Odyssey Online

Entries Tagged as 'Licklider’s Legacy'


February 5th, 2014 · Comments Off on ASCII Art

…while not exactly a topic of burning interest to libraries, Atlantic Online ran a well written essay that harkens back to the time when the Internet was made entirely of words, the character based Internet.  The time of gophers, usenet groups, telnet and FTP, the days of the blue “throbber” Netscape N:


A long time ago, remembered vividly in The Lost Ancestors of ASCII Art by Alexis C. Madrigal where he documents how people drew with keyboards, what people drew with keyboards, and how people will, as Madrigal puts it, “make art with anything.”  For those of us who can remember this green-or-orange-letters-on-a-black background Internet, the piece is evocative of the ‘Net that used to be–a Internet you might get a sense of by reading The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier by Howard Rheingold, or Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte, or The Road Ahead by Bill Gates, or Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet by Sherry Turkle…

…or by watching the Telnet Star Wars, captured now, appropriately enough, as a youtube video…

Tags: Essay on Technology · Licklider's Legacy

Friday Blogging, This and That on the Internet

January 28th, 2011 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging, This and That on the Internet

…a couple of follow-up’s for a Friday on the travails of the Internet.  In Slate Larry Downs wrote a piece arguing that if the history of the Internet tells us anything about assuring Net Neutrality, it’s to do nothing.  It’s an interesting contemplation on the “the Net” has always taken care of it’s own business.

…and I found this interesting, it’s an explanation of how the Egyptian Government could turn off the Internet as part of its attempt to quell the recent street protests…

Tags: Computer Security · Information Studies · Licklider's Legacy

Two Spaces After A Period

January 25th, 2011 · Comments Off on Two Spaces After A Period

…while somewhat outside of the state purpose of Odyssey Online, these article and rebuttal caught my eye.  On January 14th Farhad Majoo argued, with noteworthy verve, that one should abandon the practice of putting two spaces after a period in a sentence.  His argument is based on the notion that A) the practice is ugly, and (more importantly) B) that it is a habit left over from typewriters. Like the qwerty keyboard, putting two spaces after a sentence is a practice that writing with digital appliances renders pointless. If nothing else it does illustrate, nicely, those moments of  interesting cross-generational persistence when analog processes won’t die…

also interesting is this rebuttal which matches Majoo’s emotional swipe for swipe (and offers an interesting rhetorical parsing of his argument)…

Tags: Essay on Technology · Licklider's Legacy

Short Essay Upon Dictionaries

September 6th, 2010 · Comments Off on Short Essay Upon Dictionaries

…following up on Oxford University Press’ wondering a’loud about whether they would only publish an online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the New York Times believes this might be a better manifestation of the OED as a living breathing chronicle of the English language, and one can certainly see the point.  One can also see, from where I’m sitting, two dictionaries on lecterns in the ODY Reference Area.  They are both open, both, at this moment, open to the west like sunflowers tracking late afternoon sun, and neither is being used. In the real world wherein these dictionaries dwell, books and online publications lead complementary existences, (read the Internet’s progenitor, JCR Licklider), but one can’t help but worry that with the news of an online only OED they’ll be a collective “that’s that” for print dictionaries.  Perhaps with the OED awash on the Internet, the answer is to untether the dictionaries from “reference and let them circulate–let anyone who wants them check them out and take them hither, tither, to a dorm room desk yon.

An idea that suggests using a print dictionary is now like using a mule and plow to turn the soil for the back yard tomato patch, so who uses dictionaries—who sees a print dictionary as a living breathing thing?  I suspect that even the most ardent bibliophile doesn’t think of a dictionary as breathing, since books are, after all, completed objects, gardens harvested.  Their existence is more weathering the reading elements than walking upright, and their fate, whether destined for  pristine care on a regularly dusted bookshelf, or discarded after one read on a Gray Hound bus is entirely chance and favor in the eye of the beholder.  Long lived books are those vegetables that are canned for the this-and-that in the root cellar, to be consumed with joy or botulism, and celebrated archaic.  While not everyone cans vegetables, and you don’t save diamonds-on-the-dollar by doing so, don’t we admire the self-reliant canner?  Might it be that the writer and their dictionary take their place in the living breathing archetype of self-reliance and propels our nation both left and right?  Might for off-the-gridders and bankers alike might a flip of the dictionary be a way to stick it to the man?

