikipedia article on it):

Systems of categories are not objectively “out there” in the world but are rooted in people’s experience. These categories evolve as learned concepts of the world —meaning is not an objective truth, but a subjective construct, learned from experience, and language arises out of the “grounding of our conceptual systems in shared embodiment and bodily experience.

I think our conceptualizations change and develop rapidly, and in so doing, outdate static systems like Dewey and LOC.  However, a flat tagging system created by users does not allow for broader or narrower categories that assist in more controlled searching.  Perhaps a more controlled folksonomy would be ideal, where users could tag but within an already existing hierarchical system. 

     While our own conceptualizations of the world come from our ownThis idea appears to refute both taxonomies and folksonomies, and it is possible the pursuit of an ideal classification scheme is ultimately futile. 

sb, t & f…

June 21, 2007

One of the more cited problems with social bookmarking is the idea of metanoise, which was brought up in Adam Mathes article, and was also discussed in the presentation and Marco’s blog.  While I agree that this can be a significant problem, as people do have unique conceptualizations of certain topics and items I don’t necessarily see it as the most significant drawback. 

 An article I researched for the presentation by Scott A. Golder and Bernardo A. Huberman (Golder, Scott A., and Huberman, Bernardo A. “Usage patterns of collaborative tagging systems.” Journal of Information Science. Vol. 32, no.2 (2006): 198-206) analyze the issue directly, though not specifically labelling it metanoise.  The study that they undergo examines the nature of traditional taxonomy versus a tagging system, but goes beyond that and analyses collective tagging on Del.icio.us.  It is an excellent study that I highly recommend if you want to know more about the issue.  What they eventually conclude is that social sensmaking in this case pans out as “stable patterns emerge in tag proportions” and that “minority opinions can coexist alongside popular ones without disrupting the consensus choices made by many users.”  I think that their conclusions would hold just as true were a collective tagging system be implemented in a library catalogue or in a large journal database. 

I think the another problem to arise from social bookmarking, not discussed much in the literature, is that it has the potential to exacerbate the already existing problem of poor information literacy among students and the general population.  While it can be annoying to learn the controlled vocabulary of databases, or the subject headings in OPAC or traditional taxonomies, I feel that after learning them you would be better equipped to research information than if there was just a flat tagging system.  It is possible that people will grow accustomed to keyword searching for tags rather than trying to learn specific search techniques.  I’m not arguing that a social bookmarking system not be implemented but I think there are problems to bear in mind.

This week’s presentation by Chritsty, Jess and I can be found here: http://christy1975.livejournal.com/6212.html .

Wikis…

June 13, 2007

I think out of all the social software tools available to librarians the wiki has the most potential in quite a number of applications.  In the readings by Meredith Farkas most of the applications are delinated well: reference, collegial interaction and teamwork, knowledge management (which Angela Kille’s discussed in greater detail) to annotated the library catalogue, being a centre of community information, and acting as a pathfinder (i.e. – subject guides).  I do agree with Jill’s comments that wikis can lead to more work for librarians, I think that overall it allows patrons to contribute in ways that librarians otherwise cannot.  In the instance of a pathfinder, as Farkas points out, librarians cannot necessarily be expected to thoroughly account for all sources of information and allowing students and faculty to input on the subject can improve upon what already exists.  I believe it also provides a cheaper and easier to implement reference service than the vendor provided virtual reference software.  Also, having the reference questions available to be viewed and commented on by all can be encouraging to many afraid or unsure whether or not to ask librarians questions, and to getting a more complete answer to a given question.  Though I don’t want to speak too glowingly about wikis, I believe that they are the best tool available if libraries want to really connect with their patrons.

I completely concur with Qingyi in regards to Wikipedia despite persistent detractors both within and outside the library profession.  Beyond the issues of vandalism, spamming, and overly opinionated people, is the criticism that Wikipedia lacks authority in authorship, being that anyone can edit or add entries, and therefore its content is suspect.  This opinion was exemplified by Stephen Colbert through his ironic alter-ego on the Colbert Report, arguing that Wikipedia followed his personal ideology of “truthiness”, in that it represents a truth by consensus, as opposed to fact.  Wikipedia even has an article that addresses this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_in_popular_culture).  Colbert encouraged people to alter an article in regards to the population of African elephants to prove his point and in addition started a mock-wikipedia as satire:(http://www.wikiality.com/index.php?title=Main_Page).  This criticism is echoed by many professional critics, and we all took reference in our first semester and the use of the site was prohibited and I counted myself among the critics until recently.

I do however agree with its founder Jimmy Wales that despite people’s “pettiness, idiocy, and vulgarity” (Schiff), that ultimately an unobtrusively collaborative effort has yielded as accurate results as can be found in the more reputable publications.  With Wikipedia the people themselves have done a good job at policing vandalism and that controvercial subjects are given a fair and open hearing and in the case of Colbert’s elephants, the vandalism that occured was quickly countered by Wikipedia members.  There are many topics in which there is no one and absolute truth and perceptions of them can be coloured greatly by their currency as the Schiff article pointed out in regards to the recent Israeli invasion of Lebannon.  These debates are covered in talkback sections as are other issues of accuracy and organization that anyone can read and comment on, which is something unavailable in tradtional encyclopedia formats.  Also for most articles one can see all alterations and deletions made to it as well and articles that infrequently or do not cite sources are openly declared at the top of the page.  More well recieved encyclopedia do list their contributors and have each article signed by them, but the idea that a person will look up how to contact a professor at the Sorbonne and contest their point-of-view is unlikely.  As Wales himself described the goal should be accuracy, not authority, and from my perspective even the most “authoritative” opinions can be the most biased.  I’m not argueing that Wikipedia is the best source of information and common sense should prevail and people should obviously cross-check whatever they find with other sources but as a reference source it should not be ignored.