Variations on a theme – book spine poems

Earlier today I composed some book spine poems—all variations on a theme—once I found a good “punch line.”

Perusing my long list of book titles, compiled during DigiWriMo 2012, I came across these two in the midst of the list:

The way it is
In the next galaxy

I decided then and there to riff off of that. This is a kind of nice as these are two of my favorites out of our poetry books [both Sara’s].

I still like the first one I chose to be the set-up best, though [bottom]. Here are a few of them, while there are a total of eight in my Flickr album for DigiWriMo 2014.

Whether or not you check out the others, you should consider composing your own book spine poetry, and I would love to see comments in Flickr or your own photos suggesting additional titles that would make good opening lines. Comment here or in Flickr.

And, no, this isn’t really a joke. My main thrust—at least of those I prefer—are more of the “The grass is greener,” while the others are more of the “Oh. My. The Other” category. I am sad though that I couldn’t put my hands on George Steiner’s Grammars of Creation because I truly like that thought. Far more positive.

Tastes of paradise. The way it is In the next galaxy.

Tastes of paradise.
The way it is
In the next galaxy.

Tastes of paradise.

The way it is
In the next galaxy.

Slaves of the Machine. The way it is In the next galaxy.

Slaves of the Machine.
The way it is
In the next galaxy.

Slaves of the Machine.

The way it is
In the next galaxy.

There's treasure everywhere. The way it is In the next galaxy.

There’s treasure everywhere.
The way it is
In the next galaxy.

There’s treasure everywhere.

The way it is
In the next galaxy.

DigiWriMo 2014

I have committed to participating in Digital Writing Month 2014, more commonly known as DigiWriMo, this November. I did it its first year in 2012 and made my goal of 50,000 digital words. Most people who know November as a writing month know it as National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. There is also Academic Writing Month, AcWriMo. Wikipedia says there’s an Academic Book Writing Month, AcBoWriMo but that’s a new one on me. Well, on Twitter there is no #AcBoWriMo but there is plenty of #AcWriMo.

I have been driven to write lately—perhaps driven by the mysterious and as yet undiagnosed illness; which is neither here nor there. I have so many ideas and there are tons of old ideas not finished, or ever even fleshed out, to work with.

Preparation has involved recording these ideas as they occur and corralling old recorded ones too, prepping my Scrivener project file (my writing tool), and spending more time learning to use it well.

This year my goal is ≥ 1k words/day, with a total of ≥ 25k words/November. Yes. I am aware of the missing 5 days. I am trying to be gracious with myself. [If this illness can possibly help teach me that idea then, OK, I’ll take the rest. I’m not counting on this being an actual lesson, though.]

I do not know how much I will do with the, thankfully, re-expanded DigiWriMo folks’ official efforts but I will be “playing along at home” at a minimum. I certainly hope and plan to interact a fair bit. I just have to manage my stress triggers and adding a #digiwrimo twitter search window to my already overflowing two twitter accounts for a month ….

I also recently acquired a new phone making the leap from an iPhone 4S to a 6. I had been eligible for an upgrade for well over a year and $200 was the most they were ever going to give me anymore for my 4S. Or that anyone was going to give me. For a lot of hoops and a delay of several weeks, I got to pay roughly $100 and a $35 activation fee to move from a 16GB 4S to a 64GB 6. I took that deal.

It was particularly tempting as I use both TextExpander and 1Password on my computer. They have also both been on my phone but were basically useless. Finally iOS 8 allows them both to be useful. [Sadly, I will not be putting iOS 8 on my iPad 2. It is struggling already.]

The point of all this is that having those 2 programs actually doing good work on my phone may let me use it to do just a couple more tasks than I would’ve before. Also, the bigger screen isn’t to laugh at with my old eyes. They will also allow me to more productively write digitally even though what I “write” on my phone will still be pretty damned minimal.

Some of what I write will be public, much as now although even more will be. Much will be kept private. I really want to start doing a better job of journaling, in a couple senses of ‘journal.’ I hope DigiWriMo will spur me to do so, or at least take advantage of the illness’ urging me to do so. I hope to get a few more blog posts up here and definitely more written on By the barrel.

Poetry, 2015 goal planning, book reviews, tweeting, and all sorts of other writing endeavors are on the docket. Some of the topics I hope to address, whether public or not, include Facebook, gender labels (as language), gender on labels (as in depiction of on beer labels), sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, body image, altered consciousness, and many others. We will see what happens.

If any of you are participating in some kind of writing month in November let me know if you would like some support and hopefully we can find a mutual venue.

