Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week September 27–October 4, 2008

This week is ALA's Banned Books Week and it's pretty exciting on a lot of fronts. Hopefully everyone can locate and attend an event in your area.

Maybe because I'm around a lot of young people and academics, and I take such open mindedness and progressivism for granted, but at first thought I was rather blase about this year's celebration of Banned Books. What I mean here is that I was looking forward to it but thought that "Hey, we've all moved past this crazy McCarthy-esque fear of change and critique and difference". I thought that maybe these books could be celebrated on a literary level and, while they're always already political, I could let political and cultural critique reside in the background. But, alas and alack, the blogosphere delivers.

One of my favorite bloggers, Jessamyn West, posted an exposition that touches on Sarah Palin's purported inclination to stricture thought via banning books at her local library. Of course, there's a lot out there about this now. The usual suspects materialize. Bogus banned books lists appear. Conservative bloggers, like Michelle Malkin, chime in. The next thing I know we've got another brouhaha that would make McCarthy proud. This is some parade yesiree Bob.

I really hope this is an opportunity to consider why certain individuals and groups are so resistant to the type of consideration and critique that banned books (or any other type "text") can offer. What is really at stake when someone wants to ban a book? Is it really "values" or is it something more sinister like a fear of losing power or questioning of identity? Is the fear that operationalizes to ban these books a misguided internal fear of introspection and courage to engage the promise of the unknown?

Maybe we'll all figure it out this week. Regardless, here we go again.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

iConference 2009

The following may be of interest to many of you out there.

The Fourth Annual
iConference 2009
February 8-11, 2009
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
iSociety: Research, Education, Engagement

The Fourth Annual iSchools Conference brings together scholars and
professionals who come from diverse backgrounds and share interests in
working at the nexus of people, information, and technology. With invited
speakers, paper sessions, a poster session, roundtables, "wildcard"
sessions and ample opportunities for conversations and connections, the
conference celebrates and engages our multidisciplinary efforts to
understand the scholarly, educational and engagement dimensions of the
iSchool movement.

This Call for Participation solicits contributions that reflect on the core
activities of the iSchools community as we move more fully into the
iSociety. These would include reflections on: research topics, practices,
methods and epistemologies appropriate to an iSchool; educational practices
in iSchools; and engagement between the iSchools and wider constituencies
both in the United States and abroad.

*e-inclusion in the iSociety: addressing under represented groups among
iDesigners as well as iConsumers (e.g., women, children and youth, the
aging, people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrant
communities, non-Western cultures)
*Becoming a "green" iSchool
*What is "engagement" in a research institution?
*The influence of globalization on the nature and scope of iSchools?
research, education and engagement
*Information infrastructure development in the home, in organizations,
in communities, in society, globally
*Cultural information systems; e.g., multilingual information systems,
information systems for memory institutions or for indigenous and ethnic
*Preserving digital information and ensuring information quality,
security and privacy
*Information management; e.g., personal information management, life
cycle management of information, digital asset management
*Information organization; e.g., ontological modeling, the Semantic Web,
social bookmarking
*Information policy, ethics and law; e.g., remembering and forgetting in
the digital age


Contributed papers presenting original research, design products,
theoretical developments, educational applications and engagement
implications related to one or more of the conference themes will be
considered. Papers should be 5-8 pages in length and suitable for
publication in scholarly or professional journals. Papers will be refereed
in a double blind process. Contributed papers may be submitted
individually, or up to three may be grouped by theme for a single session
(provided the paper authors represent different institutional
affiliations); the latter is encouraged. Please remove all identifying
author information. The electronic system will ask for a separate
submission that identifies the authors, the title of the paper, and
theme(s) the paper addresses. Accepted papers will be placed in an online

Contributed posters presenting new and promising work or preliminary
results of research, design or educational projects related to one of more
of the conference themes will also be considered in a separate category.
Especially welcome are posters contributed by students. Abstracts of
800-1500 words will be refereed in a double blind process. Please remove
all identifying author information. The electronic system will ask for a
separate submission that identifies the authors, the title of the poster,
and theme(s) the poster addresses. The title of the poster should be on the
abstract. Accepted poster abstracts will be placed in an online repository.

