Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Tim Pool (@theother99) has been live broadcasting the eviction from Zuccotti park from 1:30 this morning. The response to the injunction/eviction of the OWS group from the NYC park is supposedly coming down at 3:00 pm today (11/14/11). This is worth watching to both see what is happening and what will.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

GPS Tracking or What is Privacy?

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday regarding the privacy of citizens, specifically regarding the ability to track vehicle movements via GPS without a warrant.  First read about this in Wired in this article  Busted! Two New Fed GPS Trackers Found on SUV  which has a good sum-up of the case, with full details and pictures of the GPS trackers including manufacturer details and specs.  The biggest issue in this that should really disturb us as citizens is the basis from which the government is arguing for warrant-less placement of GPS devices on vehicles, namely "...  that citizens have no expectation of privacy when it comes to their movements in public so officers don’t need to get a warrant to use such devices." (Wired) 
     If you're not familiar with the case the NYT has a quick summation Court Casts a Wary Eye on Tracking by GPS . "The case concerned Antoine Jones, who was the owner of a Washington nightclub when the police came to suspect him of being part of a cocaine-selling operation. They placed a tracking device on his Jeep Grand Cherokee without a valid warrant, tracked his travels for a month and used the evidence they gathered to convict him of conspiring to sell cocaine. He was sentenced to life in prison." (NYT)
 NPR has a slew of articles on this, though none on the front page. High Court Troubled By Warrantless GPS Tracking   This is  one of the better articles as it has some excerpts from the hearing transcripts. What The governemnt's attorny, Dreeben, is pretty well prepared, articulate and seems to recognize that this is not simply about the case which brought this to the Supreme Court. The defense attorny, Leckar, seems to lacking a full understanding of the greater implications of this hearing. Driving home and listening to this last night caused me to wonder if a lawyer more cognizant of the wider impact of this decision could have been chosen. Especially one who doesn't admit to the Supreme Court that he thinks London's CCTV surveillance is "scary". In context Justice Kagan is discussing Lodon's surveillance and Leckar replies: "It's pretty scary. I wouldn't want to live in London under those circumstances." Justice SCALIA: "Well, it must be unconstitutional if it's scary."
Reading through the transcript, Leckar gets beat up pretty good while Dreeben is much more persuasive. While the Supreme Court is a substantially intimidating group of people, Leckar really needed to be on his game and this transcript makes me nervous that he does not do an adequate job in defending privacy. To Leckar's credit privacy has become a difficult term to define but this decision is going to set precedent for the future and to fail to address this meaningfully, I think, is going to dramatically change the way we live.

 The full transcript of the  is available here. Towards the beginning of the transcript Judge Scalia asks the question, which I think is key to this debate, "...are you obtaining information that a person had a reasonable expectation to be kept private?" This is at the heart of  the current privacy debate. Dreeben goes on to argue that GPS offer a less time-consuming method of collecting this data to which Judge Alita responds " the pre-computer, pre-Internet age much of the privacy -- I would say most of the privacy -- that people enjoyed was not the result of legal protections or constitutional protections; it was the result simply of the difficulty of traveling around and gathering up information." This difficulty of gathering people's information
The two other questions raised here, I think, are 1) what is privacy and 2) is that privacy a right of the citizens of this country.

 Supreme Court Hears Arguments In GPS Case
Do Police Need Warrants For GPS Tracking Devices?

GPS Tracking: Supreme Court Debates Privacy Limits On Police (Huffington Post)

Friday, October 28, 2011

All the world's a screen

 This is a recent video from Microsoft doing some potential crystal ball gazing into the future of the integration of the physical world and the tools of technology/computer. Where everything is a potential screen and information is neither digital nor physical but can be shared, moved and manipulated from surface to device. In watching this video, this future world is both completely urban and very sterile. All surfaces are immaculately clean and much of the. It seems that this new digital world has no room for piles of stuff or leftover bits of projects because it's all pixels. There's some corollary to this project in Chris Harrison's work on Skinput or Pranav Mistry's Sixth Sense Project demoed in this TED video.