Two new blogs: By the barrel, and Commonplacing

I recently started two new blogs. My new beer blog is called By the barrel, or Bend Beer Librarian. It will document my journey into craft beer appreciation. My twitter handle is @bythebbl.

After having to give up on moving to WordPress Multisite—couldn’t seem to migrate this blog without breaking an unacceptable amount of things—I installed two more instances of WordPress and set to learning a lot more about configuring WP—both thematically and securely.

If you want or need to know about WordPress I sincerely (and seriously) recommend Digging into WordPress by Chris Coyier and Jeff Starr, both the ebook and the blog.

This post might give you some ideas of their value: Best of Or a post I wrote here a couple years ago: Digging Into WordPress v3 and its authors rock

I have finally been able to make full use of the book and the blog, along with some other sources I found via Google. Up until today I primarily focused on By the barrel as that is a new venture I am starting and I wanted to get it out there. Although there is some tweaking left to do, I think it is ready to be ‘released.’

Be aware that I did copy six posts over from this blog that were entirely about beer and beer events. But I do have some new stuff primed and almost ready. A couple of book reviews will be leading things off. It isn’t the Bend Beer Librarian for nothing.

Commonplacing is less ready for prime time as I still need to do a lot of backend business. It is really for me and serves as my Internet commonplace book. I started it about two years ago at Posterous and then switched to Tumblr for a better workflow of getting things into it. Recently I decided I wanted full possession of my own content and as I was already starting another blog I might as well start a third. As I said, feel free to poke around and even subscribe if you like but I cannot promise anything regarding its value to others.

From now on most of the beer-related stuff will be over at By the barrel although I reserve the right to mention them here. Grab a glass of tasty beer and join me in my new excursion.

frenetic, or a comment on the New Media Citation digped of 2 Nov

digital citation in new media.
one hour, twitter,
go! #digped.

wrong tools.
tweets & convos
race past.

@Jessifer files
Storified version.

On Friday the 2nd of November I participated in a Twitter chat on the topic of new media citation practices. It was quite “raucous” as Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) calls it in his post at Hybrid Pedagogy. For me, it was “frenetic.” [OED online. Sense 2b: Of a quality, power, act, process, etc.: frenzied, manic; wild, passionate; rapid and energetic in an uncontrolled or unrestrained way.]

As soon as it was over I attempted to write a poem describing my experience of it. I got the first two stanzas out fairly quickly but then got no further. This morning, Jesse posted his Storified version to Hybrid Pedagogy and I read it through. I think he (and it) does a good job of capturing much of what was said, although clearly not everything was captured, as he used about a score of the total of 440 tweets.

The second stanza of the poem above reflects more my frustration with the tools I was attempting to use. I have participated in less than a handful of tweet chats previously and I was not prepared for this raucous freneticism. I was at my desktop for it—wouldn’t even begin to think of trying it on the iPad—where I use the Twitter app for Mac from Twitter. But I wanted to keep that kind of separate from what I was doing so I opened Twitter in a Chrome tab on the desktop I am using for DigiWriMo and ran a search for the #digped hashtag.

Perhaps the biggest problem was that the Twitter search on their website was not showing me tweets (or more specifically, replies) from some of the folks I follow. For example, @Jessifer’s responses to me were only showing up in the Twitter app for Mac. I figured this out fairly early as my phone was next to me and kept vibrating as I got replies that I wasn’t seeing.

Robin Wharton (@rswharton) suggested I try Tweet Chat but I, in the moment, assumed it was an app and not simply a website. Later, Sara seconded it as a good tool also. I will definitely try it the next time.

The next biggest issue, not directly related to the chat but to DigiWriMo, is that I was trying to copy my tweets and the links to them into Scrivener to save them towards my word count. This was much easier from the Twitter app than the browser. This meant switching desktops and multiple windows and …. I eventually moved the Twitter app onto the same desktop but things stayed hectic due to the volume of things going on in the chat.

On the other hand, stanza two in the poem above also reflects my firm belief that Twitter is simply not the place for such conversations. Sure, it sort of worked. If you look at the comments on this post at Hybrid Pedagogy you’ll see that a few of the participants think differently than me. And that is fine. I have had these conversations before. Twitter works great for some conversations but, at least for me, fails horribly for others.

