Friday, October 06, 2006

Scrolling Forward by David M. Levy. Questions from Group 3 (for Monday Oct. 9)

Levy's "love letter" to documents raised many fine points for debate. We've tried to whittle down our list of questions, but it remains stubbornly long. Here are more than few questions to ponder:

In Levy's discussion of the future of libraries, he cites Francis Miksa. Levy summarizes Miksa's claims about libraries of the future this way: "The public space within which the modern library operated, and which it helped to sustain, is closing down. In its place will come private libraries" (p 134).
1: What are the potential consequences of private libraries taking the place of public, brick-and-mortar libraries?
2: A major mission of public libraries is to provide information and services to all people, including people who are economically disadvantaged. Public libraries help to bridge the digital divide, and offer a "shared sacred space." What will happen to equal access to information if Miksa's prediction comes true?

In his discussion of technology's contributions to the frenetic pace of modern life, Levy writes, "Could it be that we are rushing ever faster, hoping to save ourselves, to liberate ourselves from our suffering and our sense of lack?"
3: Does technology have to play the villain here? How can technology make a positive contribution, and help to eliminate Levy's lack, in enriching the lives of its users?
4: Is technology necessarily devoted to doing things faster and faster, leaving no time for rich, reflective living?

Tree Flakes Encased in Dead Cow: The Printed Word
5: What were the similarities and differences that Levy perceived between his study of computer programs and calligraphy?
6: What do the differences between the various editions of Leaves of Grass that Levy discusses say about our experience of the work? Are they important?
7: What are the similarities and differences between web documents and traditional printed material?
8: Do books, in their physical entity, block information content? Do we need to "free the writing from the frozen structure of the page" and "liber[ate] the text"? (112)

Let's explore his Dewey vs Whitman idea--
9: What is Levy's attitude toward the tension between digital and traditional technology?
10: How does this relate to his discussion of the existential nature of the creation of human culture?
11: How does he think we should "scroll forward"?

To illustrate his points about the history and status of documents in everyday life, Levy draws many examples from popular culture.
12: Can you think of another contemporary document, like the deli receipt, postcard, or greeting card, that might serve as an equally fascinating subject of exegesis/cultural analysis?
13: Do you think that the invention and use of "emoticons" signals a general downturn in the writing abilities of the computer-using population? (Surely, in times past, people were able to express humor, etc. through word choice and writing style?).
14: Levy refers to the 1985 film Brazil to illustrate the dark side of documents. What other films can you think of that deal with this subject?

Finally, some thoughts on the present and future of documents.
15: How do you feel about the assertion that our culture, when compared to others, lacks a reverence for the written word? If that is the case, how does this impact us as librarians? More specifically, is it within the scope of our responsibility to promote literacy prowess & increased appreciation for the document in all its forms?
16: Is documentation a "form of ventriloquism?" (What a fun thought!)
17: Discuss Levy's description of librarians as "practitioners of new book history." What does this mean?
18: Has our attention span collectively decreased? Does the possibility give anyone else a sense of foreboding (it's a suggestive idea)? What are the implications not only for our future, but also for our present state of mind?
19: Has technology truly replaced the notion of god(s)?

16 Comments:

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Cynthia said...

Re: contemporary documents similar to postcards, deli receipts, etc.

I find the explosion of social networking on the internet fascinating. It seems that in the past five years many sites have popped up to fill (or perhaps propel) this niche - Friendster, MySpace, Face Book, Livejournal... Is there any non-digital equivalent to these? The best I can think of is collecting as many signatures is your yearbook as you could (regardless of how close you actually were to those who signed.) Full disclosure: several friends from college maintain Livejournal accounts and I kept up with their lives through "stalking" them there. I finally relented and became a member of Livejournal myself. I've been happily posting (rather irregularly) for about a year now. I've found it to be a great way to keep in touch with college friends. What I would like to know more about is the networking that happens through these kind of sites and how this affects "real" relationships.

 
At 6:38 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Re: 15: How do you feel about the assertion that our culture, when compared to others, lacks a reverence for the written word?