The description of the Sixth Sense project follows as taken from Mistry's website: "'SixthSense' is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. By using a camera and a tiny projector mounted in a pendant like wearable device, 'SixthSense' sees what you see and visually augments any surfaces or objects we are interacting with. It projects information onto surfaces, walls, and physical objects around us, and lets us interact with the projected information through natural hand gestures, arm movements, or our interaction with the object itself. 'SixthSense' attempts to free information from its confines by seamlessly integrating it with reality, and thus making the entire world your computer."   The last sentence nicely captures the point of Microsoft's video. If the entire world is our computer then this seems to imply that our informaiton is necessary to be the world's as well so that the world as computer has something to process. A recent NYR article Over the High-Tech Rainbow asks this question: "... should we just assume that all this personal information being generated and collected won’t be used against us by insurers, or employers, or lawyers, or marketers, or the government?" Not that our personal information isn't already collected and used against us but the increasing drive to remove any perceived barriers between the desire and the ability to share information should warrant increased scrutiny of how that information is actually used by and against its progenitors.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The People's Library in my library

Occupy Wall Street (specifically NYC) has many facets that bear discussion but one of the things that has stood out to me is the fact that they have a library. You can check out the library's web page here the official title of which is The People's Library. What's interesting about this setup is that there are no, as far as I can tell, ebooks, databases or otherwise digital media in, or part of, this library. There is available internet connectivity but there is not, as far as I've read, any subscriptions to library vendors or databases.
What really intrigues me is this people's library exists as a library of necessity and purposeful in scope. The books chosen seem to be based around the ideas of free speech, response to government, etc. (Check out the related links below for additional info on how people are picking books.)
   While there has not been a particularly well-stated set of specific goals of those doing the occupying, there seems to be a perception that the library's provided sources of information is needed/interesting/pointedly relevant in order to help those protesting to do so better or more intelligently, or help inform about how the nation got to the point it's at, biography of national leaders, etc.
Why does a protest movement need a library? It's hard to tell not actually being there but my own, from-a-distance-personal conjecture follows. Here goes: many of these books have all been available for a while (Zinn's a People's History of the United States is a good example) but it's not until these reader's need have changed that these resources are now recognized as important or helpful. The importance of the object is elevated relative to the current need of the user. Libraries are supposed to exist to meet need(s) but  one of the challenges is trying to figure out or identify exactly what drives patrons/users to act on their information needs or to realize that there is a resource that meets a need that was previously unvoiced or less urgent. 
This library has comes to the protestors directly. It has arisen out of the gathering of people to meet a specific need and is therefore valued because it is need-based.
 The tradition of acadmeic libraries is that they are developed to meet a specific need but because there are other immediately available sources.
The People's Library exemplifies the five quote unquote laws of library use codified by S. Ranganathan.
Books are for use.
Every reader his [or her] book.
Every book its reader.
Save the time of the reader.
The library is a growing organism.

I wonder if patrons of The People's Library may actually have an easier time of selecting resources because there is a specifically limited focus and reaourxes which they are concerned.
Location also matters. 

im tempted to decamp parts of the collection into a rolling cart and haul it around campus.Recently I brought three books over to a colleague in Student Development who had requested some "interesting stuff". Another staff member happened to overhear our conversation, expressed interest in one of the books and ended up walking away with it. This is an individual who is very unlikely to engage with the library resources on a regular basis. But presenting them with a manageable chunk of a resource in a subject area they were interested in, piqued their interest.
How do I, then, turn my library into a people's or in this case, a student's library? Or better inform users what is in the stacks? I want my student users to have the same sense of purpose, relevance and excitement that the OWD have about their books. What are additional ways to increase the transparency of what's in the stacks?The other, more difficult bit, is to highlight the importance of the works both for for its own sake as well as for its potential applicability to a particular research or information-gathering project.