Roundtable Discussions
Roundtable discussions will permit small group discussion of such topics as
theory, research methods, core curricula, programmatic requirements, and
mentoring, particularly as they relate to the conference themes.
Roundtables will be open to all interested conference participants. Those
wishing to host a discussion should use the electronic system at the link
above (insert link here) to submit a statement of interest of 800-1000
words stating research and development interests in the area, a set of
questions that the roundtable leaders will use to facilitate the
discussion, and indicating the names and affiliations of roundtable
leaders. Proposals are encouraged to include diverse perspectives on the
topic of interest.

Wildcard Sessions
This is the opportunity to step "out of the box" and propose a very
different type of session?debate, research critique, fishbowl, etc. The
session should be 1-1½ hours in length and relevant to the conference
themes. Description of the goals, topic, format, participants, and
organizer of the session should be provided in an abstract of 800-1500
words, exclusive of supporting images, tables, and references. Be sure to
identify your abstract as a wildcard proposal. All named participants
should have already agreed to participate.


Please use the official ACM Proceedings Format, available at
http://www.acm.org/chapters/policy/toolkit/template.html, for all

The deadline for submission of complete papers, abstracts for posters,
roundtable discussions, and wildcard sessions is Sunday, November 30, 2008.
Authors will be notified of review decisions by Monday, December 22, 2008.
Instructions will be provided for final submission upon acceptance.

All submissions should be made at: https://www.ischools.org/conftool/

If you had a login in the iConference system last year, please use the same
login. If you have forgotten your password, the system can send it to you
as long as your email address has not changed since last year. If you have
changed email addresses, please contact iconference@ischools.org for

Review Criteria
Especially welcome are submissions that exhibit any of the following
*Addresses the theoretical, methodological, epistemological and / or
topical dimensions appropriate to an iSchool
*Addresses educational and / or pedagogical themes appropriate to an
*Addresses ways in which scholarly work and educational activities can
connect to constituencies beyond the iSchool community
*Exemplifies multi- (or inter- or cross-) disciplinarity in:
participants; graduate or undergraduate education; literatures used;
research methods employed: theorizing; publishing; or engagement
*Develops intellectual geographies in which attendees can learn about
intellectual domains not their own but part of the multi-disciplinary
iSchool space.

In addition to relevance to the conference focus and themes, submissions
will be judged on such criteria as quality of content, significance for
theory, education or engagement, originality and level of innovativeness,
and quality of presentation.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Web of Science v. Google Scholar

I recently embarked upon the characteristically academic task of doing a citation analysis on a few articles I’m using for a research project. Google Scholar and ISI’s Web of Science were the two search engines/databases that I used. Of course, I’ve got some thoughts here…especially as libraries are concerned.

I was particularly struck by the stark differences in results that Google Scholar yielded and the results found when using ISI’s Web of Science. At first glance this may seem like stating the obvious, however this experience with citation analysis crystallized a point that I have been ruminating upon for awhile. Libraries are not disappearing, nor are librarians. They still matter, though they matter differently, and the key features of libraries exist as facilitation to access information and the expertise to curate and consult.

Without the radical juxtaposition of this citation analysis it would be easy to believe that Google results are significant enough and that using a library database is cumbersome and ends with results of similar utility (granted, this belief is largely bound up in perceived ease of usability with the respective databases). Being able to examine the different results and then assess the appropriateness of the sets to academic research sharply delineated the difference between a “social” search engine like Google and an “academic” search database like Web of Science. Of note, there was no overlap in my results and Google yielded two international documents as well as unpublished papers (with no citations to them) available only on faculty websites. ISI’s Web of Science yielded peer-reviewed journal articles with significant citations to each article. I continued to discover that my original article characterized an instance of a citation network whose impact and research context included both peer-reviewed published articles and unpublished scholarly work. In fact, the most recent reference was unpublished with no citations to it. This observation that both searches yield different results supports a potential argument for using Web of Science and Google Scholar in a complementary fashion, just as it supports a claim for criticality when evaluating the results.

