#blogjune 25: Blogjanarama: A tentative summary

I think I’m close enough to the end of the month to examine some of the benefits of this exercise for me, and I’m doing this before an INSANELY busy week happens.

Rather than faffing about with French baked objects I’ve used my tagcloud as an aide-memoire. This would be a different post had Helensville an authentic boulangerie, or had I gone to music practice at the Alliance Francaise last night (I didn’t) and asked them to recommend a late-night boulangerie in the central city area (I also didn’t). So what learning have I encountered?

 Themes.

I reminded myself further that I’m simply not into themes. I wouldn’t describe myself as incapable of them; certainly when writing some kind of memo, email or otherwise for work I stick very much to the point.

I started by declaring this the “month of superlatives”. It has only been so in that it’s been one of the bloggingest months of my life and the failingest theme this month on banjosinthestacks. I sometimes had similar levels of activity during the height of my engagement with livejournal, but not usually with a theme.*

I’ve also discussed this with other children’s librarians in relation to themes in programmes. One friend suggested that I “was the theme” in my storytime sessions. As much as a complement as that is, I think it’s overhyping my abilities, or at least misreading where they lie. I do engage well with young children, but my programmes are ultra-structured – I’ll have the same games and songs in the same order every time with differing books. This allows me to modify – pull elements in and out – in response to my energies, and the energies of the children on the day without having to have a think. I achieve infinite variety in the songs and games because I ask the children for elements such as the animals for “Old MacDonald”. I also pursue other themes, such as sharing joy, creativity, support, love and humour through modelled behaviours. Oh all right, and love of reading is in there too. It should be implicit.

So I don’t so much fail at theme as have more investment in structure, tone, style and participation as creating continuity between differing elements.

It is possible.

The same as I don’t see a point in theming, I don’t see a point, other than an exercise, in blogging every single day. As opinionated as I am I don’t feel a wish to find something to express a well thought-out, edited opinion every day. That being said, at this end of the month I have found that when I do blog, I prefer to do that editing and thinking rather than do “something quick”. Even yesterday’s dinner break post, one of my quicker that wasn’t just complaining, had two days of distributed discussion and occasional pondering behind it.

My shortest one I didn’t publicise except through RSS, which I acknowledged in the post. This in itself sparked a fun discussion.

Creative activity enhances wellbeing.

Readers who have been following for a while will have seen mention of insomnia. I tend to have this when I’ve a lot to think about, although this tends to be abstract topics such as “what are some useful models and modes of thought which can support engaged information literacy” and “if I listen to my new song fifity times in my head with my fingers twitching that’s the same as practicing it” rather than “the big boy next door called me names”. In fact I get on with Brett, my large and tough next door neighbour, rather well.

In the past I’ve tended to avoid engaging in writing about these topics or developing musical ideas at times when I should be sleeping because I haven’t wished to stimulate myself further. This month has convincingly demonstrated to me that fully engaging my creative faculties leads to better managed sleep patterns.

I can talk about information profession things.

While I am linked to a small handful of active projects at work presently, my main role right now is to explore and propose a definition and related useful functions for my role, knowing that other related roles and functions may or may not be changing.

A necessary process at for success in this task is the active avoidance of prejudicing the views of people one is seeking  input from. Admittedly this is impossible – in an organisation of capable people, nuances are as deftly derived from what isn’t said as what is said.

This isn’t to mention time factors. To speak to an informed and representative sample of an organisation, individual conversations must be limited. Interesting and compelling topics must be touched on then left aside for progress in the key tasks at hand to be made.

So, getting a place to talk about the information profession, the  theory that surrounds it and the wonderful culture that springs forth from it is a good thing.

So what?

So I’ll keep on letting structural and stylistic approaches serve as my themes and not worry about it. I’ll stop worrying that creative activity is something I risk using up, although I won’t blog every day. I think now that I’ve cleared a regular window in which writing happens I’ll allow some of that to happen in blog form, and some of that to happen in the many other writing projects  I’ve got sitting round on scraps of paper and in little files.

I’ll not only continue to share my infoculture thoughts, I’ve got some new people whose thoughts stimulate to share with to add to the wonderful, but less new, people. *waves*

And I’ll look forward to enjoying some good nights of kip.

