If I Had All the Time In the World

4 12 2008

There is a great source of political information at opensecrets.org.  This site will tell one who/what/which, individuals, companies/corporations and PACs gave money to individual politicians, political causes or parties.  One can enter one’s zip code and get a list of local politicians and where they got their money from.  One may also look up any politician one desires and find out where their contributions came from.  The same is true of corporations, one may put in a corporation and find out where they are putting their money.

If I had all the time in the world, and unlimited resources, I’d build a digital collection that would do the same for the bail out cash.  That is, where it is going and what that organization is doing with the money.  Later it would show how much money is being/has been repaid.

I would also build an earmark or pork belly digital collection.  One could look up which politician added which earmarks, how many they’ve added, how many their state, city, etc, has received, how many have they proposed, etc.

One could also build the same type of collection for bills introduced, anti-gay bills, pro-life bills, anti civil liberty bills, etc.  I think these tools would be invaluable in the voting process.  This might prove to be especially true for younger voters.  They are typically under represented in the turnout of elections and they are more tech savvy, and more likely to get their news online, than older voters who are more likely to get their information from news papers, TV, books, etc.

I now arrive at a point of consternation.  One’s dollar votes.  Take for example the recent boycott by pro gay marriage Californians of organizations that donated to the anti gay marriage cause.  I am astounded that this is controversial.

The argument has been made, by Chomsky, Watts and others, that one’s dollar votes are really all the American public has left.  By ‘public’ I mean those of us that make less than a million or so a year.  Politicians, including Obama, probably – we’ll see (and I hope I’m wrong), are loyal to their donors.  Businesses donate to get favourable legislation passed.  If one chooses to give one’s commerce to a business that donates to a politician who votes pro-life (for example), that business has more money to donate.  If a large, informed, group of consumers choose to ‘give’ their money to businesses that donate to pro-choice politicians, that cause would get more money and the other side would get less.  This seems like an idea that free market proponents could get behind, let the market dictate.

We, the public, control the vote.  We, the public again, also control where our money goes.  If there was a place to go to see, more closely and easily, what businesses were doing with our money, we could make our dollar votes count for more.

This doesn’t just go for business donations, CEO’s and other officers who make their money from our commerce give HUGE sums to politicians.  We can aim that money.  If we give them less revenue, they can not spend as much on politicians.

So, digital collections could be a force for change, or status quo, but a force nonetheless, simply by existing.  One only needs to build it.  Also, one needs to promote this.  Thinking of all the news stories and controversy that arose when a group of people started making their dollar votes heard, this is a collection that is bound to get a lot of free press, just by existing.

It feels kind of weird to have seen knowledge about what businesses, and those who run them, do with ‘our’ money, be so controversial.  It feels the same as when religious right type groups call for boycotts of movies, Harry P. comes to mind, because they didn’t like its message vs a religious right type group that calls to ban the release of a movie or TV stations existence.  The phrase “if you don’t like don’t go/watch/buy it,” comes to mind.  A boycott is consistent with that idea, a ban is not.  Boycotts do not take away someone’s right to buy whatever one wants.  A ban does.  A ban, carried to its logical conclusion, end is fascism.  A ban is a group forcing something on another group of people.  A boycott is choosing not to spend one’s money somewhere, there is nothing forced on anybody.  Choice vs force.

Why are GM, Ford & Chrysler moving away from production of SUV’s?  It is not because they are selling like flapjacks but the CEO’s decided that it would be better for the planet if they made a fleet that emitted less CO2.  It is because people stopped buying them.  That logic is true across the board for businesses.  Even if some company wanted to make a green fleet of cars, if they didn’t sell, they’d be fiscally forced to stop production.

I guess they bottom line is this, since our money is being used to political ends anyway, it would be great if there was a place where consumers could go for quick and easy (Herr Zipf would have my back on this) information about what their money was supporting, they could have a say, an informed say, about what that money spent, said for them.

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What’s zee problem?

28 10 2008

  Item the Eighth under My 10 Items, is about the z-axis and how third dimensional capabilities in visual interaction with teh internets could potentially revolutionize not just the way we see data and the way data interactions are structured but would necessitate such things as new mouse design and different keyboards.  While the applications for gaming and movies are obvious and visceral, the z-axis also holds great potential for digital collections. 

  The 3rd dimension, the z-axis, has been around in visual representations for a long time.  Its application has been limited.  Mostly by cost and technology but, as terabytes and ever faster processing speed have become almost passé, the application of the 3rd dimension to visual data interactions becomes more feasible and likely. 

  The z-axial application could be a revolutionary application or tool for the visual data interaction we all have with digital collections.  The z-axis, fore and aft, could be a citation stream.  As one moves forward one would go through the articles cited by the original article and aft would be articles that have cited the original article.  This is just my initial thought on the z-axis.  I am positive some industrial types could think of better ways to use the z-axis but, this seems handy to me so I include it here.  This could also be used for links, with fore and aft, one could go to pages that link to the original page and the other way round.

