Summary: Headlights On Dark Roads

28 07 2009

Derek Law presenting at IWMW 2009In his opening keynote, Derek Law spoke about the uncertainty universities and libraries face as they negotiate the new economic and digital environment.  Law questioned the relevance of the university library, as information and students are increasingly moving to the web. He noted that libraries are failing in a digital world due to a number of factors, including a lack of underpinning philosophy about the provision and preservation of web resources, the rise of the managerial technocrat, complacency and a failure to engage with e-resources.  In a time when large portions of universities’ activities could be outsourced to Google, the issues faced by institutional web managers providing institutional web resources become even more important.

So, how are things changing? 

Law suggested that we are increasingly moving towards a society that uses images rather than words as cultural reference points.  Recording your participation in an event – such as the London bombings – comes in the form or a photograph snapped on your mobile device, rather than a more traditional, literary record.  He also suggested that we may be moving towards a society where a-literacy becomes acceptable.  A-literacy is when the skill of reading and writing text becomes an optional lifestyle choice, and may one day lead to it being possible to complete a PhD without being able to read or write.  After all, why would you need to write a methodology for your experiment, when you could just video the experiment being conducted and upload it?  Law noted that that this, and text message shorthand, does not necessarily signal a dumming down, but rather a change in the way we communicate.  He then went on to show how the traditional functions of a library – such as cataloguing, classification and preservation – are being altered by technology and social change, including metadata, folksonomies and semantic web.

Depsite these changes, the underlying functions of providing trusted resources, aggregating unique content and teaching retrieval skills remain in the “library 2.0” world that we are moving towards.  Law stressed that most institutions seem to be adopting a “digital overlap strategy” (cross your fingers and hope) rather than developing sound policies for the creation, maintenance and curation of digital content.  Most universities simply do not realise how much digital data they produce each year – although there are now personal digital footprint calculators available! Devising policies that manage and preserve that data so that the university remains a relevant centre of knowledge in the digital world is the challenge we now face.

In conclusion, Law proposed that institutions need to have a clear policy to generate trust and value in their online resources, ensuring that they are institutionally defined, scholarly, cumulative and perpetual, open and interoperable.  

We should expect the unexpected as we move towards this future and consider how best to develop these policies.  This was best summed up by the sign “Warning: please look under your vehicles for penguins”.  Useful advice!

You can see Derek Law’s sides for this talk at slideshare by clicking here.

Here are just some of the comments following Derek’s talk:

spellerliveWhat do I take from #iwmw2009 #p1? No one’s got a clue so keep your fingers crossed!

RappinRach#iwmw2009 #p1 Going to grapple with how to find our digital content & what to do with it.

webpackets#iwmw2009 #p1 I’ll take away a brilliant metaphor for how we are reacting to the dark conditions rather than making sure we read the signs

chrislimb#iwmw2009 #p1 Most important thing taken away – reinforcing that modern comms are change and *not* dumbing down

For the full commentary on this session, search for #iwmw2009 together with the #p1 tag.




2 responses

31 07 2009
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[…] Summary: Headlights On Dark Roads « IWMW2009 Blog […]

31 07 2009

Fascinating stuff! I don’t think literacy is going to go away anytime soon though. The internet makes us read more that *ever* and we are using text in a wider variety of ways. It’s funny when librarians, bibliophiles or other crazy people say that “people don’t read so much these days, they just stare at the computer screen”. Such people should step back a bit and take a look at that screen: it’s filled with all kinds of text!!

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