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... the editorial blog by Marydee Ojala, Editor of ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals. ONLINE Insider intends to extend the reach of the print publication, presenting a more timely commentary on the products, people, and events that shape today's online world. It explores new technologies as they impact the working lives of information professionals, explains resources for specific topic areas, and expounds on information management tools and techniques.

New Information Order: Culture

Marydee Ojala @ 12:39 pm

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.

Twittering NFAIS

Marydee Ojala @ 2:22 pm

I was going to blog NFAIS this year, but instead decided to continue the twittering experiment that Karen and I began at INSOURCE in Prague. So you’ll find conference coverage here. Cindy Hill is also twittering the conference. The internet connection is pretty awful, it comes from the hotel’s food court. Both Cindy and I have had our connection fade in and out. I may blog some of the key points of the conference in retrospect.

Weathering NFAIS

Marydee Ojala @ 2:20 pm

I’m looking out the window at snow, which earlier in the day was hail and before that freezing rain. I’m scheduled to go to Philadelphia tomorrow for the NFAIS conference. The Phiily airport isn’t looking too hospitable today. I can only hope it gets better tomorrow. It’s not just NFAIS’ annual conference, it’s also the 50th anniversary gala. The conference theme is The New Information Order:  Its Culture, Content and Economy. Lots of good speakers and interesting topics. I’m really looking forward to it and will exceedingly disappointed if the airline gods rule against travel.

Bette at NFAIS, courtesy of Nicole

Marydee Ojala @ 1:01 pm

Now I know one piece of what I missed yesterday. Good post by Nicole Engard about Bette Brunelle’s talk on Sunday about the impact of disruption. I still remember Bette’s talk a few years ago, also at NFAIS, about disruptive technologies. As I recall, she talked then about how disruptive the Internet is. It enabled lots of people with no information skills or training to do the kinds of things that information professionals (and other professionals) used to do. Portability and personalization were some other disruptive technologies. Looking back, she was dead right in everything she said.

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