Net Neutrality

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

This topic has made the rounds a little bit, and recently a class project was shown at a UIUC-GSLIS discussion on Net Neutrality. This was a simple video that was knocked together over a couple of nights at “boot camp” and I’m a little surprised to see it make a reappearance. Enjoy:

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Tenure & Academic Librarians

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve wanted to make this a place of more thoughtful posts, but I also didn’t want to lose this idea- which is very possible given that my firstborn is now taking up a lot of my mental attention and I have much to catch up on both at work at school.

I made the front page of the Daily Dish a little while back with the defense of Academic Librarians listed below. But if anybody is interested in responding, I would like to know what you think- is tenure for Academic Librarians desirable/justifiable/necessary? Let me know- I’m still on the fence about this issue.

I was extremely disappointed to see this discussion on tenure take such a nasty turn. It’s that not that I necessarily disagree with your reader’s post about librarians and tenure – I think the burden of proof should be on librarians if they want to receive tenure. (This article from the Chronicle of Higher Education has a more informed and measured take on the subject.) However, in a truly uninformed and citation-less rant about the uselessness of librarians today, your reader really misunderstands the profession.

There are a number of universities that grant tenure, but the vast majority of academic librarians do not receive or achieve tenure. Of the institutions that do grant librarians tenure, most require that a *second* master’s degree be held by the candidate for subject specialty. Indeed, at my own mid-sized academic library, I can easily name a half-dozen librarians with PhDs in non-library/information science fields, just off the top of my head. Furthermore, many academic librarians do teach or co-instruct classes.

As far as librarians “struggling to be relevant” or “find something to do,” I literally have never met an academic librarian who has time to spare in their jobs. Yes, the work is shifting from the traditional passive model of information assistance – that is, waiting at a desk for the questions to roll in. And yet, it has shifted to a much more intensive and active role coordinating with IT departments and vendors to make the non-findable-through-Google electronic resources easily accessible to faculty and students. This is not to mention that librarians are at the forefront of digital storage issues, in addition to access and collection issues. Any other “free” time is now spent on outreach and collaboration with others.

And finally, the dig about the salary was really uninformed and misleading. Starting pay for the academic librarian positions in the Midwest are currently in the $35,000-45,000 range (max), depending on experience and qualifications. Given that many of these jobs require additional degrees or certifications, I really bristle at the implication that academic librarians are somehow overpaid and irrelevant.

Let me know what you think- Thanks!

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Completely unproductive today

May 14, 2010 Leave a comment

With the many things going on in life, it’s not surprising I’ve become suddenly less motivated. Wrapping up the academic semester coincided with a rigorous evaluation period (for myself, students, and my employee) as well as multiple paperwork projects I’ve been putting off. Top that off with a desperate housecleaning project (as we’re trying to sublet our current place) and finding/signing for a new apartment, and it’s not hard to see how the motivation has ebbed. Then, throw in my wife’s graduation and some big family news and my mind’s just gone.

So, I’m trying to get geeked about a massive integration and re-branding project of myself online. I want to be ready to compete in the LIS job market as soon as December, so that means getting everything on plate taken care of ASAP and developing my public presence. Hopefully refocusing in this new area will allow me to build momentum going into this summer.

As for something entertaining… well, if you missed it before, here’s an interesting visualization of internet stats.

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from JESS3 on Vimeo.

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Trying the new theme!

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Why not?

Here’s an interesting video for you to watch:

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Thinking about Art & Aesthetics

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I do believe that we, as humans, are very visual creatures. And as such, I think we really need to think about art, aesthetics, spectacle, and the substantive roles these play in our everyday lives. So here’s a few things to chew on:

*Is Rock Band band evil? “Real anxiety comes not with influence, but with the imperative to transcend it, which is another part of creative development.” This seems to be getting into the Ebert-versus-Videogames Art discussion. I don’t want to wade too far into it.

