Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thinking about being an access point.

Jennifer Bartholomew started a discussion about this article in the Theological Librarians group on Facebook.

The article by Dan Chudnov is on the way social networking sites use individuals as access points. Jennifer (a fellow ATLA Wabash 2007 alum) asked for reactions. Here is my rather lengthy response to the article:

I agree that the power that technology has to connect us can also mask what makes us unique and human or in other words can turn us into commodities. One possible response to this would be to build even stronger walls between my actions, indeed who I am and the prying eyes of outsiders. I would be interested in listening to those who choose this, but it seems to me this type of chosen isolation is likely to become stifling. In the library world, for example we could do nothing with user data (or the user could act in ways that prevent data collection) which may help avoid seeing the people who use are resources as data points but would this make for a better library?

Another option, while perhaps not touching on Chudnov's deepest anxieties, would be to allow people to freely customize their data contribution and thus import some of the unique and human into what might otherwise be a sterile exchange of commodities. In Facebook it is interesting to watch people work hard to individualize their pages, even if many are unaware (or unconcerned) with how they are "giving themselves away" as Chudnov says. In libraries, I think we should investigate ways that allow the patron's interaction with the library to be more personal (more human). This might mean making spaces for patrons to interact with the information we provide and with each other in our online spaces. It might also mean presenting more information about ourselves as individuals rather than as an institution to our users as a first step toward humanizing their interaction with the library. Visual media I think could really help with this as pictures and video often come off more personable then lines of text.

Finally, I think it is important that we remember that information is not an end in itself, just as people are not ultimately access points or profit generating things. As theological librarians we believe God is not only to be studied but also worshiped. In a world that is eager to monetize all things, we need to be advocates for the significance of all the beautiful things that are good in and of themselves. The challenge is how to appropriate technology to further this advocacy.

Anyway those are my thoughts... What do you think?


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