There were so many differing, and frequently unexplicated, assumptions behind (most of) the tweets and no way to tease out philosophical, departmental, temperamental or other differences. There were, on occasion, conflations, or at least lack of specifying, between whether one was talking about a standalone bibliography (annotated or not) or one attached to a specific work (article, book, blog post, etc.). There was little actual real discussion about what purposes/roles/functions a citation actually does or should play. There was much agreement that things are, and probably should, change in academia regarding citation practices. I am fairly sure that sometimes some of us were bringing “old” media issues back into the discussion supposedly about “new media.” But I am not sure there is, or should be, a lot of difference. Certainly the how of how one goes about making a citation in many new media might frequently need to be different than how one does in a print medium, but I remain fully unconvinced that the why is different.

To me, these sorts of higher level questions are of more interest and ought also be more immediate. Once the larger issues of why—multiple reasons corresponding to different roles/functions—are sorted out, then it is time to figure out best practices (within disciplines/communities/media/etc.) for actually doing so. One of the larger questions—or perhaps more intermediate—to me then becomes answerable, or at least addressable.

Back in the day, over 5 years ago now, myself and others (and no doubt many others elsewhere including such folks as the makers of Zotero) were wondering what and how bibliographies could be of the web and not simply on it. Sadly, I never got very far with that, and all of the people involved in the conversation with me at the time have also moved on to other things, although I am willing to bet that they are still highly intrigued in how things could be different if we had better tools.

Some of my questions were:

What purposes (if any) do bibliographies serve on the web? Is there one?
What form should web-based bibliographies take to support those purposes?
Should embedded COinS or some other OpenURL or similar technology be employed?
What would be the best way to present our literature in a web-based bibliography that might entice you to read some of it?

I was also trying to get at things better tools could do for us and allow us to do. My brilliant friend, Jodi Schneider, hit the nail on the head, as usual, with her comment:

Ok: in my ideal bibliography system:

You would be able to:
* filter, search, and sort items by any metadata field.
*select any subset of the bibliography (including the whole thing)
*and do actions on the whole or your selection

Here are some actions I would want:
*download citations to your own collection (online or locally hosted on your own computer)
*mark the subset for later use in the online system
*search the full-text of all items in the subset. Results would show KWIC snippets and could generate subsets for further actions
*add all references to your collection (preserving field structure)
*use an associated “bibliography processor” to download all the associated items. Your processor would be able to authenticate for your library access and individual subscriptions. It would create a new subset of problem items, for manual inspection, which could easily be passed to other services (like ILL).

Other bibliography thoughts:
*free online resources and subscription resources would be distinguished by an icon
*a good bibliography should give a sense of the field–clustering and facets may help with this, and leveraging the structured data (e.g. by journal, tags/descriptors, etc.)

If we had tools that easily pulled citations, references, links, pointers out of new media documents, web pages, reference managers, and what-have-you, and that easily added them to other documents, whether web-based or not (prior to printing, of course) and that allowed us to easily manipulate sets and subsets of them and to perform assorted actions on them easily, then not only would our lives be easier (and, arguably perhaps, better) but much of the discussion that took place in the tweet chat would be moot.

Only the larger questions of why we would cite or compile bibliographies would remain, along with some issues of formatting. But, despite the amount of effort that goes into formatting citations into the almost innumerable styles that are out there, the reasons for specific formatting styles is rarely ever known by most users of them, and even less frequently ever actually theorized (and how much of this formatting is just bullshit wasted effort in the first place?). We truly need to get rid of about 95% (or more!) of the styles that exist for formatting citations (in any medium) and revisit the why of the specific how of doing so, with good and proper reasoning for each choice.

Ah. Now Mark the librarian and inveterate footnote/citation tracer is talking. ::sigh:: I think for now I’ll just wander off of this obviously passionate topic. It seems clear that many of my first-order concerns with citation practices are not the same ones as many of those who participated in the chat. And that is perfectly OK, too.

I do want to add that I did, though, despite the poem or any of the above comments, enjoy myself in the chat. It was just a very frenetic enjoyment which could have been helped by better tools.

“Better tools.” Maybe that ought be the title of this post.


DigiWriMo … and we’re off!

I had heard of Digital Writing Month (DigiWriMo) before attending THATCamp Hybrid Pedagogy in the back half of October but I heard a lot more about it there. Both halves of that comment are due to the fact that some of the main folks that organized THATCamp HP are also the folks behind Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal of Technology & Teaching and are the prime movers behind DigiWriMo. On the morning of 27 October I decided to commit and made my pledge at

What have I committed to?

“… to [digitally] create 50,000 words in the thirty short days of November.” As the DigiWriMo page states, “You will conspire, collaborate, co-author, cooperate, collude, and even compete to reach your goal in whatever form you see fit: blog posts, text message novellas, code poems, Twitter poems, wiki novels, some creative wizardry of text and image, and more!”

