Building a quieter internet experience

Purple pansy from my garden.

This year, I want to change the way I experience the internet. In both architecture and rhetoric, we talk about ductus: simply put, the way in which the pathway influences our experience of the content. Imagine entering a cathedral and moving from a small, enclosed narthex to the nave and into the crossing. The experience of the space is very different than if you had entered from the porch’s side entrance.

I want to forcibly change my experience of the web by building a new path. A slower path. A quieter path. At the risk of sounding like an aging technologist who first surfed the World Wide Web from a dial-up modem (which I did), I want to recreate to the extent possible that experience. Fewer inputs. Smaller circles. Less connection.

Social media offers us a great, almost irresistible level of connection, but it never stops moving. I want to find space to disconnect, reflect, and muddle about. I want richer content with less focus on personal brands. I want cool takes. I want the ability to disconnect for days without consequence. I don’t want the pressure of real-time information.

These are some of the initial steps I’m taking to create a quieter internet for myself:

  • remove social media apps from my mobile device
  • stop posting to social media (I may allow myself 2-3 tweets per week)
  • set up an RSS reader on my desktop machine
  • subscribe to a small, manageable selection of feeds
  • when I feel the urge to surf, scroll or wander, start at metafilter, LibraryThing, or a random wikipedia page
  • spend time curating my bookmarks (possibly revisiting old ones)
  • share my thoughts and findings here

Some say the heyday of blogging is over. Google Reader is dead (may it live on forever in our memory) and many of the great blogs of the late aughts and early teens have gone silent, but it is still possible to find quality, long(er)-form content out there. This new year, I want to go back on an RSS-based diet.

Hosting a wikipedia edit-a-thon in your library

Published another blog post for ALA’s Programming Librarian. This time, I’m writing about hosting your first Wikipedia edit-a-thon:

Many eyes can fix many errors, as they say, but what are we to do with the knowledge that the individuals behind those eyes are mostly men in their mid-20s? Enter the Wikipedia edit-a-thon. For the past few years, educational and cultural institutions have brought together women, people of color, LGBT communities and other underrepresented groups to collectively edit and improve Wikipedia’s content, with an eye toward greater inclusivity and broader perspective.

Source: Building on Millions of Tiny Shoulders: Tips for Hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

 

Writing for the programming librarian

I’ve started writing for the ALA’s Programming Librarian website. My first two posts are up.

Collaborating with Galleries: A Blessed Match

“One of my first planning meetings as the new outreach and communications librarian for the William H. Hannon Library was with the director and curator of the Laband Art Gallery, an on-campus exhibition space in the College of Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University. Over the past few years, the Hannon Library and the Laband Gallery have developed a synergistic relationship built on shared vision and trust, a relationship that has increased the impact we could achieve as single institutions.” Read more.

When Library Student Workers Take Over Instagram

“Since I began managing Instagram accounts for academic libraries three years ago, I’ve discovered there are two types of posts that attract the most engagement from students: idyllic photos of the library and pictures of other students. We are privileged in that our building’s unique architecture and proximity to a near-ocean bluff provides endless opportunities for the former. So, to leverage the successful nature of the latter, this year the William H. Hannon Library at Loyola Marymount University invited our student employees to “take over” the library’s Instagram account for a day and use the platform to tell our followers about their work and what they find useful about the library.” Read more.

I love libraries. I plan to live in one someday.

I recently started following Tressie McMillan Cottom, Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, on Twitter and then quickly added her to my “do not miss!” list. Her recent interview with WordPress has some great quotes about writing, teaching, and libraries. 

On blogging:

“[A]s my mother always told me, “If the lease isn’t in your name, you’re homeless.” You have to have a place of your own to take the kind of risks necessary for intellectual development.”

On libraries:

“Oh! I just love libraries. Love them. I plan to live in one someday.”

On learning:

“We can come to know alone, but to learn we have to be social. If I cannot translate my research into praxis and my praxis into research then I don’t really know what I’m talking about.”

Read more on her blog.

Whither goes web writing

I am constantly tweaking my social media feeds mostly in an effort to limit what I see when I log into Twitter, Facebook, or whatever. A recent post by David Moldawer of Boing Boing gives some insight into the type of writing I try to avoid:

“The long tail of odd and authentic content is bigger than ever, but if you find your content the way most people do, through the algorithmically warped suggestions in your social media feeds, the stuff you stumble onto feels less like writing and more like wordage, a sort of tips-and-tragedies lorem ipsum.”

One of the first things I talk about in my library instruction courses for First-Year writing seminars is the difficulty of doing research in the Filter Bubble, but Moldawer’s post has me thinking about this from a different perspective: library marketing. I am not opposed to occasionally using popular forms of web writing (listicles, grabby headlines, lifehacking) to catch a reader’s attention, but I strive to create an authentic voice for our library, one that is friendly, energetic, and attentive to users’ interests and needs.

Which reminds me, I need to found out how the University of Iowa’s Special Collections’ team creates these awesome gifs. Also, you should follow their Tumblr.

Serializing student work in digital displays

Brian Mathews’s blog The Ubiquitous Librarian has come to an end with the impending closure of the Chronicle’s blog network. I will miss reading Brian’s thoughts on leadership and possible futures for academic libraries (though, he will no doubt continue to write). In one of his final posts, he talks about highlighting student scholarship in the library. I particularly like this idea:

“I really want to explore serialized content. For example, take a design or architecture  course with a semester long project. Week by week I want to display their sketches and renderings so we can follow the progression and perhaps provide feedback via a social media channel.”

Let’s keep going with this: we could highlight student writing by projecting lines of poetry onto the floor; we could have a scrolling feed of students’ thesis topics/titles to show what students are currently writing about; we could have a live feed from any classes using Twitter; we could display the cover of the last book checked out (or returned); we could play songs based on usage stats from our streaming music database; we could show a live dashboard of the number of users in the library, or using our discovery service, or connected to our wifi network. There are so many possibilities!

I am not sure what will happen to all of Brian’s posts, but it’s been a pleasure seeing his posts in my feed reader each week. Best of luck with your new projects, soldier!