  For websites this could be used for similarity chases.  Say one is on Amazon looking to purchase a new CD or mp3 download, fore could be a search through other retail sites that list your item as well, aft could be scrolling through Stereogum, Pitchfork, Allmusic, etc., for reviews and cross listings in the vein of “if you like this, you may also like” style.  Again, I’m sure there are better applications but, I include this here only for an example of how it could be used.  There could even be a “hard fore” and a “hard aft, ” excuse the implicit puns.  Soft movement could be through the current site, hard could be the situation I just described.  This could be made true of current “<-” and “->” buttons.  A soft “<-/->” click would move you through the original page’s page history while a hard “<-/->” could redesignate an original page or move you through the browser history of one of the other fore/aft pages history.  So, if one starts on Amazon, moves forward to Stereogum and then clicks a few links there, the soft “<-/->” would move you through Amazon level’s browser history.  A hard “<-/->” would move you through your current level’s browser history.  I hope this is convoluted enough.

  This is very new and is just starting to be discussed and mulled over.  I see the z-axis as inevitable.  It will become part of the way we interact with data, maybe not until we are all old and enfeebled but, it will happen.  Thinking about its uses and applications is fun as it makes me wish that this system was already in place.





Community Centered International Librarianship

17 10 2008

    My interest in international librarianship is simply and best put like this, in my experience working with the underprivileged, many are the children of recent immigrants.  It is my intent to work toward an equality of opportunity.  Since many who are among the population that does not share in the opportunities of majority culture are recent immigrants or the children of recent immigrants, a knowledge in international librarianship would help me prepare them, help me to give them the equality of opportunity the nonimmigrants in the same programs receive.  I guess my interest in international librarianship can be related to the localism bumper sticker that reads, “think globally, shop locally.”  My interest in international librarianship is to the extent that one who engages that knowledge can say, “I am interested in international librarianship to the extent that it can be used to improve the situations of those around me.”

  I guess I’d really like to go to a library and appeal to a librarian who specializes in the international stripe of librarianship.  Better yet go to an international type library and ask any of the workers.  If I was able to go to any of these places, I could also take the people I mentioned above with me and they could learn how to engage this type of librarian, collection or library. 

  I think I have found enough written by scholars in the field that supports my thoughts to feel that this is an acceptable way to think about and engage the ideas of international librarianship.  See the lecture by Peter Lor, What’s So International About International Librarianship?  and the book, International Librarianship: A Basic Guide to Global Knowledge Access, by Robert Stueart.  In the book, one of the points or areas Stueart lists as as important to the field and in need of work is,  “Identifying international philanthropic agencies, which can facilitate development of international information services.”  I think that could very easily mean an exchange in information between people like I desribe, people working with immigrant populations trying to get them the equal access of the nonimmigrnats in the same programs.  This could be a simple exchange of what works but could be much more developed and greatly expanded upon.

  Since I have not spent a lot of time in this specialized area, international librarianship, any and all comments, recommendations, etc are needed and welcomed. 





Annonymity and/VS Equality

9 10 2008

In a weird way, I feel forelorn about what I am going to write about.  But, this is an area that, for me, has some depth and potential for offshoot arguments and opining.

In the world of digital collections, where one can choose one’s level of anonymity, *equality* is almost apriori.  It doesn’t matter who creates a collection.  What matters is the collection’s relevance, usability, accessibility, etc.  That is to say, regardless of ethnic make up, sexual orientation, sex, etc., the person, or persons, who create a digital collection is/are irrelevant.  The collection is judged based on its own makeup, independent of the creator’s(s’).  That is equality, in a sense.  That is also, essentially, not equality.

One can argue the things that lead to one’s ability to create a digital collection, educational attainment, access to said education, socioeconomic background, etc., but the collection’s makeup still exists independently of the creator’s(s’) makeup.

The thing that forelorns me is that this might not be true, or as true, if people knew, or could see, the maker(s) of a digital collection.  It forelorns me that to have *equality* it may be necessary that the users be kept ignorant of the maker(s).

That said, digital collections allow women (womyn) to make the same as men, dollar for dollar, for doing the same thing.  That is something we are still trying to rectify in the world where people know with whom they are engaging.  Would this be true if the user knew that the maker was female?

A quick example, law school students will pay the same for access to LexisNexis whether the creator was a minority or a part of majority culture.  But, if the face of digital collection A was Thandie Newton and the face of digital collection B was this guy, I think more folks would access A or pay more for A.  But even this does not answer the question.  These ‘faces’ are not necessarily the maker(s) of the digital collection.  They could just reflect poor marketing choices.  But since it essentially takes one person and a computer to create a digital collection, one may  not come up against unfair hiring practices or getting skipped over for a promotion.  One may also avoid stereotypes, since it is possible that no one knows who the maker(s) are.

While one may say that people do not know who owns Popeye’s or Target, that is not the same argument.  One still has to interact with people, most of Target’s sales are still done the old fashioned way, in person- at a store, one still has an experience of the people at the store.  This is not the case with a digital collection.

If the above seems simple and unexplored by a critical faculty wielding author, it kind of is.  As this idea came to me while writing a post about organizational culture in another class and I just wrote this out as I thought it.  I definitely need to give this topic more reflection, and I will.  For now though, here is my post.