My primary intended output is blog posts. But I certainly hope to try my hand at poetry, including Twitter poems, perhaps a short Twitter ‘novella’ or two, and I don’t know what else. I hope to be inspired by some of the exercises they provide and by what others actually write.

Some of my currently intended subjects include our move to Bend, digital scholarly editions, THATCamp Hybrid Pedagogy, ACRL-OR/WA 2012 conference, book reviews and a wrap-up of, and commentary on, the Two-Thirds book Challenge, Facebook Pages, a possible dive down into “narratives,” but that may involve more research than I have time for in such a busy writing month, and barrel-aged beers.

I will be using Scrivener, which I got in the recent MacHeist 4 Bundle, for my writing and to keep track of it. I am not sure I truly need Scrivener for the writing I do but I have heard great things about it and wanted to try it. Considering I got it and a lot of other software, including a 15 month extension to Evernote Pro ($60 value), which I do use, all for $29 I am quite pleased.

If you are looking for tips on writing, and they are prolific on the Internet, perhaps you can find something useful at LINKS OF THE WEEK – DIGITAL WRITING MONTH EDITION at ivry twr blog. That post also brought me to How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day at Pretentious Title blog, which has some good advice for all even though it is primarily aimed at fiction writers. Nonetheless, it seems clear to me that Knowledge (of what you intend to write), Time (understanding when/where/how you are most productive), and Enthusiasm (for what you intend to write) are all clearly important to helping one right effectively and efficiently.

Other related writing challenges going on this month are NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month).

I wish everyone the best with whatever and wherever their writing undertakings take them this month. I hope to see you around the Internets and look forward to the twitter chats ( #digiwrimo ) and the supportive atmosphere and may we all inspire one another.

Regex help. Please!

I have been dealing with some text exported from our ILS, SirsiDynix Symphony 3.x, to generate usable spreadsheets of zero circulation data as one portion of the decision-making process for weeding decisions.

I have done OK up until now but need some help at this point rewriting a regex to be much stricter to do what I want. For background, here’s my workflow and examples of my data.

I run a report from within the client asking for title/statement of responsibility and call number of all bibliographic items within a given class number range that have never circulated (since we’ve been on this system, which is a couple of years now). I copy and paste the output of that report into a text document. Opening the resulting text doc in TextWrangler I strip out the header and the page header info inserted between each page using find and replace.

Example text ______ (WordPress seems to be prettifying it a little)

Time in New England / photos. by Paul Strand ; text selected and edited by
Nancy Newhall ; pref. by Paul Metcalf ; afterword by Beaumont Newhall.
F 5 .S9 1980

New England begins : the seventeenth century.
F 7 .B74 V.1

New England begins : the seventeenth century.
F 7 .B74 V.2

New England begins : the seventeenth century.
F 7 .B74 V.3

The Allagash. Illustrated by George Loh.
F 27.A4 D5

The great White hills of New Hampshire, by Ernest Poole, illus by Gartin
F 41.5 .P6

Black ice / Lorene Cary.
F 44 .C7 C35 1992

More Massachusetts towns. Illustrated with wood engravings of fifty-three
Massachusetts towns, drawn in 1840 by J.W. Barber, commentary by Ivan
Sandrof, and a special foreword by Mrs. Endicott Peabody.
F 64 .S35

Before 1776; the Massachusetts Bay Colony from founding to Revolution.
F 67 .G7X

Winthrop’s journal “History of New England”, 1630-1649. Edited by James
Kendall Hosmer.
F 67 .W785 V.1

Winthrop’s journal “History of New England”, 1630-1649. Edited by James
Kendall Hosmer.
F 67 .W785 V.2

Chronicles of the first planters of the colony of Massachusetts Bay,
1623-1636 : now first collected from original records and contemporaneous
manuscripts, and illustrated with notes / by Alexander Young.
F 67 .Y6X



(The actual text file for LC Class F that I am dealing with.)


I then add a tab between the title and the call number using find and replace in grep mode by finding (case sensitive), for example: PT.* (class number of PT) and replacing that with \t&

I remove blank lines between all the entries by again using grep mode to find: ^\r replacing with: blank.

The resulting text file is imported into Excel as a tab delimited file giving me (generally) two columns of title and call number. I usually have to do a little cleanup because the removal of the page header info isn’t always perfect which causes minor issues. But it has been generally successful as most of my call numbers have been double letter call numbers and it is extremely rare that two capital letters exist contiguously anywhere other than the call number, especially with the call numbers I have been dealing with.

