Archive for May 2007

The Library As Text Part III: Or The Finest Possible Communication Apparatus in Public Life

May 31, 2007

Part 1/2

“But quite apart from the dubiousness of its functions, radio is one-sided when it should be two. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication. The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organize its listeners as suppliers.” (Brecht, p616, The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication () in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook first published in 1932).

The heart wants what the heart wants. Woody Allen

Back to the title of this series: The Library As text. This is not a completely original characterization of the library, in fact it was suggested before in an interesting article by John Budd (“An Epistemological Foundation for Library and Information Science,” Library Quarterly, 65:3, 295-318). The article jives quite well with the “wrought manifesto” vibe I’m going for here, in that it calls for the Library and Information Science (LIS) community to consider engaging in a more intellectually textured way of looking at what we do, moving away from our positivistic roots and adopting a more playful, perhaps meaningful, approach in the direction hermeneutics and phenomenology (pick up a reader on Heidegger, Gadamer or Ricoeur and you’ll catch his drift). (more…)



May 17, 2007

UPDATE: Additional links

flickrvision – real time view of images uploaded to Flickr. The location is where the image was uploaded from.

Examples of embedding images from a photo-sharing site. It includes two sizes of a Google slide show, and three versions of a Flickr badge.

Some Observations About Photo-sharing

I provide a sample of links to discussions about on-line photo-sharing below, and you can see that it has been well covered in the blogosphere. Why am I contributing to the discussion now? Simply, we haven’t discussed it here and the primary purpose of this blog is to present applications that could be of use in our library.

There are billions of images stored in on-line photo-sharing services. As of now, as I type this sentence, PhotoBucket has 2.85 billion images and Yahoo Photos also has over two billion images. Photo-sharing services range from the simple “here they are, come look at them, and maybe buy some prints” to services that have sophisticated searching, secret algorithms to create subject clusters and most interesting rankings based on viewer habits, the capability to assign levels of permission for the use of images, send images to other services such as blogs, and organize images in ways meaningful to the creator.

I mentioned Yahoo Photos in the last paragraph. Yahoo also owns Flickr and recently announced that Yahoo Photos is being phased out in favor of Flickr. Flickr had only 500 million images but has been growing faster than Yahoo Photos. Yahoo is taking an interesting approach to their existing Photos accounts. With one touch, the photos of Yahoo members can be moved to a Flickr account. Yahoo will help those who choose to not to take the Flickr option to move their images to another service, such as PhotoBucket. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Flickr has restrictions on the number of images that can be displayed in an free account and restricts the number of images that can be uploaded per month. Yahoo Photos didn’t have that restriction.

In other industry changes, MySpace just bought PhotoBucket. PhotoBucket is the main supplier of photos to MySpace.

Basic accounts are free so it is easy to test drive before you commit. You could also maintain several accounts. Perhaps you want one account just to share photos with family and friends and another where you keep all your photos.

Which Photo-sharing service do I like?

There are three services that stand out for me: Flickr, Zooomr, and Picasa. Flickr is owned by Yahoo. Zooomr appeared in 2006 and is looked by industry pundits as a serious rival to Flickr. I believe the founder was 17 at the time. Picasa is owned by Google and thus fits into their suite of services available with a single login. Picasa also has a desktop client that allows you to organize and modify images which you can selectively upload.

In terms of number of web features, Flikr is first, then Zooomr, then Picasa. Of the three, only Zooomr doesn’t have a print purchase service. All three have free and pro accounts. Zooomr has nifty approach with pro accounts: You can get a free pro account if you are a blogger. I started a pro account with Flickr but I’m watching Zooomr.

What’s Interesting About Photo-sharing

People like to look at pictures. People want to share photos with friends and family. People might wonder if other people will like their photographs. OK, granted, these by themselves are not all that interesting. What about making connections? I have several photographs take when I was stationed in Viet Nam. Someone searched on my unit designation and found my photos. He gave me information about what happened to my unit after I left. This is part of what intrigues me about photo-sharing, the added value that on-line photo-sharing can bring to an image. This value is twofold. First, people can add tags, comments, notes, locations on maps to their work and, in some cases the work of others – metadata. Second, the photo-sharing site can take all the information provided by people about an image, mix in what they can determine about how users interact with images and other users, and develop ways of ranking and clustering images. The end result is that access to the image is not static but dynamic and made much more accessible. Flickr is the only service that I know of that takes metadata and combines it with user behaviors to produce a feature that guides a person to other images they may like.