Late in his life John Updike published a lovely short essay in the New York Times titled “Books Unbound Life Unraveled” about what books are and do, including Books as Furniture:

Shelved rows of books warm and brighten the starkest room, and scattered single volumes
reveal mental processes in progress, books in the act of consumption, abandoned but readily

Which could be the fate of the lectern dictionaries. They look great:  the shelved books upturned into one part lily one part sunflower one part sketch pad (these are dictionaries with pen and ink fingernail illustrations).  Ultimately print dictionaries utility will ungulate upon the urgent umbrage traded over reading and writing online and whether one is really the current a national of readers will sail.   I would like to think that having a print dictionary to consult within a library is one small opportunity to choose one’s word carefully. How many times does one writing at the word processor mean writing  just to make the squiggly red or blue lines go away?  Rather than writing to think about words, how many times at the processing keyboard does one write to rearrange words? Unplug spell and grammar  checkers—hahaha not on my watch, but watch what you do with a dictionary and like Licklider you may find a moment or two when walking to a lectern to consider a word and all those one wouldn’t otherwise meet but for flipping through a dictionary make a connection, one into the etymological guts of English (which is I think where we started).  Take a word out of the dictionary like a book of the shelf for those moments of eating it raw, before working online…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography · Licklider's Legacy

Tuesday Internet Reading: Clay Shirky

January 19th, 2010 · Comments Off on Tuesday Internet Reading: Clay Shirky

…Tuesday a.m., and it finds us look at Clay Shirky’s essay The Shock of Inclusion. Shirky is writing about the future of collaborative thought, whether the quality of public thought is collapsing, and whether “publishing has become the new literacy.” Lucid and insightful, and most certainly worth a look…

Tags: Essay on Technology · Information Studies · Licklider's Legacy

Notes on Creative Commons Presentation

January 13th, 2010 · Comments Off on Notes on Creative Commons Presentation

On January 14th I’ll be part of a panel with Michelle Gillie (of ODY!) and Amy Hauber (of Fine Arts!) discussing the Creative Commons. My notes for the presentation are here.

So if you’re interested in documents related to either the founding of the Creative Commons, or documents foreshadowing the necessity of the Creative Commons, take a look!

Tags: Essay on Technology · Licklider's Legacy · SLU Library Event

Browser Market Shares

November 3rd, 2009 · Comments Off on Browser Market Shares

…reported from the Atlantic, both Firefox and Chrome continue to elbow into IE’s share

Tags: Licklider's Legacy · The Academic Internet

Network Neutrality

September 22nd, 2009 · Comments Off on Network Neutrality

…in what amounts to big news, the FCC today affirmed Network Neutrality, and began to organize itself to enforce said.  There are proponents of this decision, and their are critics (this article from PC World nicely sketches both sides).  Network Neutrality is all about keeping the infrastructure providers, literally the folks who own the fiber optic cable, from using their conduit technology to establish different levels of web service.  Of course, being something, in this life, it’s not that simple–Edward Felten wrote a good primer several years back on what Network Neutrality is, who the players are, and what the consequences might be.

Tags: Licklider's Legacy · The Academic Internet

Analog Anon, on a Snowy Day

January 21st, 2009 · Comments Off on Analog Anon, on a Snowy Day

…in my web travels recently I washed over two articles that tugged at my analog heart.  Full disclosure, I love books and typewriters and am inclined to be swayed by arguments which exlaim the virtues of analog anything.  These articles however both do have something to say….“Ain’t Gonna Hang No Picture Frame” by Rob Horning is a well written short essay about the joy and evocative quality of phyisical photographs, what I used to call snap shots.  The title references a ulitilty that puts what looks like a picture frame around digital images, something horning calls “strange and sad.” Of physical photographs he writes, “…there is a sense that something delicate and ineffable has managed to survive, a small miracle amidst the rampant image destruction we experience in our disposable culture.”  Photo albums, shoe boxes full of unlabled and perhaps even slightly faded photos…

…also of note a piece in the Boston Globe titled “Cursive, Foiled Again” written by David Mehegan. It is a chronicle of the demise of cursive as a study for third graders, and for me this is regrettable.  Two reasons for cursive instruction:

  • Ability to understand what the English Poet Ted Hughes meant when he said “Handwriting is drawing.”
  • Self discipline, the eye mastering the hand.

Full disclosure, my own writing is illegible.  However, a student just handed me a form with positively beautiful cursive and the document is adorned. The document is the person (think about what Hughes said). Photographs and fountain pens on a snowy afternoon…

Tags: Licklider's Legacy · The Academic Internet

The New Adminstration’s Virtual Banner

January 20th, 2009 · Comments Off on The New Adminstration’s Virtual Banner

…by 12:30 p.m. today, roughly half an hour after Mr. Obama’s inaguration, the Obama team had swapped out the Bush administration design for Whitehouse.gov and replaced it with their own. Here is an image of the Bush adminstration template saved yesterday afternoon, and still in place around 11:30 this morning (last time I checked). By 12:30 today one finds…this page.  The web team apparently beat the motorcade down Pennsylvania Avenue…

Tags: Information Studies · Licklider's Legacy