Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creepy, questionable & fun

Change is healthy and normal and I sort of embrace some of the big shakeups coming down the pike.  Sure, it'll be kind of sad, in a way, to no longer have the post office, the check, etc.  Those are so ingrained in our minds as part of daily life, even when we don't really use them, that their lack might leave a big, nostalgic void for a while.  But the simple fact is that when we come up with a better way of doing things, the old way dies away.  The trick is to try to get on the right side of the change.  In the early 20th century, when the car culture was in its first appearances, livery stable owners had a choice: go away quietly, or adapt to become car dealerships and auto garages.  I'm not sure how a government agency like the post office could adapt in that way, but surely there will be a way for the individuals who have spent a lifetime organizing the logistics of the postal service to continue to serve in the information world.  We'll see.

I'm particularly happy to see the evolution of the television.  I think we've spent enough decades frozen in front of the boob-tube.  I feel bad, a little, for the networks (and the even more struggling cable channels), but they're working on getting with the program with streaming services through their own proprietary web presences and through services like hulu.  I think this change is great: so much excellent commentary has appeared on the internet revolving around tv shows--comedies, dramas, original stuff, literary adaptations, whatever--delving deep into serious social and cultural issues like our perceptions of race, sexuality, violence, and more.  There's a whole cottage industry out there of amateur criticism focused on tv, and I think it's due in large part to the shift to internet viewing: it allows for much easier pausing, rewinding, and tracking through for specific moments; and the medium by which to record your thoughts and feelings is right there in front on you, so a lot of people have taken advantage.  (For a great example of thoughtful commentary on a wide range of tv shows, check out Alyssa Rosenberg on ThinkProgress--tv criticism with a socio-political edge.)  I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm excited to see something that has long been a stereotypically braindead pastime begin to turn into something that's fostering some intelligent engagement.

But yeah, there's that scary side.  Privacy--what's that? I just got done writing a paper in which I explored the "privacy is dead" attitude prevalent among the upcoming generations, after which I speculated on the negative consequences of the tendency to sort of hold that up as inevitable, as something to accept and move on--namely, that the any, many people who still DO care about privacy will be tempted to eschew these new services and paradigms.  Not the least victim of this hesitance to access all that the century has to offer is the library; and if even one person feels like the library is not a safe place to enter private data, then the promise of the library as an institution of democracy is not being fulfilled.

So, yeah, privacy.  And e-books.  My 505 class had a guest speaker today, Mr Ken Fujiuchi, who informed us that to buy an e-reader is to give up the privacy of your reading habits.  The two concepts just can't co-exist.  Your data is culled and stored and analyzed every time you make a purchase, every time you browse.  That's sinister and unnecessary.  I don't want guessing what I want to read.  It's different with Pandora, upon which I commented in Karrie's post, wherein you actively give the details of your musical taste and let the application do the rest.  But with bookstores--I mean, forget the creepiness of individually targeted marketing; for me, part of the point of reading is the jumping around.  If I've just read a John le Carre, who says I'll want to read another cold war era espionage thriller with a humanistic bent next time?  Presumptions make a...pres...out of u and me...or something.

But all in all, I think I'm excited for the coming changes.  Mr Fujiuchi, who is an emerging technology librarian at Buff State, offered us some tantalizing glimpses of the future, not the least of which is Facebook and Intel's ability to create a museum exhibit of your life.  Creepy, questionable and fun--just how I like my futures.

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