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Matthew Battles on Reading, Libraries and Occupations

This video by Matthew Battles discusses the idea of libraries and occupations. He asks the perfect question of "Why do we need libraries for an occupation/movement?"  Battles draws parallels between the occupy movement and the Chartist movement of 19th century Britain. (If you're not familiar with the Chartist movement, don't worry neither was I. Battles gives a nice explanation.) More importantly Battles describes an interaction with an occupy library, perhaps better described as a reading room, as possessing "...a wonderful energy of charged contemplation". This idea of "charged contemplation" is  very much what I was thinking, and couldn't quite get to, with my previous post. That there is a very particular and meaningful reason for using these resources it seems that it's not just the people who are charged with contemplative meaning but the materials themselves. I like Battles' highlight of the 19th century reading room concept as it seems to be more applicable to this particular constellation of collected items. Regardless the occupy movement has one and, I think, it has interesting implications for doing library work and especially outreach.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


After my thinking and writing about how the camera effects how we see, here's a bunch of pictures from the flooding in our area.
There is currently a state of emergency and we're really not supposed to be traveling but we were out and seeing how bad it was. Last night I worked for three hours with friends to move hundreds of pounds of tools and fiberglass materials from their plastics plant to safety. Our friends Walter and Kristen with their two girls called us up at 1 am due to the mandatory evacuation and have been hanging out with us today.  They live two streets away from the park in the images below.
 We are up on a hill so that with the lack of rain it's quite tranquil. All of the flash flooding that closed streets last night up here has diminished. Helicopter are periodically  flying over and sirens regularly approach and recede.There are many better images and news reports but these are the shots from my iPhone around Endicott.

                                          This is at Miserau Park at around 7:30 am. The flood wall is the green bank in the background.

 This is the same park about three hours later and bit farther down. The slight rise behind the pool of water is the flood wall. The Susquhanna is just behind the wall.
If you look in the background in the left hand corner, you can see the water pouring over the flood wall.

                                                                Another shot of the park.

 This is is my favorite picture. You can see the water has come up the pole significantly and the sign is just ironic.
People coming out to see the river, take pictures and call their friends to let them know how bad it is.

 The perspective isn't great but the parking lot is lower than the grass you can see in the foreground and the water has completely filled that area.
         This medical building is to the right of the picture of Kmart. They are building sandbags.
                                 National Guard on the scene. Kmart is to the picture's left.

                                                It's never good when the Red Cross  floods.
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Monday, September 5, 2011

The NYT tossed up an article today "When the camera takes over for the eye"with an almost inspired quote regarding on how we do the recording-as-better-remembering act: "...the camera is a way of connecting, participating and collecting fleeting experiences." The piece is short but adds to this ongoing discussion of what the image-taking process means for us as viewers and consumers. This is not just for art but for family outings, special events or moving sunsets. 
Jaron Lanier has a recent interview/article in the Edge, I'm still working through this but Lanier has some interesting ideas that relate to this camera idea.
"Can people learn to forego the temptations, the heroin-like rewards of being able to reform the world to your own advantage in order to instead make something sustainable?"
Seemingly, those with cameras can now re-make the world so that a piece of art that is physically stuck in pcae can now be carried, printed or displayed wherever the individual's device allows. So we cease looking at items in their settings and look to see the most advantageous vantage point or interesting view point to capture the piece rather than simply being with it. The camera diminishes the art by reducing it to pixels and thus allowing the viewer to bypass the aesthetic experience or challenge. By capturing an image of the piece/scultpure the need to further interact with the work is pushed into the future since there is an artifact that can, if needed, be considered at leisure without the need to return to the thing itself. The world remade in the eye of the beholder holding a tiny lens and screen.

 To stare at Maria Abramovi's image is not to sit down with her. What would it have been like to have sat down with Maria Abramovic in the MOMA for "The Artist is Present" and brought out a camera phone and interposed it into the visual space? You can see many of the people who sat with Maria here. But without cameras no one outside of that room would have seen/experienced this event. There would simply be a blank square.

