Odyssey Online

Entries Tagged as 'Essay on Technology'

Who Uses Libraries

March 14th, 2014 · Comments Off on Who Uses Libraries

PI-library-typology-03-13-2014-00-01Our friends at the Pew Research Internet Life Project, in their ongoing attempt to create a mosaic of what the Internet is and who specifically is Internet-borne, have released a new study on who is using libraries in the United States, From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers–and Beyond. The study identifies and connects the who and why of people who frequent libraries–and comes up with some quite amusing categories for those who do (and do not) come through the front door.  Foremost amongst library users:

Information Omnivores are more likely to seek and use information than other groups, are more likely to have and use technology; at the same time, they are strong users of public libraries, and think libraries have a vital role in their communities. However, they are not quite as active in their library use as Library Lovers, or nearly as likely to say the loss of the local library would have a major impact on them and their family.

One of the “surprise findings” of the study is that only a small portion of library users report suffering from “information overload,” and that many folks (such as the information omnivores) move back and forth between digital and print information sources “seamlessly” (to invoke that ugly word).  Print and digital sources do not seem to preclude one another–this a point made by JCR Licklider back in the 1960’s when he was thinking about something that works very much like the Internet now (see “Man-Computer Symbiosis“), and is beautifully explicated by Eric Ormsby in his essay “The Battle of the Book” which was published in New Criterion back in 2001 (and, for members of the SLU Community, easily accessible through a quick search in Academic Search Complete).  Ormbsy’s essay is a marvelous contemplation of readers and libraries, and as I mentioned the way in which the print and digital happily coexist, facilitate different work.  Facilitate the work of poems, and with National Poetry Month at hand, work that needs to be done…

Tags: Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology


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

Obituary on the Letter E

December 9th, 2013 · Comments Off on Obituary on the Letter E

In Wired Magazine Joshua David Stein argues that the Internet is dissolving the letter E.  Not a shocking argument insofar as the English language is constantly evolving (“selfie” is the newest addition to the OED),

gothic-letter-e-tattooand texts like Across the Pond : an Englishman’s View of America by Terry Eagleton, The Cambridge History of the English Language (6 volumes!), or The English Language: Structure and Development by Stanley Hussey will document the elasticity of English. Stein argues there is an economic imperative imperiling, he quotes Flickr’s creator: “‘Being E-free,” agrees Esther Dyson, a venture capitalist and an early investor in Flickr, “distinguishes you from the run-of-the-mill vowel-infested world.’” Between E and capitalism is a “vowel-infested world.” Today has taken on Miltonian overtones…

Tags: Essay on Technology · Information Studies · Yikes!

Friday Blogging, Academic Blogging

November 8th, 2013 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging, Academic Blogging

Two blog posts arguing the place of blogging in academic writing–“Blogs as Catalysts” by Daniel Little and “Six Years of Understanding Society” by Jay Ulfelder.  Both men make the case that blogging allows them to put ideas in play that they can hone into more polished academic work.  In the words Ulfelder: “You might say I’ve become an ‘open-source’ philosopher — as I get new ideas about a topic I develop them through the blog. This means that readers can observe ideas in motion.” Back in the 1970’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus had a skit about Thomas Hardy writing in front of cheering crowd, a comedy peace about writing as essentially solitary, but the dynamic Little and Ulfelder is the rough draft as public document not played for laughs, it’s about a reconceptualizing of private and public writing space.  Now, mixing those two things up is not always a good idea, but an “open-source” progression for an idea connect to a voice, an authorial voice, has interesting bibliographic possibilities in how different researchers may cite to different variations on the same idea.  That one idea may find itself in different research in different rhetorical lights…akin perhaps to the photographs of a person in the different periods of their life, the same person, but a distinct persona.


Tags: Essay on Technology · The Academic Internet

Books and Quiet

June 28th, 2013 · Comments Off on Books and Quiet

A soaking rain through a couple of late June days seems like a good moment to contemplate quiet, rain on a metal roof quiet.  In a piece on reading that very much ties into the current commentary on the benefits of reading fiction, Maura Kelly published a piece in March in the Atlantic called A Slow-Books Manifesto.  It’s about aligning reading to the “slow” or hand made movement, the idea of taking the time to do things rather than buying them. One of the points she makes in this is reading in a quiet place in a quiet way–that the digital infrastructures that surround us (that I’m writing on now) have become overly invasive and that it takes a deliberate effort to push back. Reading a book slowly, attentively, makes a quiet space, it creates offline. In Tolstoy’s Dictaphone : Technology and the Muse (edited by Sven Birkerts) Mark Slouka has a powerfully argued essay titled “In Praise of Silence and Slow TIme: Nature and the Mind in a Derivative Age” where he argues the need that Kelly’s piece on ready is the remedy for.  If there is an original experience one can engage, it’s reading a book (yes a book, not an ebook).  Alberto Manguel’s book  The Library at Night speaks to this in a eloquent and pleasantly weird way, and a new book Quiet : the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a study on the value of quiet.  The value of rainy June days and books as a combination…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology

National Poetry Month, Save from the Fire

April 25th, 2013 · Comments Off on National Poetry Month, Save from the Fire

Ploughshares is a hell-of-a-good literary review (one that we have both print and online versions).  Recently on the Ploughshares Blog Rebecca Makkai wrote about “Five Books I’d Rescue from the Fire.”  The essay is about books Ms. Makkai thinks irreplaceable, essential, can’t-do-withoutable (her’s is an interesting list).  This of course prompts for any reader the question “Which books would you save from the fire?” Impossible, to be sure, but what came first to mind was Shakespeare.  The poetry that is a line in Shakespeare, the poetry that is remembering Shakespeare.  A volume of Shakespeare to save from the fire is one born here in Canton…Caliban Press’ version of the Tempest, a detailed description of the test anon–

Caliban Press announces the publication of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Designed, printed, and bound by Mark McMurray.  This edition was inspired by a variety of sources including Shakespeare’s First Folio;
Bread & Puppet Theater of Glover, Vermont; John Coltrane’s Olé; the film Black Orpheus; and of course Prospero’s library.


