I came back from NFAIS facing deadlines for the next issue of ONLINE so that took precedence over blogging for last week. However, there were some important themes that came out of the conference that celebrated NFAIS’s 50th anniversary. The tag line for the conference was "The New Information Order: Its Cuture, Content and Economy." Sunday was culture, Monday content and Tuesday economy. Too bad NFAIS couldn’t come up with a C word for Economy, or is that just my love affair with alliteration?
I’ve heard both David Weinberger and Lee Rainie before, their keynotes sounded a bit repetitious to me. Weinberger is still talking about the changes that disrupt the information world when knowledge is no longer a scarce commodity. Once again, he stressed that everything is miscellaneous, but this time he acknowledged that sometimes "good enough" isn’t really what you want. when it come to air traffic control, clinicians, and lawyers. "Facts," he said, "are a good thing to pay attention to." My favorite quote, though, was in the Q&A part when he admitted he wasn’t a reality-based person. I’m also taking to heart his comments about Twitter, which he called "the poster child of random triviality." If you think the people you’re following are saying trivial things, stop following them. Done, David! (You’ll be able to read more about the Twitter experiment in an upcoming issue of Information Today.)
Lee Rainie was, as usual, full of statistics. He shared his view of the five building blocks of the internet age: Information is digitized; media and gadgets are ubiquitous parts of everyday life; the internet is at the center of the story, which broadband deepened and wireless broadened; the internet is interactive and pliable; and computing,, communications, and storage are getting better and cheaper. He went into various life changes wrought by electronic information, all starting with the letter V. I found some of his V’s to be really a stretch, as when he substituted "valence" for "relevance." He acknowledged that information overload is real, something Weinberger dismised as a myth. He ended with Pew’s archetypes, something that Walt Crawford railed against in his column for ONLINE. Don’t ever call Walt a "Lackluster Veteran!"
The final panel of Sunday was the high point. Chris Willis from Footnote (and a Parkite), Bryan Alexander from the National Institute for Technology and LIberal Education, and Jean-Claude Bradley, associate professor of chemistry at Drexel introduced a practitioner view that I welcomed. Willis suggested that, in this age of paradox, we should think like anthropolotists. There are huge semantic gaps between groups of people who would seem to have similar interests, such as art history majors and museum goers. We need to design stuff that’s interesting and fun. Alexander talked about web 2.0 in the education context. Concepts implicit in 2.0 aren’t new, it’s just the technology to make it work. He finds a distrust of the technology in academia. Bradley explained open notebook science, which values transparency. His experiments are on wiki pages, he’s got a blog, his students compare experiments on Google Docs, and he’s active in Second Life. More importantly, he’s found active compounds to combat malaria.