Example of the data brought into Excel

Screen shot of Excel spreadsheet for Class PE

Screen shot of Excel spreadsheet for Class PE


But now I need to deal with the call number ranges of E and F. And, sadly, capital E and F abound in titles and names and I can’t manually fix all the resulting issues that arise from my, so far, very loose regex.

I need a more complex regex that can recognize a call number and only grab the pieces of it to insert a tab before as a whole. In almost every case there will be a capital letter (E or F, in these) followed by a space (pragmatically accurate enough?) followed by a number and further combinations of letter, numbers, spaces, ‘periods’ and (almost always) ending with a number(s). Although there will be the rare case of something like: F 203.4.W3 A4X

If there are a few false splits made inserting extra tabs resulting in data in extra columns I can fix that by hand but I need ~95% (or better!) accuracy.

If there is something I am simply missing about making this easier please don’t hesitate to let me know. Maybe I am simply approaching it wrong; I am fairly new to actually being productive with regex. By the way, I do have very limited control over the initial form in which I get the data, though.

Can you help me? Thank you!


My tl;dr point:

If only 1/10th of all the librarians attending ALA Annual this coming week pledged $1 to Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth H. Finnegan (1970) then it would be successful.

So, you may not have heard, but there’s this thing called  Or maybe you have but have yet to look into it. It officially launched May 17th.

unglue (v. t.) 4. For an author or publisher, to accept a fixed amount of money from the public for its unlimited use of an ebook. (From their main page)

I am MarkLindner there and am a very early supporter.

What you can do

You can support the ungluing of books so that the resulting ebooks rights are Creative Commons licensed so readers everywhere may enjoy free and legal access to these works. See this page as a good starting point for more info. The set of faq pages are also a great place to find more information whether you are a reader, an author or a rights holder.

As an account holder, you can add books to your wishlist, support books others have already added, and pledge to support the ungluing of specific works. Since the site just recently launched there are currently 5 active campaigns.

Each campaign includes assorted premium levels, much like Kickstarter. See, for instance, this page for Love Like Gumbo by Nancy Rawles. In all cases (so far), for only a $1 pledge you will get a copy of the resulting ebook if the campaign is successful. For increasing amounts you get other things on top of a copy of the book.

If you are on my actual blog (vs. feedreader, etc.) you can see in my right sidebar widget area that you can also embed widgets for books on active campaigns and those on your wishlist. I currently have two, one for the book I am currently pledged for and one for Patrick Wilson’s Two Kinds of Power which I so very much want University of California Press to … well, do the right thing by.

Why I am supporting

I became a member as soon as I saw the official announcement for beta testers (I had been reading about the idea in advance) at Eric Hellman’s blog: go to hellman. There is, of course, now an blog where you can read about each of the campaigns and other things.

I have no idea if this model can work but I want it to. Sara and I support a fair few projects via Kickstarter also and we think that crowdfunded projects are a great way to show artists, authors, and assorted rights holders that people do want to support them while getting a quality product for a fair price and that they are willing to put their wallets where their mouths (or computer clicks) are.

During the beta testing there was a call to help test the pledge mechanisms and payment processes (currently via Amazon Payments) and I helped out. I made a pledge for $5, I increased it to $25, and then I decreased it to $10. We were asked to do such wishy-washy things to stress test their systems. The primary premium was a copy of a chapter Eric Hellman wrote called “Open Access EBooks” for a book by Sue Polanka. Increasing premiums were things like stickers, autographed stickers, and so on. I was able to provide some useful feedback and left my pledge at $10 so they might have a (very) small bit of operating funds.

When the site went live and first five campaigns were announced I must admit I was a little disappointed. I wasn’t deeply interested in any of those works. I mean they all looked interesting enough but with hundreds of books on hand and thousands more not immediately on hand that I know I want to read they weren’t intriguing enough to me to pledge for any of them. I justified my not contributing by my participation in the beta pledge.

Friday I changed my mind and pledged $7 to Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth H. Finnegan (1970)Why?

  1. I really truly want this model to succeed. To do so they need to be successful early on and this work currently has the most chance of being so.
  2. I am actually truly interested in this book even if it isn’t that high on the priority of the oh so lengthy to-be-read list.
  3. They bribed me. :P They offered some additional pledge incentives, one of which was the $7 level which would give me a copy of this ebook, if successful, and a choice of another ebook from the publisher. Oooh, this is the other book I’ll hopefully get myself.
  4. Did I mention that early success is critical to demonstrate to authors and rights holders that this model is a workable one?

