Sunday, September 25, 2005

Alane's Back

I have been on a work trip and then on to a lovely vacation. But first...George, I never said the digital divide was not a big topic here, so I am not at all surprised it came up at your CA gig. It comes up at every single US presentation I do. In a nutshell, and hugely oversimplified, my opinion on the DD is that it is itself hugely oversimplified here in the US, that the DD is different outside the US, that libraries will not be able to "fix" the DD (because it has it roots in things libraries can do little about--they have no funding nor a mandate from voters) and that the whole discussion as it is currently constituted for us in librarianship is a waste of energy.

OK, on that combatative note...! I started my vacation week by going to Portland OR for a work trip. I was invited to close the Northwest ILL conference with my bud Stephen Abram, . He did the opening keynote and we mulled over what to do for a closer. We were fortunate to be "performing" in the theater at Portland Community College so the very efficient staff found us a bar, fake drinks and bar stools, and we called our talk "From the Bar Stool". Our premise was that most of the interesting conversations at conferences happen outside of the sessions, often in the bar. (Well, that's our experience)

We had fun. We decided we would riff off key points that were on our Powerpoint(less) slides and luckily, both of us are never at a loss for words nor are shy about leaping into the fray. It would not work for all. It's always a pleasure hanging with Stephen, and we also got to hang with some very bright people. Also a great pleasure.

Then, we (my husband and me, not Stephen and me) were off to Penticton for a week.

I read many things I was on the verge of blogging about during my time in "Napa North" but I gave myself the gift of disconnectedness. Which I really enjoyed.

Another disconnectedness observation. Canadian news was not 24/7 about Rita and Katrina. Not surprising at one level because the events were not in Canada. But regardless, here's my take. The much lower level of coverage (both in volume and VOLUME) was a relief. We flew from Vancouver to Chicago and as soon as we entered O'Hare were bombarded with TV images and thoughts about the latest weather event. I felt anxious after 3 minutes. Perhaps we don't need these minute by minute analyses. Perhaps we don't need every single minute filled with images of potential disaster accompanied by the Greek Chorus of newcasters telling us what we should be afraid--very afraid--of. I, for one, am very tired of any kind of media hype about disasters, natural or not. I don't think my quality of life is enhanced at all by a deluge of nothing about the latest Event.

Which reminds me of our own profession. We've been prone, I suggest, to the 24/7 disaster channel. There's a well established Greek Chorus. But, we haven't been very good at coming up with solutions to the flooding of our libraries with Hurricane Google.

And you know? The "Digital Divide" post-Katrina is about access to computers, the web and the Internet. Hasn't got a thing to do with the characteristics of communities that we normally ascribe to these.


George said...

OK, Alane. I just terminated a spam that had been attached to your comment, too. Grrrrr...

Anyway, I agree with you about the deluge of hurricane news. I'm not sure how much we gain as a society in being smothered by the 24-hour news cycle, whether it concerns a natural disaster or some political faux pas. The only upside I can possibly think of from all this reportage is the outpouring of generosity to groups like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army as they go about their recovery work.

Bruce Newell said...

Non-useful information is noise to most of us.

David said...

I'm not sure if this has been asked before in the context of most discussions of the DD, but how much of this issue has been framed by the projection of values from those who have taken sides?

Two examples. The cell phone and the PlayStation. Both are owned by members of just about every American socioeconomic group. Yet when DD is talked about, it is always in the context of the PC. Yet even the most basic cell phone offers some of the same ability to access information so long as that information has been scaled for its use. Sony with the PlayStation Portable has in effect, developed the world's first under $300 laptop between it's USB ports, build in web browser and WiFi access card. Plus the PlayStation 2 is now at a price that most families can afford one.

Yet libraries as well as much of the debate over the DD have been almost trapped in the accessability to PC's while ignoring the fact that millions of people either use alternate or no advance technolgy and function just fine.

So until there is a fundamental shift where libraries are willing to start making services available in one of the cell friendly formats or reaching out to the community by providing games for the PlayStation and Xbox for people to check out or just understanding that sometimes a book is better than anything with a keyboard, I'd like to motion that the whole DD thing get put out to pasture.

Alane said...

David? May I just say "amen" and that I'll second your motion.