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The End of Cyberspace

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.

Technorati Tags: books, cities, city, end of cyberspace, library

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The End of Cyberspace

  • «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”.
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The End of Cyberspace

  • «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.
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The End of Cyberspace

  • «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.
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The End of Cyberspace

I’m in Baltimore for the next couple days for work. This afternoon, while walking around Johns Hopkins in the warm blanket-like heat of the Southern summer, I stopped in Xando for a quick espresso.

Xando is a pretty decent chain: I first saw them in Philadelphia, shortly after I finished grad school. And this one seemed rather nice. I’m sure it does a booming business during the school year.

When I was in school, Penn had absolutely no coffee places. There were places where you could buy coffee, but no actual cafes. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing for me in my last year, when I was spending 12 hours a day writing my dissertation. Probably since I didn’t have a laptop, it was a good thing.

Actually, I wonder if you graphed the growth of cafes in the U.S. (or just around universities) with the penetration of laptops, would you see a correlation? More to the point, could you make a reasonable causative argument— that the growth of laptops has played a role in making cafes more attractive spaces? In the U.S., it seems to me, the «Internet cafe» hasn’t quite taken off in the way it has in, say, Asia or the Middle East, though it has become A Thing. Arguably we have as many Internet cafes as any place in the world, if by the term you mean cafes where people go to drink coffee and access the Internet. The difference is, in the States we tend to bring our own machines, not rent them from the cafe.

Technorati Tags: baltimore, cafe, Johns Hopkins, mobility, space, travel

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The End of Cyberspace

Last year the Institute published a series of memos on the present and future of RFID. (I was the principal author on them, but like everything at the Institute, lots of people were involved in the thinking and production.)

I just noticed that they’re now publicly available as PDFs on the Institute Web site. Titles and links:

Technorati Tags: RFID, future, end of cyberspace, IFTF

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The End of Cyberspace

Andreas Pfeiffer argues in ACM Ubiquity that features don’t matter any more; user experience is all.

Why Features Don’t Matter Any More: The New Laws of Digital Technology In the seemingly never-ending debate about Apple’s successes, announcements, new products and predicted-but-unannounced über-gadgets, features and technical specifications often seem to dominate the debate. Yet if there’s one lesson to be learned from the company’s recent successes, it is a very simple one: features don’t matter any more. Welcome to the Age of User Experience. One key aspect of modern digital devices is that technical specifications are easily copied and replicated: mega-pixel count in cameras, storage capacity in music players or processor speed in personal computers are the same everywhere. As a result, they provide only poor distinguishing factors for consumers when it comes to choosing between different brands.

That’s where the overall user experience comes in. As computing and digital devices move more and more into the consumer space, features and functionalities will increasingly take the back-seat as motivators for technology adoption: as the iPod abundantly shows, user experience (along with a strong brand, and clever marketing) is much more important for the success of a device then technical specifications. Web designers have grasped the importance of good user experience a long time ago; now it is time the big technology providers to understand where the industry is headed.

All true. But how true— or new— is it? In the 1980s, Regis McKenna was saying that people don’t really know enough about technical specs to evaluate high-tech products on the basis of processor speed, etc., and that other factors— particularly influencers— were more important. Still, perhaps what matters today is that an argument like this seems to self-evident.

Technorati Tags: design, end of cyberspace

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The End of Cyberspace

William Mitchell, writing in Metropolis on «the emergence of a new stage in the evolution of cities:»

Preindustrial cities were mostly skeleton and skin—inert material arranged to provide shelter, security, and intensification of land use. In the industrial era, buildings and neighborhoods acquired more and more elaborate flow systems for water and energy supplies, sewage, ventilation, transportation, and trash removal. With their inputs, outputs, and artificial physiologies, they began to resemble living organisms. Today these organisms are developing artificial nervous systems that enable them to behave in intelligently coordinated ways. As the cities and their components become smarter, they begin to take new shapes and patterns. They become programmable. And the design of their software becomes as crucial—socially, economically, and culturally —as that of their hardware.

[via Smartspace]

Technorati Tags: city, design, digital-physical, pervasive computing, ubicomp

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The End of Cyberspace

This connects back to something I posted recently on rapid prototyping and education: Gizmodo reports on a new service that lets you create models of objects you create in Second Life:

Those amongst you who spend all your waking time on Second Life: rejoice! Simon Spartalian and Mike Beradino of Recursive Instruments are launching a milling service for SL users on June 1, so you can have actual physical representations of your avatar, builds or favorite SL objects made out of anything from foam to wax to stainless steel, up to 9”x5”x5”.

As 3pointd writes,

Part of the goal of the project is to bridge the virtual and the real “by developing a cultural authority in the virtual that till now has been reserved for the physical,” Spartialian says. The service will allow residents to create physical objects that can take on personal importance or perhaps even come to have financial weight around the edges of SL’s in-world markets.

The Recursive Instruments blog has lots of geeky goodness.

[hat tip to Jason]

Technorati Tags: digital-physical, games, manufacturing, printing, prototyping

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