*Bonus content: Three years, two months, twenty days, seventeen hours, fifty minutes and twenty-six seconds ago I shared** the following Beetle Bailey cartoon on my livejournal. I still think it’s a pretty hilarious statement for an ostensibly unironic newspaper toon:

Beetle Bailey loves them Goth girls

** If you hack me and find content you find uncomfortable, serves you right for being prurient.***

*** Also I will hack you back. Just saying.

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Where I think eBooks are at – or more reviews on obsolescent products

I was reading a post by a gentleman name of Tom I’ve been following a while. He’s active in the library industry and seems fond of eBooks.

I started in with  a comment and realised I was saying a few things outside the purview of his post.

You really should read it but I’ll précis it here.

A recent Listener editorial was negative about eBooks. Tom responds by letter and on his blog*.

In it he posits the obsolescence of books, the foolishness of libraries for missing this, with phrases such as:

  • With ebooks there’s no need for the book buyer, the people (sorry libraries) who hold up the book industry, to visit a physical store anymore.
  • This is our (libraries) fault.

I read this a few days ago now and wasn’t sure of my response, which usually means it’s sparked a few thoughts that need to brew. Many thanks for that, Tom.

I get where he’s going – and particularly with regard to libraries – but I guess my response is around the democratisation and atomisation of creativity. Allow me to explain.

I see the current value of the eBook model as a following stage from the book, but I actually think the book (as a concept, not as a physical thing) itself is what will be outmoded by more short format communication tools such as blogging etc. I’m viewing books and eBooks as the same things, in essence.

One of the factors that I see behind the novel (a relatively recent** phenomenon preceded for millennia by the epic poem cycle) and the “serious nonfiction book” has been the publishing industry’s need to deliver a content package which will gain market respect. If it looks like a book, some people will buy it. This applies in e-form too.

We are increasingly able to finetune our content. I’ve spent a lot of my life reading journalists from PJ O’Rourke to Hunter S. Thompson (actually not that wide a range if you know them both). What I have had access to is book form collections of articles they released over time. This is what a large part of non-fiction book content is. Sometimes it’s honest about it, sometimes it’s hidden but well crafted and sometimes it’s painfully obvious and badly done.

I’d rather find new PJs and HSTs and hear what they’re thinking about the day they’re thinking about it. Yes I know there are issues of authorial voice – but I think that even the concept of author-as-unreachable-expert is breaking down. So for me, a lot of nonfiction publishing in any format is not just obsolescent but obsolete and still twitching. I rarely will read a nonfiction book. The marketplace of ideas is simply too rich.

Longer fictional narratives – ok you got me. I still like to read novels whatever I said above. But that’s me, who has been brought up to function in that system. I believe in it, I love in it – but I’m not so sure I believe it’s here to stay. I definitely believe that large-form text narratives will follow a similar decline as the ranks of gamers, Whedon freaks and right on down to LOLCATivores rise. I’ve watched my 74 year old mother-in-law’s reading habits change since we introduced her to the net. She’s still a voracious linguaphile*** but her wordplay lately includes telling me I’m being basement cat when she feels I’m being an improper son-in-law.

So what am I saying? I’m saying I think classifying long-form eReading as any different from the digital reading we’ve been doing socially since – well you pick. Teletext? BBS? The telegram?

Let’s start that one again. What I’m saying is this: There is no such thing as eReading. There is no eBook. There are short- and longform texts, and some companies around marketing longform (and combined shortform) content packages on digital platforms as eBooks. This too shall pass.

I recommend looking at TOR. They’re a science fiction publishing company. They’ve been putting CDROMs with entire parts of their catalogues in the back of their books for years. Yes, this is essentially freeware booklength content aimed at generating business based on reputation and fair dealing. Yes, this strategy was generated long before the eBook question. Heck, iD software did with the Doom franchise in the 90s.

As for libraries? I guess I’m saying Tom’s wrong, right and wrong again. He’s wrong because he knows full well libraries are aware and thinking of eBooks. He’s right that we should focus more on this question while it is in play. I think – and I’m happy to be told I’m wrong in turn – he’s wrong again because I get the feeling a logical conclusion would be to invest as much of our time in eBooks as possible. I think that would be putting all our eggs into very much the wrong basket.

*a strategy I highly recommend – when I did so over a Sunday Herald article I also emailed the article author to give them a heads up, which also felt like good practice.

** 18th Century or so according to my fave cheap reference source.

*** She was once kicked out of a scrabble club after she complained about people playing with the help of word lists which is my definition of awesome.