Category Archives: new media

#DigiWriMo #acwrimo 2012 What I’m doing

Ok, so the title of this post may be misleading. I’m not certain I know what I’m doing, other than I’m doing #digiwrimo and #acwrimo this year. This means I’m going to focus on getting a metric shitte-tonne of writing done in the month of November. Follow the links above for the official rules, but I’ll be breaking those. These are my rules:

  • I’m going to write for at least two pomodoro units each work day. This isn’t very much.
  • I’m going to make progress on at least my accepted Online Northwest presentation and an article I should have written 18 months ago.
  • I’m going to include non-text-entry parts of writing such as editing my own writing and others’ work and also my own project management as “writing” tasks
  • Twitter and other social networking doesn’t count. (They don’t move me toward my productivity goals.) Neither do things like writing Goodreads book reviews. (These are things I do instead of writing.)
  • I’m going to pursue a thought I’ve been chewing on until I either have a draft or I’ve decided it is stupid. The thought is that library public services can be split into two approaches: UX design and the hacker ethic. One has few barriers to access but incentivizes  a passive approach to receiving pre-digested information. The other is more difficult and has technology and skill barriers but incentivizes an active approach to creating and integrating new knowledge. For now I’m calling the two approaches “Jobs” and “Woz.”
The Main Project

The main project I want to progress on is a paper on the effects teaching search engine architecture and SEO have on students information literacy. I’ve presented a few times on this subject but need to write an actual paper. It’s based on my classroom experiences, but I’ve also started a review of textbooks used to teach search in Information Science / Information Management graduate programs to track how much information architecture librarians are provided with in their graduate education. My hypothesis is that searchers who understand how both keyword-relevance algorithm search tools and traditional databases, indexes, and well-ordered sets of metadata are structured are able to make better practical decisions in their search processes.

What I need to do is to gather and collate a couple years of divergent projects and false-starts and squish them together into a cogent outline.

Side Project One:

I have promised to build some training materials for the ACRL LITA Code Year Interest Group on working w/ APIs. I’ve decided to work w/ OCLC’s Worldcat Local API to solve an annoying problem with our catalog. (OK, the problem is in the DATA, not in the tool that searches the data.) Currently, government documents in electronic form are cataloged as books. So, when students search our catalog looking for locally held books they can check out, they have to wade through pages of electronic government reports, white papers, and hearings. Weeding out these items that are not physical books on our local shelves takes an insanely complex series of Boolean operations that I once discovered by failed to write down.

My project will be to write a simple search web-app that can be used either as a search box on a web page or as a mobile app that automates this complex search as a simple “find books I can find on the shelf” search box. As I build this, I’ll record the steps and publish a training guide to simple deployment of OCLC’s Worldcat search API.

Side Project Two:

I mentioned I’m looking into the hacker ethos and UX design as competing priorities in public services librarianship. Perhaps they are in a dynamic balance instead of directly competing, but this is something worth thinking/reading/writing/mulling over.

Side Project Three:

Library Boxen. I’ve orderd a couple of the routers used in the Library Box project and I have an implementation plan for one of them. I’ve just hacked a spare home wifi router w/ DD-WRT, so I think I”m ready to install Open-WRT on the hardware, then the Pirate Box software, and then Jason Griffey’s Library Box code on top of that.

I’m hoping to deploy my first Pirate Box at the Fort Vancouver Historical Site in support of the CMDC’s mobile project there. My CMDC faculty colleagues Brett Oppegaard and Dene Grigar have been developing mobile apps to help present rich historical content available to visitors at the site. The historic fort is remote and out of range of wifi and most cellular broadband signals. The Library Box would be a solution to offer visitors the chance to download the app itself or rich media content to help make their visit to the site more informative.

This is primarily a making/hacking project, but I’m betting I’ll find some way to write (yack) about the project before I’m done.