I disagree. We may not share practices regarding the written word with other cultures, but a reverence for it is not comparatively lacking. For example, we display more confidence in written sources of information than we do in oral sources when seeking factual information. Most are willing to accept as fact the etymology of English words as described in the Oxford English Dictionary; however, we would not necessarily accept the word of a person on the street about the same word even if he or she claimed to be a philologist. There are, of course, exceptions. A person might be more likely to believe a friend, who had witnessed an event, over the description of the event in the local paper.

 
At 6:38 PM, Blogger Andy G said...

On question 3 -- I was thinking about that while reading, too. RSS readers like Bloglines are an interesting case.

At first I thought they were time-savers, sparing me a web crawl and letting me jump directly to things that actually interest me. But they also let me cram more “wafer-thin mints” of information into my already grotesquely information-bloated day. So they may be a positive example, but I can’t honestly tell whether I’m more or less rushed on balance.

Oops, gotta go. It’s been over 5 minutes since I checked my RSS feeds.

 
At 6:39 PM, Blogger Belle And Sebastian said...

I've recently become enamored with two websites, Post-Secret and Found Magazine. Both deal with the type of random information and documentation of everyday life that Levy discusses, and focuses on it with the great enthusiasm that Levy gives to them as well.

For the uninitiated, Found magazine asks readers to submit found documents to the magazine for publication in it's bound publications and also online. Some have included old pictures, reciepts and love-letters. Others have included notes found on the street written between people and found long after the fact, leaving the reader, and the unseen narrarator of the magazine to guess what the intent of the message was.

PostSecret is interesting as well. It features post-card sized artworks sent anonymously to the site owner for posting to the online site, which is updated each sunday. Each card describes in someway a deep secret of the artist\author who designed it. The secrets range from the mundane - to the tragic.

The interesting idea about both sites is the way in which they blend contemporary technologies of scanning and the use of the world-wide-web with very old-fashioned technologies, (a magazine and found objects in the case of Found Magazine, and Postcards in the case of Post-Secret).

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger ekbromley said...

Sometimes emoticons make me feel kind of :(. I mean, what happened to being able to convey what you mean through your words :O? In some ways, emoticons are a symptom of the rush-about nature of technology that Levy discusses. People can hurry through e-mails without thoughtful word choice if they just choose an appropriate emoticon to convey their feelings. But if you use an emoticon, are you really pausing to feel the emotion you're conveying, compared to the reflection you would face if forced to actually pick out the right word for your feelings? Are emoticons the first step toward a culture that values the speed of communication over meaningfulness?

 
At 10:55 PM, Blogger Ardoin said...

Re: How does Levy think we should scoll forward?

Like the receipt that needs the cash register, the sellers and buyers, the products and expense reports, and all other forms of text that inform us what we should do, documents need us to continue to exist as "death-transcending, lack-fulfilling artifacts of major proportions." In other words, Levy suggests that we will continue to scroll along, but at a faster and possibly damaging pace. If we want to continue to continue scrolling at this dizzying pace, let us at least decide on a speed limit.

 
At 10:56 PM, Blogger Ardoin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger Ardoin said...

Re: How does Levy think we should scoll forward?

Like the receipt that needs the cash register, the sellers and buyers, the products and expense reports, and all other forms of text that inform us what we should do, the documents need us to continue to exist as "death-transcending, lack-fulfilling artifacts of major proportions." Levy suggests that we will continue to scroll along, but at a faster and possibly damaging pace. If we want to continue to continue scrolling at this dizzying pace, let us at least decide on a speed limit.

 
At 6:05 AM, Blogger Eric Bartell said...

re: 19: Has technology truly replaced the notion of god(s)?

I'm curious as to why this question was formulated in the first place. I don't see Levy suggesting such a notion. At most, information-seeking has replaced different modes of reading, or approaches to the world (according to Levy). It is interesting to ponder, though, especially considering so many people's approach to a belief and knowledge of a god may perhaps be "information-based."

 
At 6:09 AM, Blogger Amy said...