What I would like you to do

Please have a look around the site. Read the about page, poke at the faqs, look at the bios of the people involved, peruse the blog, check out the books in the active campaigns.

But most importantly, pledge something for one or more of these books. It shouldn’t really matter if you are even personally interested in any of these titles. If the campaigns are successful then these books will be free, as ebooks, for anyone. And surely you know someone you could give a copy of one (or more) of them to. $1 is all it takes!

If you are a librarian, a reader, or an ebook reader, then imho you really ought be contributing to the success of this model. It isn’t the only way forward but it can be a great start. But only if people like us make it one!

If only 1/10th of all the librarians attending ALA Annual this coming week pledged $1 to Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth H. Finnegan (1970) then it would be successful.

We have only 5 days left to make this a success. Won’t you be a part of something this important?

Blog redesign and other putterings

I know most of you never see this site anymore and if/when you do see my posts you are probably seeing them in a feed reader. That’s OK. I probably read about 50% of the blogs I follow in Google Reader and 50% at the blog itself (by clicking through). To get a feel for a new blog or to read one I know is well-designed (say, Walt at Random or via negativa), I’ll click through for the better aesthetic experience.

All that said, I am redesigning my blog. I have scrapped the old Cutline theme that I have used since November 2006. Wow! Really‽

I am using the Twenty Eleven theme from WordPress but along with the Twenty Eleven with Sidebar in Posts child theme. I have been doing some tweaking to it—kind of the point of a child theme—but still want to do more.

I have made some headers, which rotate, from some of my photos and plan on doing more. I am hoping to use a Google Web Font (still need to choose which one) for my blog title. If that works, I may consider finding one for the main text of the blog but I am concerned with loading overhead. I am currently using Georgia for body text, which I like a lot better than the sans serif font the theme uses by default, but Georgia really isn’t that great of a serif font.

I still need to restyle some H3 elements I have used as heading within posts previously as they are kind of small and light, add post counts to the Archives page, take the “!” off the Contact Me! page, do a bit more adjusting of the header area, along with changing the font to something nicer up there, and a few other things. I have added the citation for the inspiration of the title to the tagline area but I’d prefer it to be part of the title properly. We’ll see.

If you are so inclined, please feel free to actually visit the blog and provide any thoughts on aesthetics, location of elements/widgets, etc., missing/preferred elements/widgets, etc. Keep in mind, though, that this is a fairly responsive design and will look different depending on screen resolution, size, etc. For instance, the sidebar items all shift to the bottom on our iPads to leave plenty of room for the body.


On photography

Just as I am excited about photography for the first time in a long time, Susan Sontag is killing my buzz.

I took a digital photography class this summer from the Mass Comm department at Briar Cliff. I was able to use my own camera and since we had to shoot everything on manual exposure, and build a varied portfolio, I finally learned to use my DSLR (Nikon D40X) that I got used closer to two years ago than I want to admit. [Thanks, Tracy!]

I had been shooting almost entirely on automatic even though I often knew what I needed to do to get better shots, or a shot, period. But I didn’t know how to make the setting in the camera. I used a Canon AE-1 for years (still have it) so I at least knew (once knew) how to partially control exposure on a camera. Actually, I know a fair bit about cameras and photography. I am just lazy when it comes to learning the complex features of software/electronics. I also learn these sorts of things orders of magnitude better when I actually need to use the feature and not by studying a book or manual.

Anyway. I now know a great deal about my camera, which is the primary reason I took the course, and even a little about Photoshop and the printing of color and B&W photos on Epson photo printers.

Now that I am effectively semi-retired (for the time being anyway) I have been contemplating taking my photography a bit more serious. I have no plans to become a professional but I’d like to step up my amateur game to the ‘serious’ level.

I have been reading a lot more about digital photography, perusing photo mags, lusting after things I cannot afford, reminding myself to use what I have until I reach its limits, and trying to figure out how I might get photos printed whether for myself or anyone else. I am also considering starting a photo blog with some of my better photos once I get my photo library migrated from iPhoto to Aperture.

How far any of this will go or how long it will last I have no idea. We (or I, anyway) will see.

So, Sontag? I came across a reference to her On Photography somewhere and I know that I read one of the essays a couple of years ago and thought it’d be a good idea to read all of the essays as collected in book form.

What a buzzkill! Thankfully I was already aware of much of her critique (so far. Am into the 3rd essay of 6.) so no big surprises. On the other hand, she is touching all of the right nerves with those critiques. While she is not citing any of them, she is using criticisms I have read (and agreed with) elsewhere, such as, from Jacques Ellul, Richard Stivers, and others, and from my own lived experience with photography.

