Friday, November 17, 2006

National Book Awards

I forgot to write this yesterday, but Richard Powers won the National Book Award for Fiction. Why is this so exciting? Because I believe that my mom discovered him. I know that sounds ridiculous, but my mom has an uncanny ability to sniff out and recommend the most phenomenal works of fiction. Two years ago she recommended Richard Powers' novel, The Time of Our Singing, and it was one of the best books I've read in a decade. It begins in 1939 when a Germen Jewish emigre physicist goes to the Marian Anderson concert on the mall in Washington D.C. and meets a young African American woman studying to be a singer. They marry and have three children who they vow to raise beyond time, beyond race and steeped only in song. The epic follows the family through the civil rights era and to the present day. Powers won for his latest novel called The Echo Maker. I can't wait to read it!

So, kudos to mom (and Richard Powers) for her impeccable taste in contemporary fiction (and to Richard Powers for his beautiful writing).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Second Life and Asperger's Syndrome

Rebecca Nesson made a point of importance (to me, because my son has Asperger's) -- and that is that Second Life is being used as a testing ground for people with Asperger's to practice social interaction without the pressure of face-to-face meetings. Here is a blog about this called Brigadoon.

Here are some other discussions about using Second Life for this purpose.

A second shot at life. 'Second Life' helps Asperger's

My question about this is that many of the problems with communication for people with Asperger's have with face-to-face interactions is about reading emotional queues on the faces of others, and learning how to interact with people in group settings. Second Life will not help with these problems.

Hmmm... not totally convinced about it's importance, but I'm open.

Teaching and Learning in a Virtual World

Rebecca Nesson is teaching a class called "Cyberone: Law in the court of Public Opinion" at Harvard University. This course is offered in Second Life.

I'm not sure I understand why this class is being offered in Second Life vs. actual life or in a more conventional online setting. On the one hand I suppose it is a good experiment to see what the limits of Second Life are. But on the on the other hand I feel like we will look back on this in a few years and feel very silly about the clunkiness of the virtual experience. I sometimes wonder about these more 'meet-up' type social software experience whether we're just doing it because we can.

April 164 (a nom de librar for a person sitting next to me who shall not be named) wonders if in 100 years we'll be interacting like this in all areas of our life. Will we go to work like this? Will we see each other in real time at all?

As for me, I really like people, real people and I like to see them face-to-face and not in some virtual world. It feels too stilted and uncomfortable. I also don't like how the avatars in SL don't look like the people the represent (my own included).

Ok, now we're talking about building a virtual dance floor-- Queue BloodHound Gang-- "Da roof, da roof, da roof is on fire! We don't need no water let the M________________ Burn!.

How distracting is all this asynchronous goings on?

NerCOMP conference notes

The Book Meadow

Social Software in the Classroom: Happy Marriage or Clash of Cultures?
Eric Gordon-- Assistant Professor of New Media

Students rely more on personal stories and anecdotal evidence. students demand that course material be directly relevant to their lives.
Napster slogan: Own Nothing; Have Everything.
The allure of access...

Aggregation, consolidation, convenience, manipulating and sharing content.

In sites like myspace and facebook students assume they are in private. The desire to interact in the 'chat' level. "look what I did!" "cool." It feels like young people are being doofuses on more levels than before and we're trying to use the same tools to engage young people and look cool while doing it. It reminds me of Amy Poehler's character in Mean Girls. she's totally into being a friend to her daughter instead of a parent and makes a fool of herself. She makes virgin margarita's for the girls and when asked if they're alcoholic she says: 'oh god no! Why do you want some?

Like I've said before, we should not be going to keggers to offer refernce services anymore than we should hang out on MySpace or Facebook.

A participant in the conference said: We (as academics) are entering their culture and asking them to particpate in ways that we would like them to participate. And they're saying: "No, you're in our culture and you must participate within our cultural framework."

I think this is a good point. We can't enter their culture and expect them to participate with our social norms.

My thought is that we should leave the MySpace and FaceBook to the kids and, if we use public social networks at all (the alternative being a WebCT closed network type of interaction) we might want to choose something more intellectual like LibraryThing or

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The Book Meadow

What is truthiness? Here's a entry in wikipedia about "truthiness" and wikipedia is referenced in the definition of truthiness. But my favorite example of "truthiness in action is this npr interview with Karl Rove, aka Bush's Brain.

How can we combat "truthiness"?

Cynacism, smarts and democracy

The Book Meadow
First of all: "WOO HOO!!!". The dems won the house, most probably the senate (that is if George Allen will just concede already like a normal person and if Joe Liberman actually remains a democrat in name if not in deed).

But today I am thinking about how information works, both in a democracy and on the internet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about web 2.0 apps.

I love Flickr;

I have a Second Life avitar who is considerably more attractive than I am in my first life;

I am addicted to my bloglines account, watch youtube, and love wikipedia.