18: Has our attention span collectively decreased? Does the possibility give anyone else a sense of foreboding (it's a suggestive idea)? What are the implications not only for our future, but also for our present state of mind?

I think that our attention span has most definitely decreased – it’s apparent throughout our society. Everything is fast, short, flashy and meant to grab your attention and keep it for 20 seconds or so. Then you discover it’s an advertisement and loose interest. Scary as it may seem, I believe it is true and see it in myself. When reading Scrolling Forward, I would find myself 3 pages further along, with no recollection of what I had just read. Instead thoughts of dinner, taking a walk, my latest phone conversation, or checking my email drift into my head and consume me. I can think all these things yet still be reading. The only problem is that I'm not absorbing any of the text, just passing over it. I think our need to multitask creates an environment where we have only short bursts of attention. Think of people eating and reading at the same time, or watching TV and reading, or driving and reading, or driving and watching TV, or talking on the phone and checking email, or checking email and eating. How often is it that I do only one thing at a time, giving it my full-undivided attention? Not very.

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger Jarrod Bogucki said...

Re: 1 - What will happen to brick and mortar libraries when private libraries replace them?

The private interest that affects the books we choose will become more obvious. There will be ads in book covers and maybe a fee for use, but other than that I don’t really see a huge change. The books we (librarians) receive are already contingent on the money the library receives, and I think it’s naïve to assume that all books are selected from a pure, unbiased, and academic reasons; you buy books for the people who use your library. I don’t have any statistics, but I can’t imagine that taxpayers currently foot the bill for most of the libraries books and journals. With a private library there will be little change since the money will still be coming from the same kind of place.

 
At 8:01 AM, Blogger Jamey said...

First, the idea of private libraries. I was disheartened by Miska's ideas. I feel privitazing public institutions (i.e. schools and libraries)would have a dramaic effect on the way our communities function.In a sense, schools are already seeing the fallout of this by being held slaves to accountability. However, even charter and magnet schools are accessable to the public. If anything, we can hope that the privatizing of libraries will only give public libraries more of sense of accountability and not effect funding. Again, I say hope.

On another note, when the movie Brazil was addressed I immediately thought of the discussion of Metropolis in Information Ecologies. Even though these two movies are vastly different, perhaps a connection can be made.

 
At 8:02 AM, Blogger Jamey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:05 AM, Blogger mjbrunelle said...

Re: P134

Miska's vision doesn't include a public service component in which all people would have access to these "private libraries". In this sense, his private library concept seems to be rather solipsistic, with little thought given to the impact that this new model would have on the dissemination of information across class lines.

 
At 10:46 AM, Blogger Von Burkhardt said...

I don't know if the brick and mortar buildings will actually close down any time soon. That idea of a public space where people can go to slow things down, to be more contemplative, to be more Whitmanesque, is appealing to a lot of people. The idea of the library as a public space where people can just exist, not being hassled by vendors in the consumeristic, private sphere is very imbued in our culture. Libraries are sanctuaries in which people can find refuge from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I don't think that part of libraries will disappear so easily.

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger Eric Bartell said...

re: Q# 3

This really isn't an attempt to answer the question of how technology can play a positive contribution. I think it can though; it's just that it doesn't usually. How many in this class had trouble with blogger stuff, or any other computer issues? That made the class more difficult, which is on one hand ok. Librarians must be on the cutting edge of informational technology, so the struggle serves a purpose. But the overarching effect of technology can be negative. It boxes us in, and we are becoming more and more slaves to it. This, in large part, does not have to be the case. However, the context which technology is developed and used, in a world of "free-market capitalism" and corporate empires, can make technology into a master instead of tool. Have computers really made life easier for us? Certainly we can do more things, and do things more efficiently. However, that just increases the demand on productivity and efficiency. Do we work less? No We just produce more and more for the benefit of "the powers that be," largely the big corporations that helped bring about the development of computers in the first place. But technology in and of itself does not have to be a bad thing. It can help us, and it does. However, right now, it might be doing more harm than good. Hopefully that will change, or we all might become, more and more, simple cogs within a vast machinery. Recall the idea of technique according to Ellul.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home