The main thing mediating her critique for the moment is her rampant essentializing and over-simplification. While I frequently agree with her, I do not agree with her universal statements. While they are rarely written grammatically as universals they end up being so as they leave no room for disagreement, present no nuance, and make the claim that “photography is this, and it is that.”

I understand that by the 6th and final essay she had mitigated the views presented in the 1st one. I am hoping so. I feel that these critiques of photography are important. But. They must be fleshed out, contextualized and, above all else, nuanced.

One example is all I will provide for now. Perhaps if I write a review upon finishing I will quote her more.

“There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera” (7).


Nardi and O’Day. Information Ecologies

This book should be required reading for all librarians and for anyone using technology. Oh, yeah, everyone.

I read this immediately after Brown and Duguid which was about “information” and thus IT, and which sought a middle ground. This is about seeking a middle ground for “technology.” They are more or less contemporaneous with this being 1-2 years older.


  • Preface
  • 1 Rotwang the Inventor
  • 2 Framing Conversations about Technology
  • 3 A Matter of Metaphor: Technology as Tool, Text, System, Ecology
  • 4 Information Ecologies
  • 5 Values and Technology
  • 6 How to Evolve Information Ecologies
  • 7 Librarians: A Keystone Species
  • 8 Wolf, Batgirl and Starlight: Finding a Real Community in a Virtual World
  • 9 Cultivating Gardeners: The Importance of Homegrown Expertise
  • 10 Digital Photography at Lincoln High School
  • 11 A Dysfunctional Ecology: Privacy issues at a Teaching Hospital
  • 12 Diversity on the Internet
  • 13 Conclusion


“A key to thoughtful action is to ask more “know-why” questions the new typically do. Being efficient, productive, proactive people, we often jump to the “know-how” questions, which are considerably easier to answer. In this book we talk about practical ways to have more “know-why” conversations, to dig deeper, and reflect more about the effects of the ways we use technology” (x).

The book uses the movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang as an insight into technology with the first chapter providing a synopsis of the movie.

“We believe that we can and should argue about how technology is created and used. Lang suggested in Metropolis that technical sweetness is not enough. Technology development and use must be mediated by the human heart” (x).

Part I Information Ecologies: Concepts and Reflections

1 Rotwang the Inventor

A synopsis of Metropolis.

2 Framing Conversations about Technology

Nardi was trained as an anthropologist and O’Day in computer science. They have worked in industrial research labs at HP, Apple, and Xerox. (14)

“This book is addressed to people who work with and around technology. This includes schoolteachers and school administrators, engineers, salespeople, professors, secretaries,journalists and others in publishing, medical professionals, librarians, people who work in finance and banking, and many more. [Everybody!] We believe that our colleagues in technology design will also find this book useful.
For all of our readers, what we hope to accomplish is a shift in perception” (15).

“We have noticed two blind spots people seem to have in considering  work settings: informal practices that support work activities and unobtrusive work styles that hide valuable, skilled contributions” (16).

The rest of this chapter consists of three sections: The Rhetoric of Inevitability, Conversational Extremes: Technophilia and Dystopia, and A Different Approach. They discuss the unfortunate trend for technology development to be frequently characterized as inevitable; the two extreme views this inevitably drives discourse to, “the ends of a continuum [that] leave us with poor choices for action” (20); and call for a third way.

“Technological tools and other artifacts carry social meaning. Social understanding, values, and practices become *integral aspects* of the tool itself” (21).

“The issue is not whether we will use technologies, but which we will choose and whether we will use them well” (22).

3 A Matter of Metaphor: Technology as Tool, Text, System, Ecology

This chapter discusses the metaphors of technology as tool, text, system and ecology to reveal certain facets of technology because metaphors “both illuminate and obscure the relationships between people and technology” (25).

§ Technology as Tool

Discusses “affordances” (J.J. Gibson): “those properties of an object that neatly support the actions people intend to take with the object” (28).

“The tool metaphor is useful for questions and discussions about utility, usability, skill, and learning” (30).

“People who see technology as a tool see themselves as controlling it” (27).

§ Technology as Text

” … as a form of communication, a carrier of meaning that may be reinterpreted as the technology passes through different social situations” (31).

§ Technology as System

“[P]rovides the richest, most troubling and most mind-altering perspectives” and breadth of vision (33).