Is it simply because the technological devices are now available to us that we persist in recording these events? We are interested in recording and then digging those recordings up after they have been covered in dust but who is going to shift through the terabytes of digital files to find the important stuff?

Perhaps it is that we are too afraid of loss  to stop recording.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I've recorded everything I've done since I was three

My friend Jon, writing over at Beans from Merriville, posted earlier this week about his process of disconnecting from the world. (Don't be too startled by the photo at the top of Jon's post; the rest of the post is much less alarming.)

Recently this interview between Tao Lin on behalf of the Believer with author Ben Lever and they had this really interesting discussion about, among other things, the real and the virtual and the pros/cons of experiencing the world through both. About halfway through the interview Tao Lin comments that
"The idea of the virtual seems to apply to all domains of human experience, not just to novels and poems—the inevitable disappointment of the actual due to the awareness of a virtual."
In thinking about this interview and Jon's post, the way that people interact with live events or picturesque moments also popped into my head. I play bass in a local Christian rock band and so we get to be out playing on a fairly regular basis in front of groups of people and often with other bands. So I've had the opportunity to regularly hang out at a bunch of big and small music events over the past two years. Just in observation of these shows, there seems to be a disposition to want to record or capture what is happening live rather than experiencing it. It seems that our default reaction to an interesting, memorable or picturesque moment is whip out some sort of recording equipment, typically video+audio, to record that moment.
Granted there are very positive aspects to this capturing ability. The revolutions in the Middle East would not be as nearly accessible to the rest of the world if it were not for this possibility. Perhaps they would not have succeeded at all. Nor would an issue like the BART in San Francisco killing cell service in response to protests be as crucial a matter.
And often, in order to avoid missing that moment, individuals will record the entire show/event/what-have-you. What seems then to end up happening is that instead of watching the actual or authentic live event the observer watches the entire event played out through the tiny screen held inches away from their face. How does this affect our interactive experiences? How does this affect our memory? If we are so intent on capturing the world around us are we forgetting to interact with it? Hence why this Toyota commercial is both funny and sad.
Interestingly enough since I've started writing this post earlier this afternoon (Wednesday 8/23), NPR posted this article entitled Does the Internet Make You More-or Less-Connected. (I swear I wrote the above before I read the NPR article.) Coincidentally the lead image has a bunch of kids with phones with the caption "The new concert experience: Is that digital device an impediment or an enhancement to your life?" The author, Dave Pell describes being at an Arcade Fire concert behind a guy who was recording the concert and sums up nicely the current concert/show experience:
"...a guy in front of me held his camera phone towards the big screen that flanked the stage and hit the video record button. He stood like that for a long time, separated from a live concert by two screens. Maybe he gained some social benefit by sharing the video with a friend or a broader Internet audience. But the concert provided him an opportunity to lose himself in the music and the moment. He let a screen block that experience."
It's as though we each begin to create our own digital arcade, a structure of seemingly random events held together by the individual doing the recording. Are we going to get to a point when I ask how was the concert instead of describing it the queried individual will simply whip out their recording device and show the person asking the question. Since we're often not terribly good at explaining experiences through words anyway perhaps video is more effective.
Pictures have been credited with being worth far more words than they really are worth. Video is even worse. If we are afraid of being disconnected from our devices because we are afraid of losing our place in the constant stream of data, are we also afraid of disconnecting from recording everything because we have become distrustful of our own ability to recollect and recount?

Can we still lose ourselves?

Friday, August 12, 2011

In three's

I'm curating the first ever library book sale, of my time here anyway. I have some downtime after spending most of the summer weeding, packing and hauling a over a thousand books to the gym. People are here and buying stuff which is really encouraging. If you're not doing anything, please feel free to head on over to Johnson City, NY. I'll be here until 5pm today and 8-12 tomorrow.