Consider tagging, a concept librarians are trying to come to terms with – people providing their own descriptive terms for an item and not using a controlled vocabulary. A lot of photo-sharing services allow the owner to tag an image. Flickr allows a member to grant permission to tag to friends, family, or everyone. When everyone can tag, you get interesting interpretations of a work. For example, let’s say I post a photograph of my cat and I tag it “cat.” Someone else might view the photograph and notice the cat’s whiskers and add the “whisker” tag. Is the cat asleep? On its back? Is there a marking on the nose? All of these are legitimate descriptors from someone’s point of view. Access to this image has been greatly extended. Tim Spalding over at LibraryThing makes a similar point about tagging books. Bridgit Jones’s Diary is tagged with the non-LCSH term “Chic Lit.” That term is used by other people for other titles. Searching for the tag Chic Lit” will get the user a bibliography of book in this user defined genre. Tim has interesting things to say about tagging. Take a look at When tags work and when they don’t: Amazon and LibraryThing and Percent who tag. It will be interesting to seeif/when tagging makes the jump to traditional library services, such as the catalog.

Flickr is the standout service for librarians. I believe this is true because Flickr adds the most value to an image and provides the most access points to an image.

We want to find ways to direct people to our services. Is Flicker a means to that end?

Value Added to Images Through On-Line Photo-Sharing: a Flick-centric Look

I will indicate which service does not have a feature by using -F, -Z, and -P for Flickr, Zooomr, and Picasa.

  • Share images on-line
    • Public, private, to selected groups such as friends and family
  • allow users to define what the image means to them through tagging
  • add a comment to an image
  • add notes to areas of an image (-P)
  • mark image as a favorite (-P limited to members, not individual images)
  • be alerted when new images are added
  • make the images available to other services such as blogs
  • place an image on a map (geo tagging)
  • advanced searching capabilities (-Z, -P)
  • dynamically generate tag clusters(-Z, -P)
  • dynamically determine how interesting an image might be to viewers (-Z, -P)
  • Create groups (-Z, -P)
  • Place image on map
  • Create slide shows (-Z)
    • Picasa provides code for embedding flash slideshow
    • Flickr doesn’t officially support embedding slideshows on other sites
  • Assign Creative Commons license to an image (-P)
    • Flickr has a search filter to limit search results to images with a CC license

Discussion About Photo Sharing

Discussions about Flickr in Libraries

Examples of Flickr in Libraries

Photo Sharing Sites – A sampling

The Library as Text: Part 2 (transition)

May 14, 2007

“Information storage and retrieval by means of data banks and computers are far more than technical devices. They constitute little less than a new way of organizing human knowledge and the relations of present inquiry to past work. All taxonomies are, in essence, philosophical. Any library system, whether by size or Dewey, enacts a formalized vision of how the world is put together, of what are the optimal sight-lines between the human mind and phenomenological totality.” George Steiner, “After The Book.” in Disch, R. (1973). The Future of Literacy. 154-155

All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street-corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door. “ Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

I wanted to put up a provisional/transitional post, as I continue with the “library as text” idea. I mentioned FRBR and intimacy (in the same sentence no less!) in my last post, and I’m getting there, but for now, I’m bringing in Steiner and Camus for backup here as I continue to probe around the philosophical underpinnings of the “library,” explore the apparent pragmatism of library work, and to put forth an idea that will inform the rest: Practice is never more than an extension of theory.  For humorous foreshadowing, I also came across an image collage type thing (above) that I created to accompany a talk I once gave at a faculty research luncheon a couple years back, which I entitled, “Finding Another Way Down: Detraditionalization, Privatization and the Problem of Boundaries,” which was my first introduction to the psychological hazards and risks that accompany an intemperate and vulnerable exposure of my GenX roots, when, in the format of a “scholarly” presentation that, I naively thought, put forth a radically new philosophy of librarianship, I began speculating that meaning, not information, is the librarian’s gig, all the while trying to synthesize a new analysis of library and information science, in a pastiche, rock-star wannabe multimedia overload, through the works/ideas of Adorno, George Jefferson, Gramsci, Camus, Weber, T.S. Eliot, Fat Albert, Heidegger, Dewey (Melville and John), Brian Eno, David Bowie, Brecht, De Tocqueville, and Marshall McLuhan, to name just a few! Aahh, young, idealist librarian without a library. I can probably find the presentation, if anyone is interested. Even if it is easy to dismiss this serialized “essay” as a philosophical train-wreck, which I am always prepared to do myself, at the very least, it is the continuation of a wrought manifesto of sorts, an invitation to explore and expand library work in an imaginative direction, expose librarianship as fundamentally pre-occupied with creating milieu that provoke, awaken, refine and support the authorial intentions of “users,” and to fluently move in directions that are as expansive as the human mind, and as perilous as the human heart. More to come on FRBR and intimacy, I promise.