Teh Ubliet

8 10 2008

You remind me of the babe.

Last night Dennis (author of the Informulary blog listed at right on my blogroll), Ruth (author of the Accidental Bloggist listed at right on my blogroll) and I met to go over Digital Collections stuff.  We were all at various levels of non-comprehension.  I was by far the lost-est but, we all had some common ground in our various levels of lost-itude.  Dennis and I are both struggling with the all online format.  Maybe struggling isn’t the right word, perplexed or befuddled might be closer to accurate.  I cannot speak for Dennis but I am unable to engage d2l in a meaningful way.  I have known for awhile what my learning/cognitive styles are, I am an aural, tactile learner and a social processor.  I need to engage in aural activity to be able to process information to the point where I can actually use it.  That is to say, make an argument for or against this information, judge its relevance or worth.  I need to talk about it and/or hear it talked about.  I need to engage in face to face ,f2f instead of d2l, conversation to come to a point of understanding-ness.

What babe?

I can wade through d2l’s hideous interface, search content, links, the syllabus, discussions (and lo there are many of these) and know what it is I am to be doing but I can’t process what exactly that is.  That I am unable is weird, even to me.

The babe w/ the power.

We discussed rubricks, Goldberg contraptions, digital collections, repositories, beer, nachos, libraries, LIS V KM, certain professors and fellow students.  It was great fun and very informative.  Some of the more useful things that came out of our musings follow.  We thought it would be very handy to be able to flag posts in the d2l application.  We discussed how many librarians, and us as well, bemoan the increasing popularity of Google searches and how, for many people, Google is substituting for an information professional.  How this will never be as meaningful or informative as an interaction with an information specialist, yet LIS school seems to be trending towards online classes rather that a face to face situation.

What power?

What makes both of these scenarios bad is that only 10% (being rather kind in this estimate) of the meaning is passed through the actual words a person uses.  The other 90% is nonverbal, body language, vocal intonations and fluctuations, etc.  Some things are specific to online LIS classes, the feeling of anonymity provided by message boards, the inability to say, “yeah,” or “mmhmm” or to post a one line response, agreement or question.  As much as it tries, the message board will never substitute for an informed conversation in an f2f situation.  Maybe if Google developed an online learning environment…

The power of voodoo.

D2l, like Google (books, maps, search engine…), Amazon and the like, are handy tools.  So long as they are treated like tools and not a substitute for f2f, information specialists, teh library…  As far as the tool thing goes, none of the things I mentioned are any worse than a dictionary or encyclopedia or other handy tools.  But they work better as tools, suplements not as the sum total.

Who do?

That is all a prelude to say, I am now on track.  I have some ideas, that I will save for a future post and I have some plans, these may appear in future post 1 or mayhap I’ll put them in future post 2 (Future Self may totally hate me for this, btw).  Dennis and I have made official our intent to keep on having these meetings.  It does me good to discuss the class and its various and sundry topics with other reasonably intelligent peeps.  Ruth has made it seem like she is down with the continuation as well, just not as fervently as Dennis and I.

You do.

I have so much more understanding of what I was reading after this, our first meeting.  I no longer have the underlying sense of fear and apprehension that was plaguing my stay in teh ubliet.  I can now formulate arguments and put together various pieces of the material with things I have learned in the past.  I am able to weave this new information in with what it is I already know and believe.  But now I am out and it’s not even close to 13 O’Clock.

Do what?





survey says

21 04 2008

  Recently, while writing a paper for an LIS class on research methodologies I ran into a bit of a wall.  The instructions were to pick a population and propose some methods I would make use of in studying this group.  I chose to use a survey, of the paper questionnaire type, the brief interview and the intensive interview.  The paper stipulated that we must defend our choices, attempt to predict what ethical issues might arise due to these as well as predict what other kinds of problems might arise due to our choices.  We were also to list EVERY other method and explain why we did not use these methods.

  Here is the wall -> 5 pages MAX. 

  I was up to 9 pages while just defending and accounting for problems that might arise with the paper survey.  I still had two more methods to defend and a profusion of methods to defend my choice not to use. 

  The survey has a lot of built in problems that, if not accounted for, could ruin the data accumulated.  This is taught in intro soc, psych and anthro class I’ve taken.  You have leading questions, “Isn’t it easier to X than Y?” & double barrel questions, “Using a computer & my own skill set is enough for me to find the item I’m looking for.”  You also have the threatening question area, a set of questions that deals with things that are illegal, conter-normative or personal.  I felt, and still feel, that these issues needed to be addressed to properly justify and defend my survey. 

  The above points do not even cover the benefits of survey v other methods.  Surveys are a less costly way to accumulate data, you get more respondents than with other types.  Each of these requires an explaination as well.  I am tired of my incessant whining but, seriously, a five page paper?  Am I not in grad school?  Didn’t I just read about 200 pages in the units this paper is covering?  Isn’t that a ratio of 20:1?  Isn’t that a lot of condensing (condensation)?

  In the words of Loverboy, “turn me loose.”