Side Project Four:

I’m currently a blogger for ACRL’s TechConnect blog. I’m struggling to get my work in on time. (Translate: missing deadlines pretty badly) If I sit down to write every day, there is no reason I can’t hammer out a couple of posts to keep on hand, giving me a buffer. This week, in fact, I’d like to finish my piece on the Hacker Ethos and Librarians. This will detail both mindsets and tools librarians can use to empower us to remake our online and physical environment to meet our needs. No longer will we have reason to complain about our tools. If they don’t meet our needs: remake them until they do! I recently gave a talk to a class of undergrads new to digital media on the ethics of hacking and I’d like to modify that content for my library colleagues.

Yack Yack

If I get half way through half of these things, it will be a highly productive month. I’m not interested in 50k words in 30 days. I’m interested in building new workflows that get some work done. I’ve got plenty of interesting things to think about, #digiwrimo and #acwrimo are, for me, a chance to DO THINGS instead of just keep lists of interesting possibilities.


As the (tenth) Doctor says: “Allons-y!”

The Business Model is Broken. Pay for Stuff Anyway.

Warning: there are a lot of words to read in this post. The good news is that relatively few of them are mine.

Second Warning: I may get a little preachy here. I don’t mean to preach so much as to testify. This is my story about how I walk the line between supporting a broken model and looting from artists.

Caveat: While I end up disagreeing with David Lowery’s stance, I own (have purchased) the complete Cracker back catalog complete from Cracker through Countrysides.

The Business Model is Broken. Pay for Stuff Anyway.


An NPR All Songs Considered intern Emily White wrote an online essay about the born-digital experience of being separated from the physicality of music. One of my favorite musicians, David Lowery, who also happens to lecture in music business at the University of Georgia, wrote an eloquent reply about the right of artists to get paid for their craft.

Some salient extracts:

Emily White:

What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded, and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model). All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?”

David Lowery:

The existential questions that your generation gets to answer are these:

Why do we value the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself?

Why are we willing to pay for computers, iPods, smartphones, data plans, and high speed internet access but not the music itself?

Why do we gladly give our money to some of the largest richest corporations in the world but not the companies and individuals who create and sell music?

This is a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the point. But it’s as if:

Networks: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Hardware: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Artists: 99.9 % lower middle class. Screw you, you greedy bastards!

Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!

I am genuinely stunned by this. Since you appear to love first generation Indie Rock, and as a founding member of a first generation Indie Rock band I am now legally obligated to issue this order: kids, lawn, vacate.

You are doing it wrong. Continue reading

Artificial Scarcity: I attempt to identify the root cause of the #HCOD debacle

…the publishing industry has lost its technological monopoly on the flow of information. This means that libraries can no longer identify ourselves as purchasing collectives for containers of information.

#HCOD sturm und drang

There has been much sturm und drang in library-land over Harper Collins recent decision to limit ebook circulation of their titles. Harper Collins has decided that after the 26th time one of their ebooks has circulated, it will expire and the library will need to purchase a new copy. A New York Times blog ran a piece on it and Bobbi Newman (Librarian-by-Day) has an excellent digest of the conversation. It has certainly stirred a hornets’ nest, but it remains to be seen whether this is itself a big deal, or whether it is merely a symptom of a deeper problem.

In circumstances like this one I tend to look for root causes and big picture solutions. This means that my contribution to the discussion should not be confused with practical, daily-running-of-the-library kinds of solutions. What I’m interested in sorting out is why is this happening and whatever is happening, where are we on the timeline of its progression? I’ve been trying to think and talk this issue out using twitter (@nnschiller) and my +/- 140 character response would be: Publishers are becoming an anachronism. Libraries risk the same if we single-source our content through the publishing industry. Phrased another way: The real problem can best been seen by analyzing artificial scarcity efforts. Neither really get at the core of the issue, so here is my attempt to connect some dots.

