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The End of Cyberspace

By Peter Cashmore, on the Web 2.0 Blog:

Tim Berners-Lee said recently that he looks forward to a day when the web is like paper. Nobody says «I’m going to write a letter on some paper», and it seems likely that as the web gets more pervasive, there won’t be such a thing as «going on the web» either. And if the network is omnipresent and invisible, do we really need the term «cyberspace»?

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The End of Cyberspace

  • Brief history of the shopping cart. Invented by Sylvan Goldman and introduced in 1937, the cart was embraced by retailers in large part because shoppers bought more when they had carts than baskets.
  • On the history of the shopping cart.
  • Description of the Telescoping Shopping Cart Collection in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Includes a history of the cart.
  • «Livescribe incorporated in January 2007 to develop & launch a new low-cost, mobile computing platform that connects the paper and digital worlds.» It is releasing a pen computer similar to the Fly Pentop.
  • «Mr. Marggraff has described a vision for what he calls “the paper Internet.” In it, many of the things currently done on a computer, say, buying a book or sending an e-mail message, could be done with Livescribe’s pen.»
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The End of Cyberspace

« August 2006 | Main | October 2006 »

  • «Many in the industry seem split over whether the technology, known as fourth-generation wireless, or 4G, will usher in a new era of instant Internet availability or become a multibillion-dollar flop.»
  • «The next generation of UK scientists could be lost if «urgent, concerted action» is not taken, according to the new body set up to tackle the decline in young people studying sciences.»
  • «Earth’s temperature could be reaching its highest level in a million years, American scientists said yesterday.»
  • Long review of Fred Turner’s “From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism”.
  • «ARL Statistics is a series of annual publications that describe the collections, expenditures, staffing, and service activities for the member libraries of the Association of Research Libraries.»
  • «ARL Statistics 2003-04 is the latest in a series of annual publications that describe collections, staffing, expenditures, and service activities for the 123 members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).» Includes good 10-year trends table.
  • «Were the ’90s the end of history [for libraries]? Of course not. Only another fin de siècle (not only David Stam can recall apt French terms) in which each of the institutions represented here came together to sustain our responsibility to society.»
  • «Our associates are an interdisciplinary group of library planners, designers, and development consultants. We support library building projects through pre-planning, bid documentation and construction. «
  • «In this participatory era, libraries must let the public know that they are centers of communication, education and culture for the colleges and universities that they serve.»
  • ACRL’s «Excellence in Academic Libraries Award Program… recognize[s] an outstanding community college, college, and university library each year.»
  • What does it take for an average patron to find his way around your library?… In a society that jealously guards its time… [libraries must] get patrons in the door and in front of the materials they want quickly and easily.»
  • Overview of «185 public projects and 31 academic buildings» completed in FY2005.
  • «The program was an exploration of what characterizes innovation—and innovators—and how the cultural heritage community is developing new means to deliver information.»
  • Argues for the importance of futures thinking for librarians.
  • «[T]he dawning of this age of information brings to light a host of subtle changes in how we think» about libraries.
  • «[D]igital libraries must take account of the social aspects of information seeking and support the processes that occur in social information seeking.»
  • «Truly, therefore, books are scanned to be consumed by an AI.»
  • «Yes, the new college library is about access to information, but it’s about more than that, say out ‘virtual roundtable’ members: It’s about enabling the quest for knowledge.»
  • Comparison of Illinois Wesleyan University’s Ames Library, and Williams College’s Schow Science Library.
  • «Today’s academic libraries enhance community, facilitate learning, harness emerging technologies for access to information and centralize resources that define the quick-paced Information Age.»
  • Examines «[t]he value of the academic library as ‘place’ in the university community… by investigating the use of ‘faculty spaces’— individual, enclosed, lock-
  • «I want to examine the impact of the Internet on sport libraries, archives and information centers» to 2015.
  • Very comprehensive review of the library design literature.
  • «What you’ve asked me to talk about today is basically what can libraries do with all the stuff they have and continue to get. Where do we put it all; what do we do with it?»
  • «The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences, is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.»
  • 1997 article arguing that «our libraries are fast becoming sophisticated communication centers,» and «talk of bookless libraries is part of a «false paradigm.»»
  • «At a time when technology is being accused of threatening the future of books, governments the world over are spending fortunes on the construction of new public libraries. Is it a coincidence or is there some kind of link?»
  • There are an estimated 117,341 libraries of all kinds in the United States today.
  • «This report includes national and state summary data on public libraries in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an introduction, findings, and numerous tables.»
  • «This report is based on information from the 2000 Academic Libraries Survey. The tables… summarize library services, library staff, library collections and library expenditures for libraries in degree granting postsecondary institutions.»
  • Borrowing and circulation are up between 1994 and 2000; total number of visitors is down; but number of participants in group presentations is up.