Jacques Ellul and Langdon Winner are the theorists mentioned here. I have read a fair bit of Ellul, and taken a few seminars which focused on much of his work, although I have only read a small bit of Winner. I admire and agree with much of Ellul’s take on technology as a system but, as the authors state, these views leave us little room to act. They are totalizing. “This view does not address with enough force the possibility of local and particular change” (43).

The themes in the section on the Neutrality of Technology include how technology conditions our choices, “reverse adaptation”: the adjustment of human ends to match the character of the available means, and the pervasive adaptation of standards.

4 Information Ecologies

Definition: “a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment.” The spotlight is “on human activities that are served by technology”; not the technology itself. (49)

The concept of information ecologies is introduced “in order to focus attention on relationships involving tools and people and their practices” (50).

§ Characterizing Information Ecologies

  • System
  • Diversity
  • Coevolution
  • Keystone Species
  • Locality

metaphorical – ” to foster thought and discussion, to stimulate conversations for action” (50).

§§ System

“Like a biological ecology, an information ecology is marked by strong interrelationships and dependencies among its different parts.” Change is systemic. (51)

§§ Diversity

Different kinds of people, tools, roles, ideas, resources (51-2)

§§ Coevolution

“Information ecologies evolve as new ideas, tools, activities, and forms of expertise arise in them” (52).

“The social and technical aspects of an environment *coevolve*” (53).

§§ Keystone Species

“An ecology is marked by the presence of certain keystone species whose presence is crucial to the survival of the ecology itself” (53).

“Mediators—people who build bridges across institutional boundaries and translate across disciplines—are a keystone species in information ecologies. Ironically, their contributions are often unofficial, unrecognized, and seemingly peripheral to the most obvious productive functions of the workplace” (54).

§§ Locality

With references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Faust we get that “[t]he name of a technology identifies what it means to the people who use it” and that “it positions the technology more directly under the control of its users” (54).

“The habitation of a technology is its location within a network of relations;” “its set of family ties in the local information ecology” (55).

There is an opportunity but also a responsibility for “the participants of an information ecology [to] establish the identity and place of the technologies that are found there” (55).

§§ Why Ecologies?

“We are suggesting that people act locally in a committed, reflective way that acknowledges technique as Ellul documents it, but having recognized it, chooses to respond with initiative that is grounded in local understanding and values” (56).

6 How to Evolve Information Ecologies

Summarized as:

  • work from core values
  • pay attention
  • ask strategic, open-ended questions about use (65)

Part II Case Studies

7 Librarians: A Keystone Species

Based on studies at Hewlett-Packard Library and Apple Research Library (82)

§§ Information Therapy (reference interview) (85-92)

8 Wolf, Batgirl and Starlight: Finding a Real Community in a Virtual World

A text-based virtual world centered on Longview Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ, with Phoenix College, Xerox PARC and some senior citizens

9 Cultivating Gardeners: The Importance of Homegrown Expertise

“Gardeners” (140-1)

  • tinker with computers
  • learn software a little better
  • often good at configuring hardware
  • troubleshoot/solve problems when others are stumped
  • likes to help others with tech tasks
  • learn about computational things on their own
  • translate concepts and mechanism back and forth between domain of work and the technology
  • occupy a special niche = bridge

11 A Dysfunctional Ecology: Privacy issues at a Teaching Hospital

“Information was taken out of its original context and presented in a new context, without the buy-in of the people who generated the information.
Information changes shape and function dramatically when its broadcast boundaries are altered” (182)

Exactly! Begins to explain some of the issues in our networked, “broadcast” world as I see them; thinking primarily of the Internet and re-sharing/purposing of information and how it changes context. Multiple ecologies must be added in/considered.

12 Diversity on the Internet

“We view the internet as a set of environmental conditions that provide a substrate for the growth of ecologies that span traditional geographic and social boundaries. The Internet can serve as connective tissue between and within information ecologies” (185).

13 Conclusion

“We want to avoid being taken in by the rhetoric of inevitability. This rhetoric is powerful in part because it takes two seemingly opposite forms: the despair of dystopia and the don’t-worry-be-happy optimism of technophilia. A key impediment to creating and nurturing robust information ecologies is believing (optimistically or pessimistically) that technical “progress” is ungovernable and inevitable. The most extreme but not uncommon manifestation of the rhetoric of inevitability is believing that any kind of technology is desirable as long as it can be reasonably engineered and manufactured.
We have adopted an ecology metaphor because it matches the dynamics we observed in the settings we studied” (211).

This is an important and still timely book which pairs quite well with Brown and Duguid’s The Social Life of Information.