Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Rise of the "User Class"

A couple of items on this theme of the shift of power from producers/distributors to users--something all librarians should be paying attention to.

Esther Dyson is a futurist and writer (daughter of Freeman Dyson, physicist and Verena Huber-Dyson, mathematician and philosopher, and also sister to George Dyson, whom I know of best for his expertise on baidarka). She hosts an annual think-tank kind of conference called PC Forum. The theme this year is Erosion of Power: Users in Charge and is most relevant to issues librarians are wrestling with. Esther's description of the theme (emphasis is mine):

"At this year's PC Forum, we'll examine the subtle but pervasive shift in control that's making these things possible. It's not - as some people think - that Google and search are taking over the world. Google's and others' tools are enabling me - and millions of other me's - to take over their own worlds.
In the end, I don't just want information; I want actions based on the right information. I want flights booked, appointments made, supplies ordered, inventories managed on the basis of information that is structured and actionable (and that reflects my own personal preferences)."

This might be a conference to attend to stretch the little grey cells. It's March 12-14 at La Costa Resort and Spa, Carlsbad, CA.

Related to this (and noted in today's issue of paidContent) is BBC Chairman Michael Grade's keynote speech at the NATPE conference (National Association of Television Program Executives) titled On Demand is the Future. Staci Kramer from paidContent interviewed him afterwards and provides this clip from Grade (the whole interview is available as a link from the post-- and my emphasis again):

"I also happen to believe, in the end, if we've learned nothing out of the last 20 years it's that the public don't want to be trapped by one piece of proprietary this or proprietary that. They're going to invest a lot of money in new kit as it comes along ... and they want to be sure that what buy, they can get whatever they want from whoever... In the end, consumers will tell the industry that's the way they want it to go."

I believe this is true for libraries too. Users and consumers will tell us where they want library services to go either passively, by disappearing from our libraries, or actively, because we've asked them.

And an hommage to Winston Churchill for ending two sentences in prepositions.

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