BUT I was just reading this article by Nicholas Lemann from the New Yorker called Amateur Hour.

And while the New Yorker is soooo old school media and the article is so three months ago I am trying to work on ideas for a class that I am teaching today about how to evaluate information on the web.

So, in addition to the million thoughts that came to my mind, you see I am such a quick thinker (insert sarcastic emoticon here), and I'm so hip (ibid) I even have my own blog... I did a little experiment.

I checked the front pages of three well known news outlets/aggregators and here is what I came up with:

The New York Times
Oh My News

Now we know about the NY Times. Stuffy journalists, old school media, The Gray Lady

Ok, so who or what is Oh My News? Well according to it's Oh My News About Us page there's a President and CEO, a Senior Editor, a U.S. editor and untold numbers of citizen reports who work by a code of ethics.

So they're similar to actual reporters or journalists except they don't get paid and they may or may not be trained journalists.

So this is democracy, you don't have to go to school for it or get paid for it. But you still have to submit to "editorial authority". And unlike
an actual reporter you have no recourse to challenge the editorial authority. Pretty democratic.

Finally, let's take a look at This is how describes itself: "Digg is all about user powered content. Every article on digg is submitted and voted on by the digg community. Share, discover, bookmark, and promote the news that's important to you!"

What's on today? The day after a major election, a change of power in our government and the dumping of the defense secretary... Well, let's see. Hmmm... South Park - Cartman continues his quest for the Nintendo Wii. The future of gaming. Interesting...

But the thing that makes me most uncomfortable is that when I first looked this morning the first article I found referring to the elections was a link to a video from youtube satirizing mid-term elections from Jon Stewart. Which, don't get me wrong, is funny. However, slightly inaccurate considering the mid term elections this time were incredibly important, hotly contested and swept out many, many incumbents. So, if you were to get your news only from what conclusions would you draw about what's going on in the world?

Seeing as we're getting our information from so many different sources, how can we make informed decisions about what we read?

Here are two ideas:

1. Get your news from a few different trusted news sources. Given the number of news sources, this can be overwhelming so I use a news reader or aggrigator to put it all in one place. See: my bloglines account


2. Apply consistent criteria to all information. How do we do this? Well I'm gonna show you...

So, what's my conclusion about all of this? Sure there's great new media-- I'm all jigg-y (insert old person using new slang emoticon here) with great new media-- slashdot and youtube, and great old media (I love the NYTimes book review section no matter how pretentious! And there is also old crap and newer crap. The only thing that can help you filter all of this information is by using your smarts, keeping an open mind and applying consistent standards to all information no matter how you ingest it!

My next post-- truthiness.

I do hope Cartman gets his wii....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day!

The Book Meadow
It's election day. We get a chance to change the future. Max, Lisa and I will be going to vote together, The Levheim voting block! Even thought Max is only 5, he has come with either Lisa or I to vote in every election since his birth. When Lisa took him to vote in the primary in September he wanted to set up a voting booth of his own when he got home. He got a ballot and voted for everyone so that none of the circles would be blank, we tried to explain that this strategy might be problematic in an actual voting situation, but he'd rather be symmetrical than vote strategically. Who can blame him, he's 5! Happy voting.

Friday, October 27, 2006 conference

The Book Meadow
To see some of the cool things that I learned about, check out my bookmarks about this conference

Dartmouth October Conference-- Cool Tools and New Technologies

The Book Meadow

I am sitting at the Dartmouth biomedical library Cool Tools and New Technologies conference. It's very fun, and I love talking about, Second Life, blogging, RSS, podcasting, etc. BUT Roy Tennant is talking about using Second Life for meeting our users where they are. I'm not sure if it makes sense to follow our users everywhere just because we can. I mean we know they go to keg parties, but we're not going to follow them there to offer reference services. Are we?

Other thoughts-- Meredith Farkas idea: Using wiki as an internal tool for communication, use: bad behavior plugin—looks at the behavior of the poster and decides if it’s a spambot or a person.

Batteries running low, more later. But just a thought-- if RSS feeds are supposed to make our lives so simple, why do people read so many of them?!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Book Meadow

The Book Meadow
Now reading...

I am currently reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I'm just beginning and I think it's a big chunk read. What I mean by that is it is best read when you have a big chunk of time so as not to destroy the narrative flow. And the flow is beautiful.

Welcome to the Meadow

Remember the old Bloom County cartoons where Milo, Opus and Cutter John used to sit around, stare up at the clouds and think about important issues, such as... "Just what are pear pimples for hairy fishnuts anyway?!" (see explanation: Bloom County comic . Well I thought I'd like to blog about the books I'm reading and hear about what other people are reading too, in the same 'easy as a summer day' way that I imagine Milo and Opus talked about things. I look forward to posting, and reading posts from other readers. Thanks, Deb