So as I'm catching up on some reading came across this infographic on student use of social/media. I thought the quote unquote sophomore slump, toward the bottom of the graphic, rather interesting though there is a distinct lack of actual data as to why this slump might occur. It would be interesting if there was more research to fill-in why there might be less social media interaction than other years.

Via Siva Vidhynathan's twitter: London, Egypt and the nature of social media by Dr. Ramesh Srinivasan. Solid article for a several reasons the best being this quote: "With or without these technologies, (social media) people will ultimately stand up and speak their minds." Srinivasan nicely lays out that the tools don't necessarily matter. They may help, and sometimes greatly, but all the focus on social media may miss the point slightly. This is especially true in light of British PM Cameron's proposal to shut down social media sites and restricting information access. "Mr. Cameron said the government was working on measures that would stop rioters from using social media — Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger, principally — to coordinate and direct their “horrific actions.”" There is some degrees of doubt that Facebook/Twitter were actually used to coordinate any of the riot and rather BBM was used as the primary vehicle (see Zeynep Tufekci and David Parry) The two-part question that has been raised in multiple areas 1) What specific action determines when the BBM would be turned off and 2) what would keep the government/police from leaving it off? Control is not easily relinquished by or wrested from official hands once those hands have enjoyed a tighter clasp.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What I've been working on and what it looks like

This is what I've been working on in my library for the past almost two weeks. What was supposed to be a simple reorganization jaunt has turned into a massive reorganization and weeding. Those piles above, and following. That's about 80% of what is being weeded out. There's other books that haven't been added to the fairly epic Library End-O'-The-Summer Sale stack. I've been the solo librarian here for three years and I'm don't konw when the last time previous to me any sort of weeding had been done. So, here we are. Most of these are redudnant copies (as in the third or fourth) or simply outdated. Late 1800/early 1900 extremely esoteric and poorly aged religion and history stuff. I will be going through these and pricing them properly. My hope is that we can generate a decent amount of cash to fill the space left by these with some more quality works.

The whole goal being to make this, the upstairs of the library standing in for the whole place, better. You can kinda see there's already books on the shelves which we've been moving from the basement, where most of the volumes are kept to the upstairs to help make them more visible. I've also integrated the reference section directly into the circulation collection. The main reason is that students were super-confused by the reference section location and placement. The four stacks on the left hand side of the photo used to be the reference area. Students would get up from the computers with call number clutched in hand to wander about the reference section until I asked them if they were finding what they were looking for. The answer to which was 9.5 times out of 10; nope, so hence the moving around. The reference books won't circulate and they still have the 'REF' tag on each book.

This is my office. I'd like to say it is this messy because I'm working on my presentation for the Metrolina Library Association's 6th Annual Information Literacy Conference on July 16th in Charlotte, NC but this is a pretty standard state of operation. I'm really excited to be presenting there and will be talking about the keys for doing/attempting information literacy as a solo librarian. There's a bunch of other really good talks lined up as well which I'm pretty stoked to go learn from.
Here's the view from my chair. If I ever have to move back to a cubicle or smaller office space it's going to be really hard. Yes that is a vintage reel-to-reel player and a coffee pot.
Additional book shelves plus my window of library, reading and DFW related comics. Also, my notes. It's way fun to write on the glass. Try it.
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Da' Web(s).

Tim Berners-LeeI have just finished reading Siva Vaidhyanathan's book The Googlization of Everything (and why we should worry) (Pub. 2011) while also concurrently reading Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web (Pub. 1999). This combination made for a interesting sort of Internet-as-past and the future-of-the-Web and where is it all going type of thoughts.

