September 21, 2007

Here & There

Some recent items of interest, some related to some of my common themes, some not.

  • Wayne Bivens-Tatum and Brian Matthews get it exactly right about academic libraries getting "student centre envy." It's something I written about before and something I feel very strongly about: as libraries on diverse, lively and changing campuses, we have to make sure that we serve the core mission of our institutions and at the same time care about giving students the kinds of physical spaces nobody else will.

  • As usual, lots of great stuff in the most recent ISTL. Two items in particular I'd like to highlight are Scholarly Communication: Science Librarians as Advocates for Change by Elizabeth C. Turtle and Martin P. Courtois. This one is about the role librarians can have in promoting awareness and adoption of newer modes of scholarly communication. It includes a number of resources, areas where librarians can make a difference and suggestions on how to proceed. Interestingly (and ironically) they don't recommend as resources any of the numerous blogs (librarian and otherwise) that focus on scholarly communications such as OAN, CavLec and Open Access Librarian. I occasionally post on these topics.

    Also interesting is Library as Laboratory: Computer Science Students Practice Usability Engineering in an Academic Library by by Margaret Mellinger. Cool stuff: engaging computer science students to work on usability projects for the library as part of their course work.

  • The Hard Science of Making Videogames: See the top ten hurdles facing game designers today, and the cutting-edge tech that will soon make them relics of the past by Jacob Ward, Doug Cantor and Bjorn Carey. Lots of interesting stuff here, relevant to software development as a whole and not just video games. In particular, embedded systems, immersive worlds, ubiquitous computing all face similar challenges: processing power, simulating water, human faces, light and shadows and many others.

  • The Traditional Future by Peter Brantley
    A prominent U.S. sociologist and student of professions, Andrew Abbott of the University of Chicago, has written a thought-provoking thesis on what he terms "library research" -- that is, research as performed with library-held resources by historians, et. al, via the reading and browsing of texts -- compared to social science research, which has a more linear, "Idea->Question->Data->Method->Result" type of methodology.

    The pre-print, "The Traditional Future: A Computational Theory of Library Research," is full of insights about library centric research, including intriguing parallels between library research and neural net computing architectures; a comparison that made me think anew, and with more clarity, about how the science of history is conducted. Armed with a distinctive interpretation of library research, Abbott is able to draw some incisive conclusions about the ramifications of large repositories of digitized texts (such as Google Book Search) on the conduct of scholarship.

    Really cool post and paper. I'm certainly looking forward to reading the paper in detail as I've just scanned it so far. I'm not certain how what he's done applies to the scitech fields but I like what Brantley says about serendipity.
    Google Book Search is a wonderful thing. But it not so wonderful that we should assume it will transform education and research. Nor should we assume that in the future we might not be able to generate architectures that make books live more intelligently amongst each other - and more freely - than anything that Google might envision. As libraries who might be participating in digitization: let us challenge the fundamental assumptions we are handed - that must seem so dangerously obvious - and rethink the landscape of our profession, and how we might best support our real work of learning.

    Now, Google Book Search is my new best friend as far as research tools is concerned, but I think we need to be aware that the research systems we build for our patrons probably need a little chaos built in. I'm not entirely convinced of Brantley's (and Abbott's) points (and the comments on the post are often equally skeptical), but it's something we need to think about.

  • Three vantage points from which to view patents by Andy Oram and Patents and Scientific Peer Review by Tim O'Reilly. Lots of discussion about software patents and such. Very stimulating and worth reading in its entirety.

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