*However, for fun, here’s a neat discussion on Royal Tenenbaums and the Substance of Style
*And the new Coolness sweeping the nation: Banksy art installations are accompanying the documentary on him/by him.
*Here’s  a really interesting reaction to both Italian Futurism and the Russian Revolution with Polish Futurist play “The Crazy Locomotive”
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Reason, argument, and sovereignty

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment
After reading a truly terrible book nominally on evolutionary psychology (“Why Beautiful People have more Daughters”), I thought about the conversation I’d had about it with a friend who insisted that the “logic was ironclad” which confused me a little bit. In my view, the author(s) had cherry-picked examples throughout history that supported their arguments without any attempt at contextualization or any real understanding of the relationships of correlation and causation. Furthermore, while burning a straw man of the “social sciences model” which was derided as environmental determinism*, the author(s) deployed some of the worst arguments and analogies I’d ever seen while completely suspending agency & context of any situation so they could groundlessly posit about why Muslims are suicide bombers (and/or vice versa). And given that our other friends who had studied biology and psychology also derided the book as really poor science (and noted that in science classes a “101 fundamental” is that science can not definitively prove everything, experimental results are hard to replicate unless variables are tightly controlled, so the idea that the concepts of evolution could be extrapolated to explain every walk of life is just laughable), I was rather surprised to hear our rather bright friend, in law school no less, praise the “logic” of the book. It was at this point that I realized how shaky legal arguments are. Those who watched Jon Stewart face off with John Yoo over torture noted that Yoo could merely throw out precedents against specific objections and move on, obscuring the real heart of his written arguments for torture. You only need a precedent, regardless of context, and a convincing story to make a winnable legal argument.

Looking at religion and the way it treats other truths is also instructive. For example, fundamentalists in America are furious over the Harry Potter books, because to them *magic is real* and therefore those books promote an idea opposed to their very existence. While we see their argument as inane and silly (because magic isn’t real), they see magic as a real danger.  And because most religions recognize only one truth (God’s truth), while post-modern intellectuals generally recognize that there are competing truths, for the fundamentalists there is no valid way to argue against these notions, or even reinterpret the scripture, without descending into heresy.

In this vein, I found Malcolm Gladwell’s review of “Why?” by Charles Tilly, very interesting in considering why we believe the things we believe, how we change our minds, and what makes a good argument. Tilly suggests that there are four kinds of explanations: conventions (“Don’t stick your finger in the lightsocket!”), stories (“Once, a friend of mine stuck his finger in the lightsocket and died”), codes (“It is illegal/a sin against God to stick your finger in the lightsocket”), and finally, technical accounts (“If you stick your finger in the lightsocket, 10,000 volts will flood through your body, stopping your heart”).

Thinking about why and how we create the codes or legal frameworks in intriguing when juxtaposed with an understanding of the authority that recognizes it, and where that comes from. After reading Giorgio Agamben, I become both proud of America’s founding fathers for their recognition of democratic authority, and alarmed at the religious-industrial right’s undermining of that authority with fear and suspension of our civil rights. Anyway, this post is long enough. Check out the review for a quick read, and Giorgio Agamben if you want something to really sink your teeth into.

*My first day of first class in Sociology as a brand-new college freshman 17 years ago, I recall hearing my very authoritative professor announcing that the “nature vs. nurture”  debate was no more, as the discipline recognized both influences on human behavior- which was confirmed by my SOC 101 textbook. There is no “nurture” or environmental determinism arguments, nor has there been for decades.
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Coffee convo

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

A friend of mine posted this review of Bryant Simons “Everything But the Coffee” which is an interesting and quick read.

I thought reviewer Richard Greenwald had some good observations, but I really disagree with a couple of his notions:

1) The idea of Starbucks “stamping out” the coffee house concept and the “javaman’s master plan” I find simply wrong-headed. Starbucks just recognized and coopted the coffee-house/third-place aesthetic. Pretty simple, and it works in a strip mall as well as in downtown Seattle. That’s actually the genius of it, because when I’m in an outlet mall or waiting for my better half at a strip mall, it’s really nice to get away to a place where I can hear myself think, or even actually do some homework.

2) I really thought his positing that the American Middle Class is too big and mystical to know and yet is hypocritical for their Starbucks patronage, versus the better defined and understood Working Class, was problematic at best. Who do you think goes to Starbucks? Certainly there are middle-class hipsters, Bobos, and suburbanites, but there’s a lot of working-class people that I’ve seen in there. You can’t talk about the Starbucks phenomenon without understanding its appeal to the working class. Why is there a Starbucks drive-through in southern Martinsville, Indiana? Because it makes money….

I occasionally visit Starbucks myself, for reasons listed above and others that I won’t go into here, but I do generally prefer local coffeehouses and libraries for my “third-places.” I think Greenwald’s best observations that should be expanded on are about Starbucks as a spectacle representing something that it isn’t really, and the role of the “self-gift”. But I think he has some predetermined ideals about the working class, the middle class, and Starbucks itself that are leading his thought too much.

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