Archives for category: Uncategorized

I will not make the same Clash song references. London knocks itself around a little.

I’m a big fan of roots causes. The UK riots are intriguing in part because the part of British political and economic culture that are driving the hooligany strife seem far and away more complicated than authorities (and much of the press) are saying. Nothing happens for no reason, but there is a sense that proximate causes get more blame than is their due.

One of the first to be pilloried on the ol’It’s-This-Guy’s-Fault stage is social media. Authorities in the UK have stepped up to say that Blackberry Messenger, Facebook, and Twitter, erstwhile heros of the Arab Spring are bringing down British Civil society.

From the CBC:

When social media helped protesters organize and overthrow corrupt regimes in the Arab world earlier this year, while also providing citizen journalism when the mainstream media was shut out, they were lauded as tools of democracy.

However, when the same methods are used in a scenario like Britain, they are seen as disturbing, says Boler, who teaches at the University of of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

“Here it’s not about a dictator. Here the issue is the corporation as a representative symbol. These things always spiral off into hitting the mom and pop stores, which is unfortunate,” says Boler.

A writer named Kami makes the same point with this post on Facebook.

“Cuz [sic] people who protest in the western countries are rioters, looters, and violent enemies of the good state, so social media is the “catalyst.” In Egypt and elsewhere, social media was the tool that made revolution against evil dictators possible. Look for facebook [sic] and others to either have a major overhaul, be a tool for arrests/disappearances, or be named an enemy of the state when massive uprisings happen in the US.”

The social media aspect is actually a distraction from deep-rooted issues and the real story, which is chronic economic malaise and the growing disparity between rich and poor in Britain, just as was the case in the Arab uprisings, says Boler.

“It’s no coincidence this would happen so soon after the world-wide freakout about stocks and the economic crisis.[source]

I think the declaration that social media has become a political force is probably tasting a little more bitter than it did back in February. To some at least. Not myself. I think that pinning the Arab Spring to social media’s chest and now in the UK is as much an unfortunate oversimplification as blaming riots purely on hooliganism.

Sure, you can blame Facebook or Blackberry, but limiting these services will hardly stop the effect. Egypt is a good example of how this doesn’t work. Scapegoating is often used a quick fix for deeply seeded social problems, but it is not necessarily the best long-term response to over-boiling social issues.

I’m sure that we can all agree that writing cover letters is the worst. Any MLIS grad can probably relate to how frustrating it can be. Like when you’re excited about a job that is just a little off of where you usually plant your applications, and you just can’t get the mix in your letter right.

Recently, I found a posting that looked like it was written for me (except for a few things I’d have to pick up on the fly, but hey that’s what comes with new jobs). I sat down to write the cover letter, and bim bam boom a few hours later I was still staring at only a few sentences.

Now, there is a lot of pretty straight forward cover letter advice out there. The problem is that the questions involved are far from formulaic and almost demand existential guesses: Why do I want this job? Why will you want me for that job? And so on. With that starting point, boiling my work and school life down to a tasty demi-glace of a letter leaves my mind annoyingly blank. Read the rest of this entry »

legos gutenburg

One of my favourite CBC Radio shows, Ideas, has posted a podcast on the future of the book. It’s a round table discussion with perspectives from publishers, editors, and writers with, of course, a decidedly Canadian outlook.

Ideas host Paul Kennedy moderates a panel from the 2010Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival in Montreal.  Two publishers (Yvonne Hunter from Penguin Canada and Kim McArthur from McArthur Books) and an academic/author/blogger (Andrew Piper from McGill) discuss the uncertain future of an endangered species. [Listen here.]

This episode is a really good cross-section of the issues around the evolving world of eBooks, print books, and the push and pull between them.

A few things have got me to thinking.

Read the rest of this entry »

And here we go, another addition to my library minimalism project.

The key thing for this one is the human connection. At first, I wanted it to appear more cyclical, like a triangle… but there’s something elegant about the role a good catalogue or database plays in connecting people to things, so I went with the linear flow.

Also, I couldn’t resist the retro library card catalogue type card. I’ll have to do “OPAC”, eventually. I have no idea what that would be.