Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Thriving on Technology's Edge

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Thriving on Technology's Edge

Article excerpt

When CIL's editorial leaders crafted Vol. 29's themes, they were challenged to think about what might be happening in library technology some 12 months into the future. That's a constructive exercise in itself. It also serves as a reminder of the fast pace at which new technology appears these days. For this issue, writers and readers were invited to think about "Web 3.0"--which undoubtedly sounded entirely possible last summer. Yet our Web 2.0 universe keeps spinning out small, sleek, and beautiful ideas that capture the imagination. Many innovations focus on mobile technology these days, and digital librarians are making a mark in that domain (see CIL, May 2009 for myriad examples). In my opinion, Web 2.0 is still cooking, and the bold agents among us have set up a cooking tent on the cutting edge of not only the web but also what lies beneath and beyond.

With that in mind, here are four recipes for success on the cutting edge--hopefully reassuring to those who are bungee jumping into the future and perhaps inspiring (or cajoling) for those who stand at the edge, facing the unknown.

Follow the User, Become the User

We hear this a lot: Follow the user. Yet in today's networked and mobile age, they who would teach must also learn. So allow me to revise that pithy phrase by reminding us that we too are users and are thoroughly immersed in technology. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work directly with members of the Net Gen receive constant clues as to what users want. But the college campus is not the only idea lab for monitoring Web 2.0 technology innovation. Digital music is particularly instructive, with its new social media domains, new content (such as streaming videos and add-ons), and price experimentation. It offers fascinating clues about users, digital rights management, and content life span.

What's more, musicians have been forced to add a new competency to their artistry: marketing. This is no small task; Mary Madden, of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, recently wrote that selling music is now as much of an art as making music is (see www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/9-The -State-of-Music-Online-Ten-Years-After-Nap ster.aspx). But major bands must do it; so must community-based musicians. It's more work, to be sure, but using the internet for marketing, sales, and booking services can also save time and expense. Pricing models for sales are morphing quickly, and subscriptions now come with many added bells and whistles. For a timely example of the new marriage of music, marketing, and value-added content, take a look at ArtistShare (http:// artistshare.com). Subscriptions carry tiered benefits too, and ArtistShare regards its listeners as investors in the creative process. Its membership program invites members to underwrite music as it is composed, and in return, they receive a great range of new online enhancements.

What does the music universe tell us about our own worlds? It tells us two things: First, the smart mob does a few things right and can even make money--but risk is part of the formula. The digital music world is evolving faster than ours, and we can watch philosophical and commercial experiments unfold. Perhaps we could analyze the winning ideas and the reasons why they have prevailed. Second, newer uses of web connectivity accentuate "fun," new content experiences (such as may be seen at ArtistShare), and two-way communication. The majority of bands, both stadium-level and neighborhood-level, have interactive web presences on MySpace or a similar service. We're not so different anymore; information services, particularly blogs, have embraced the fun elements of the web as well as new forms of value-added content. The cutting edge will ask us to do so more and more.

My recipe for becoming a user has three steps, if digital music is any guide. Add fun and initiative together, whisk in new content "experiences," and then mix with basic marketing skill. …

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