One of the most gripping stories about the end of cyberspace involved the overthrow of books, and more generally of print culture, by the Internet and e-books. Depending on what side you were on, this was either a technological inevitability, or a sign of the end of all things Great and Good.

There are lots of ways you can measure how wrongs these predictions turned out to be— the book industry has certainly had its share of structural adjustments, and some high-profile closures of independent bookstores— but one suggestive one is John Miller’s study of America’s most literate cities.

The thing that grabs my attention is that Seattle and San Francisco, two of the centers of software and new media in the United States, rank among the top 10 most literate cities in America. They’re also in the top 10 cities for magazine publishers. Finally, they rank #2 and #1, respectively, in per capita concentration of bookstores. Of course, both cities have a long tradition of serious literary endeavors, strengthened by the presence of large universities and student populations, and a (now almost-defunct) combination of cultural richness and relatively low cost of living that attracted all kinds of interesting countercultural types (a phenomenon dissected in John Markoff’s really great book, What the Dormouse Said). So it’s not entirely surprising that there would be a correlation between high literary ranking and tech concentration; arguably, the former is an (at least indirect) attractor for the latter.

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Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu’s Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World. Here’s a bit of Nicholas Carr’s review:

The World Wide Web has always been viewed as a place apart. The constraints of the physical world — territorial boundaries, national and local laws, even distance itself — don’t seem to apply to the virtual world, where everyone is every place (and no place) all the time….

In their excellent new book, Who Controls the Internet?, Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu calmly dismantle this view of the web, revealing it to be a naive and wishful fiction. They show, through a series of engaging examples, why the Internet, far from existing outside national boundaries and laws, is increasingly being shaped by those boundaries and laws. Location, it turns out, matters a great deal on the Internet, for technical, political and cultural reasons. The virtual world, like its physical counterpart, has a spiky geopolitical topography.

(Very weirdly, when you use the ecto Amazon search tool to look for Goldsmith and Wu’s book on Amazon, the second hit is article from International Journal of Men’s Health, Gay and bisexual male escorts who advertise on the Internet: understanding reasons for and effects of involvement in commercial sex. One of these things is not like the other.)

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The End of Cyberspace

I’m not usually susceptible to the charms of corporate agitprop, but this bit from a zooming browser company named ZenZui caught my eye:

In the future, when anthropologists look back at the evolution of personal computing technologies, desktop computing will be viewed as a mere footnote to the cultural, technical, and sociological impact of mobile devices.

I’ve been intrigued by zooming browsers since I read about them in Jef Raskin’s The Humane Interface (he ends the book with a chapter about the virtues of zooming browsers) and saw one at Groxis, then a startup then led by Paul Hawken (and now, shed of all its original founders, pursuing a strategy best described as inscrutable). The virtues of a zooming interface are pretty clear, and a well-designed one (like the old Grokker app, alas no longer available) is a real pleasure to watch.

Grokker is now presenting itself as an enterprise KM tool, a way to make sense of giant volumes of information; ZenZui is going in a completely different direction, to mobile devices. In a small space, with limited ability to interact with an input device (or little interest in doing so), it’s an obvious way to go. A couple mobile devices have used them— I had a beloved Sony PDA that had one, but it wasn’t the main interface for the whole device— but we still have yet to see a popular application, either on the desktop or handheld, that uses zooming. Strange.

Technorati Tags: design, information design, interface