The text for this edition is taken chiefly from the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works published in 1623. Spelling has been modernized except for the eight songs within the play that retain the original spelling. Some of the First Folio type setting practices are retained such as the use, when needed, of the ampersand (&) for “and” as well as some lineation devices. Textual advisor: Thomas L. Berger, co-editor of a new variorum edition of Henry V for the Modern Language Association and editor of facsimiles of Shakespearean quartos for the Malone Society.


The text has been set in 14 point Dante by compositors “B” Michael and Winifred Bixler, Skaneateles, New York. Dante was designed by Giovanni Marderstaag and first released in 1954. Marderstaag himself published an edition of The Tempest in 1924 under the Officinia Bodoni imprint.


Printed on seven handmade & mould made papers: handmade abaca & daylily by Velma Bolyard, Wake Robin Papers, Canton, New York; machine made & handmade papers by David Carruthers and Denise Lapointe, La Papeterie St-Armand, Montreal, vatman Dave Dorrance; handmade Barcham-Green “Charles I” and “Dover”; mould made Arjomari Arches text wove and Zerkall Frankfurt cream. Additional papers include Mexican amate and others.


The images in this edition are from a variety of found and historical sources including relief prints, collage, pochoir, and a volvelle. There is also a linocut by wood engraver Greg Lago, Clayton, New York.


125 copies letterpress printed & bound in handmade paper covers and purple morocco spine.  Housed in a handmade paper portfolio. 32 cm., 119 pages.

Caliban Press is an enterprise run by our Curator of Special Collections & University Archivist, Mark McMurray.   A beautiful home grown book gardened right here in Canton, Shakespeare in Canton…

Tags: Books · Essay on Technology

Friday Blogging: Don’t Be Evil

January 25th, 2013 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging: Don’t Be Evil

Nicholas Carr has a new and very thoughtful piece on the evolution of Google as a technology, and as a company.  It’s a sobering short essay, argued in part with the poetry of T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost.  Carr’s thesis is that “Google’s goal is no longer to read the web. It is to read us.” His point being that the company’s push to personalize searches means that the real work Google is figuring out its users, not figuring out the web.  Carr doesn’t comment on the privacy issues explicit in the companies evolution, rather, he his concern is “the prison we now call personalization.”

This commentary combined with the news on Google’s tax shelters make the slogan Don’t Be Evil seem like something from a long time ago…reading Robert Frost is of course a good antidote to the news about Google and late January cold:

Tags: Essay on Technology · Google

Pausing Over Cursive

July 12th, 2012 · Comments Off on Pausing Over Cursive

…in Atlantic Magazine Jen Doll pauses over cursive, and over discussions of “whither cursive?” in a piece called Cursive May Die, But We’ll Talk About It Endlessly First. It is a summertime pause, a pondering befitting floating in a canoe or sitting by a lake side and thinking about something you haven’t thought about in awhile.  The piece also nicely summarizes and several other essays about cursive published over the last couple of years, so is a good jumping off place if you want to read up on the thinking, longing or hopeful, on handwriting.

Tags: Essay on Technology

The Future of Maps

July 2nd, 2012 · Comments Off on The Future of Maps

…from Atlantic Magazine, Rebecca J. Rosen on the future of maps, a future where maps morph into “…all the information that exists in physical space, and then a layer of intelligence that can put that information to use.” Rosen mentions in the articles liking to use paper maps (you know, maps) and recently yours truly got in an argument that the correct phrase was “reading a map” not (as someone said) “interacting with a map.”

The people who would have the clearest idea about the future of maps, are our GIS staff, Carol Cady and Louise Gava! They can be found in Launders Science Library, on the second floor in our GIS space.  An overview of the great projects they are leading is prominent on our library web presence…



Tags: Essay on Technology · Research How-To

Write or Die App

June 20th, 2012 · Comments Off on Write or Die App

…we’ve got new databases and new search features all to be rolled out this summer, so the posts here at Odyssey Online are about to turn to library services, library services, and library services.  Before they do, the Write or Die App (here detailed by Jenny Diski in the London Review of Books blog).  These Apps through one means or another are designed to keep fingers moving on the keyboard, keep words going going going, and thus encourage writing.  Ms. Diski has a fairly pointed critique of said observes that what is lost is, “…about the space in between the writing, when nothing seems to be happening…Almost always, you do eventually start to write, and it seems that you’ve been considering after all.” That is, what is lost is the pondering, the introspection that comes in searching for words, in crafting in the noggin.  Is that the rub?  That what we can expect from networked information technology is business: are all the measures of the efficiency of networked information technology quantitative and thus driven by measures like characters and not metaphors?  To put this another way, within Diski’s argument is certainly the suggestion that having one’s feet up and staring out the window is the most efficient way to render nature to advantage dressed…

…or the argument in Sallie Tisdale’s still relevant piece in Harpers from 1997 on the value in libraries…

Tags: Essay on Technology · Information Studies

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