The vision that Tim Berners-Lee outlines toward the end of Weaving the Web directly connects and present an interesting backdrop to read in juxtaposition with the Googlization of everything that Siva Vaidhyanathan lays out. Equally compelling is Vaidhyanathan's vision for the Human Knowledge Project where he proposes an international group of involved and concerned citizens take responsibility for the judicial care and access to the world's information rather than leaving that assignment to corporate entities claiming benevolence. Not to sound all over the top about the corporate thing but seeing/reading where Berners-Lee suggests that the early beginnings of the Web should go and where Vaidhyanathan describes where the Web is presently and surmises where it might be heading, there is a certain quandary about who or what is actually driving the development of the Web now and what that means for our daily Internet use/access and other parts of living. Really the Internet/Web has not quite ended up the free place that Berners-Lee calls for. While there is still a good chunk of this there are corporate entities that one do it better Google or lock out those things which they view as detrimental to their bottom line. (Comcast started blocking PirateBay, again.) Berners-Lee writes that "the Web must allow equal access to those in different economic and political situations; those who have physical or congitive disabilities; those of different cultures; and those who use different languages with different characters that read in different directions across a page." (P. 165) And it seems we've has accomplished this through the use of and reliance on corporations such as Google whom serve " an embedded guide to navigating choices, associations, tastes, and the world around us." (Vaidhyanathan 200)
It is truly fascinating to read Berners-Lee's account of the beginning of building the web as different people put servers online and the slow burn that caught on, through much sweat and blood on Tim's part, to become this massive "network of networks" called the Web. While CERN gave the Internet a place to start, it wasn't corporations that took the initiative in pushing the Web. It was people who were interested and motivated to build something that allow for different kinds of communication then were previously available. While WC3 works(ed) to suggest protocols and standards for HTML/XML content was not their issue and the Web in the late 90's was an incredibly messy, weird place. As Vaidhyanathan very nicely illustrates, Google cleaned up the Web and provided clear and safe paths throughout the Web; Google became navigational instrument, like a watch, rather than a supporting technology, like a pacemaker, that we the users have found ourselves not to be able to live without.

Siva talks about his book, corporate responsibility and Google at the Strand and at Harvard.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Two Machines

So I'm a huge fan, by proxy, of this bag making company out in Columbus OH, called Seagull Bags. While I don't actually own one, yet*, the designs are gorgeous with some absolutely impressive thread/embroidery work. Seriously, these bags look amazing (and waterproof).
Anyway, while trolling and drooling over bags came across a pretty fantastic effort/ministry that Rory and Nicole Taylor are spearheading, called Two Machines. "In the summer of 2010, Two Machines teamed up with Bittersweet Ministries to install two sewing machines in an impoverished canyon community outside of Tijuana, Mexico." The Taylors went back in January and the machines have really made a huge impact on the community. They are doing ongoing fundraising, and are working towards becoming a legit non-proft, so any support would be appreciated.


*Because I do have a fantastic Chrome bag that has yet to fail me. It's like a second skin and we go everywhere together. The Seagull designs are just mouth-wateringly fantastic. It's hard not to covet. Extremely hard.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's Record Store Day!!

(Design by David Sizemore)

April 16th is Record Store Day for which my wife and I have driven to Voluntown, Connecticut which actually has multiple record stores near it as opposed to the dearth of record stores near Binghamton. Granted, the real reason we are here is to visit our new niece but the record store closeness is a nice perk.
Speaking of records my band, Cry of the Scapegoat has our first record out. If you'd like a physical copy, you can email me or go to Amazon or iTunes.

Update: If you're ever in Providence, RI definitely check out Armageddon Record Shop. Excellent collection of local indie/rock and a wide array of tape, CD and vinyl in the areas of metal, experimental/noise, hardcore/punk and some indie. One of the store owners said the shop has been there 10 years which is a pretty sweet run for an independent record store. Friendly guys who are super-knowledgeable and involved in the local process. It was cool to hang out on the fringes and listen to the banter between some of the customers and the owners.
Also check out Myopic Books in downtown Providence. It's a lovely shop with a wide floor plan, 8.5 shelves and an incredible selection of books in most subjects. The fiction and cultural studies sections were incredibly well-stocked for a used book store.
I failed to take a picture but the store also had a Jack Kerouac bobble-head doll for $175. It was a surprisingly good likeness.