Artificial Scarcity is the real problem. (Or at least a significant manifestation of the real problem) Continue reading

Games & New Media influencing Old Media

At first glance, it is easy to see games, comics, and other so-called new media influencing the so-called old media of film, television, and books. Spiderman, after all, is a series of top-selling films and films inspired by game and comic intellectual property and popping up all over the place. The Watchmen, Max Payne, Resident Evil, Dead Space, the list is extensive. So much so that it can be difficult to tell sometimes which is the original medium for a particular piece of art. LOTRO is clearly the adaptation of a series of novels into a video game. Max Payne is clearly a film adaptation of a game series. The Mass Effect novel is clearly a marketing tie-in for the video game, even though it was released first. What about Dead Space? I’ve little interest in seeing the movie or playing the game, but I’m not at all certain which is the chicken and which is the egg. Certainly the game seems more of an A-list release than the movie, if that counts for anything. What I’m getting at is that I think the system is evolving past adaptation and towards a mutual or at least concurrent development of intellectual properties (for lack of a better term) across various media old and new.

This is interesting, but what is more intriguing still is that certain design characteristics from video games appear to be influencing the creation of content at a deep and creative level. Uwe Boll movies and Halo serial novels are one thing. They may be a significant step in the confluence of media styles, but I have little to no interest in viewing or reading them. Big budget movie action sequences shot to resemble game levels are another step. I started noticing this years ago, but the best example I can think of is the department store scene in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. This appeared to be filmed to appear just like a third-person shooter level. I like shoot-em-ups (and the Clive Owen movie with that title is another excellent example of game-influenced cinematography) but the connection between games and this kind of movie seems to be mostly technical in nature. I’m not well versed enough in cinematography and visual design for these kind of cross-media pollenation to resonate with me other than on a visceral level.

Today, however, I ran across an old blog posting that opened my eyes to another kind of cross-media pollination that is fascinating and full of promise. Jason Mittell wrote a thoughful essay that will soon be published in the Third Person: Authoring and exploring vast narratives anthology. Mittell’s essay is really worth reading in its entirety, so I’m only going to summarize it briefly. Mittell looks at the acclaimed TV series The Wire and the claims that it is a televisiual novel. He finds that the narrative structure more closely resembles a video game than a novel and his supporting arguments for this analysis show a deep and informed understanding of games-as-media that established gamers will find encouraging and welcome. Picking and choosing some key quotes, here is a sample of Mittell’s analysis. (Don’t take my word for it, read it it’s awesome.)

Games certainly play a more crucial role within The Wire’s storyworld than literature, as nearly every episode has at least one reference to “the game.” Within the show’s portrait of Baltimore, games are played in all venues—the corners, City Hall, the police station, the union hall—and by a range of players—street-level junkies looking to score, corrupt politicians filling campaign coffers, cops bucking for promotion, stevedores trying to maintain the docks. “The game” is the overarching metaphor for urban struggle, as everyone must play or get played—as Marla Daniels tries to warn her husband Cedric, “the game is rigged – you can’t lose if you don’t play” (episode 1.2).

Many videogames are predicated on the logic of simulating complex systems, modeling an interrelated set of practices and protocols to explore how one choice ripples through an immersive world. We might imagine The Wire’s Baltimore as the televisual adaptation of the landmark game SimCity.

Ultimately the characters in The Wire, while quite human and multi-dimensional, are as narrowly defined in their possibilities as typical videogame avatars. They each do what they do because that is the way the game is played—Bubbles can’t get clean, McNulty can’t follow orders, Avon can’t stop fighting for his corners, Sobotka can’t let go of the glory days of the shipyard. The characters with agency to change, like Stringer Bell, D’Angelo Barksdale, or Bunny Colvin, find the systems too resistant, the “boss levels” too difficult, to overcome the status quo.

If my account is correct that the videogame medium offers more insight into what makes The Wire an innovative and successful program than the novel, why wouldn’t Simon or other critics highlight this cross-media parallel as well? One answer is obvious—it helps legitimize the show by comparing it to the highbrow respectable literary form rather than the more derided and marginalized medium.

In the final quoted section, Mittell suggests that The Wire’s creators chose the televised novel metaphor over the televisual game metaphor because the general public do not accord games with the same level of respect they give novels. My thoughts are that if games & their design elements can inspire such a damn fine piece of television, that respect cannot be long in coming. Mittell is certainly doing more than most to help the general public come to see video games as a medium capable of rich narrative and as containing gameplay that does more than passively entertain.