Unfortunately, it seems that most searchers, and even researchers, can find themselves viewing these two products as nearly interchangeable. As a caveat though, my particular example might not be typical of the majority of searches when using Google Scholar and Web Science. Even so, the fact that my original article has influence and impact on a wide variety of scholarship and response shows that these tools work best when used in a complementary fashion and with clearly defined research questions. It makes sense to have an awareness of context and what one is looking for, and to consider this when using various search strategies (i.e., subject search, article/citation search and analysis), just as it is rewarding to have a “literacy” about the information tools at one’s disposal.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Whining About AAPL's Hegemony

Jim Goldman, of CNBC, has a recent post where he takes former Fake Steve Jobs blogger, Dan Lyons, to task. The piece is here. In short, Lyons claims that Apple has become increasingly hegemonic in its own right, no longer the upstart (jeesh, I guess I can't use "maverick" now). Lyons even makes the stale way-past played out comparison of Apple as Microsoft.

On a side note, such rhetorical maneuvers are so tired and preposterous. It's kind of like when someone is "describing" a band and they say: "Oh, they're alternative/folk-punk/emo/whatever and they sound like REM/The Deadly Syndrome/Bright Eyes/blah". Or, do you ever get tired of the claims when basketball season rolls around and there's that guy who always says that so-and-so is the next Jordan. Even if band, ballers, companies are similar or analogous to other earlier instances and contexts, is this really the best and most incisive way to describe commonalities? Maybe, as a Compositionist, I'm making too much of this.

But my "real" point here is, or at least it starting off being, that I like Goldman's dis of Lyons' claim that big Apple is really big bad Apple. I've been around long enough now that this pattern bores me. Once a company or individual or group emerges with fresh, radical, anti-hegemonic products or practices folks love it. The more folks love and embrace said products or practices the more hegemonic the entity becomes. Eventually, such products or practices become the norm...then the entity may even become "the man" as it were. Really? It's gotta be more complex than this.

So, is this a function of the populous truly investing in progress and change or is it mere boutique enthusiasm for the next big thing, merely for the sake of the next big thing (so truly American)? Another possibility is that such laments actually stymy a sincere conversation about the vices and virtues of an Apple or Microsoft. It creates a discursive space dedicated to the back and forth between journalists and faux pundits, resulting only in achievement of cheap identity work for the rhetors making the same old arguments.

Rant over, thanks for reading, I'm going to go grab some Dunkin Donuts' coffee before they become the next Starbucks.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Brickt, Bricked, Broken: Music Management and Socialization

Last week my vintage 20GB iPod bricked...died, dead, for good. As much of a techno-enthusiast as
I am, lusting after the newest in small tech, I continued to use this older version of the iPod even though I have a newer model. Maybe it was because it was the first iPod I owned, or that it worked fine for what I needed, or maybe I was just proving that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds". Regardless, my 20 GB is done.

Maybe fortuitously Apple announced that it will be unveiling upgraded iPods next week (9/9/08 to be exact). I have been seriously considering becoming current, or au courant, even.

But I digress, since my iPod bricked I have been riding around listening to CDs (instead of uploading my library to the newer iPod). This experience has proven to be a really weird meditation of sorts. I have become accustomed to certain characteristics of portability and management when it comes to music. This is stating the obvious to most (and prior to actually driving and listening to CDs such a comment would've seemed inane to me as well). I'm so privileged that I can use the word anachronism to describe this...kinda like Douglas Coupland used to talk about trust-funders faux dropping out and working as a sort of boutique slumming at McDonalds (see Generation X circa 1992).

My round-a-bout point to all this is: beyond mere socialization how many of us have any real vision for what we want to do with our music? Yes, I know there's a lot out there about DRM and exchange of mp3s and accolades for not being beholden to the album format. But what I'm asking is what do you want from your music in grandiose terms? How do you know? Is it from seeing live shows (assuming people still do that)? Is it from being really solid at online music exchange or consumption? Is it from roller skating with a ghetto blaster around your local suburban mall...wait, I bet you can't do that. What socializes us to music use and approach versus what socializes us to music appreciation and experience? Are we losing something here? At what point do the old practices seems weird, anachronistic, or even unfruitful?

It's possible to pose such questions due to our accelerated information culture that's buttressed by better and better technologies. I'm still hoping my philosophy for this materializes before September 9th. Gotta go change out some CDs.