Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Twenty Years of Changes in Information, Online Technology, and Research

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Twenty Years of Changes in Information, Online Technology, and Research

Article excerpt

Recently the editor was having a cup of coffee at his neighborhood cafe, when he overheard a conversation of two local artsy 20-somethings at the next table. The young men were trying to think up funny lines for an animated character in a "webisode" they were creating. Their conversation was a reminder to the editor that the web has brought yet another sea change: Today people can not only be their own publishers or even broadcasters, but they can be movie producers as well.

That's just one example, of course, of the many levels of changes that have occurred in online technology over the past couple decades. Since 2008 marks our own 20th year of publication, we thought it would be a good opportunity to pull together some of the biggest changes in online technology and research since we launched our first issue in 1988. In the chart on page 5, we have listed the key issues, concerns and themes that have been consistent over the past 20 years; we then noted how these were perceived 2 decades ago, 1 decade ago, and recently. After that, we speculate on how those issues might play out in the immediate future.

Something else that's likely to stay the same: Future technologies will be as imperfect as our current ones. Although the future is often portrayed as running neatly, efficiently, and smoothly (see for instance, this video from the research firm Text 100 on PR and Marketing in Second Life: FmQJ_0A), we always thought that a more realistic picture of future technology was captured in Spielberg's Minority Report, in the scene where Tom Cruise takes out a prismlike 3D video disk to place it into a futuristic viewing device. Before inserting it though, he had to first lean over to blow some dust off the disk! Our future online technologies are certainly going to be as imperfect and messy as all our past and present ones.

By Robert Berkman, Editor, The Information Advisor

In the Year(s)                  1988

The Hot New Online              A CD-ROM
Search Technology Is

We Worry About Quality          Full-text databases;
Concerns When Relying On        company directories

What We Tap Into to Discover    Online databases
Hidden Knowledge/Insights

Our Mode for Accessing          Our desktop PC
Information Is

What Knowledge                  The need to understand a new
Management Means                management concept

We Know End Users Can           Writing a letter to the editor
Be Information Creators By

We Wonder About the Younger     Comfortable around computers
Generation. Are They            or just not too personable?

A Technology Critic's           Neil Postman, Amusing Our-
Work We Hear About Is           selves to Death and Technopoly

Our Latest Source for           Off-the-shelf market research
Cutting-Edge Market             reports,syndicated studies
Research Is

Our Hot New Research            Dialog's OneSearch
Tool Is

We Present Information          Cleaning up a Dialog database
to Our Clients By               printout

The Multimedia Source We're     Full-text images from
Excited About Viewing Is        periodicals on ProQuest

How We Get Our News             Setting up a Selective Dissemin-
Personalized                    ation of Information (SDI)

When Doing Research, We         Analysis
Know the Importance Of

We Worry About the              Competitive intelligence
Ethics Of                       research misrepresentations

We Worry About How Our          Credit reporting agencies
Personal Information Is
Being Stored and Used By

To Engage the Virtual           Watching a Star Trek episode
World Means

We Struggle to Keep             Mail, reports, memos,
Up With an Overload Of          magazines, newspapers, and

Where We Turn to                Print company directory; D&B
Get Quick Information           database on Dialog
About a Company

As Business Information         Information quality; keeping up with
Professionals, Our              information sources; time
Challenge Is                    constraints; job security; pleasing
                                clients; costs versus budget

In the Year(s)                  1998

The Hot New Online              An internet search engine
Search Technology Is

We Worry About Quality          The internet
Concerns When Relying On

What We Tap Into to Discover    The internet
Hidden Knowledge/Insights

Our Mode for Accessing          Our wireless laptop
Information Is

What Knowledge                  Choosing good knowledge
Management Means                management software

We Know End Users Can           Posting to an online discussion
Be Information Creators By      board or mailing list

We Wonder About the Younger     Facile and fast or just have a
Generation. … 
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