by Jack Kessler, firstname.lastname@example.org
February 15, 2013 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on February 15, 2013 -- and, a little later, on http://fyifrance.blogspot.com/, and at Facebook-Jack Kessler's Notes
Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: email@example.com
Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:
Please email suggestions for improvements to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
-- recommended here both for personal and professional interests, and to offer to others, including researchers and students ;
-- it grows increasingly-difficult to sort through the digital information overload, but the people who write the following are doing that job well in France, and it is interesting to see how they approach the task there ;
-- and, as always here, a few FYI France editorial Notes are appended to the entries, to entice & provoke & otherwise-interest -- so,
[Note re. the above : Great title... And the politics, and the economics, of current trends in both librarianship and digital information, are painfully-obvious from a French perspective -- from any non-anglophone perspective -- the English-speaking world appears to possess a dominant role in these arenas now, a role which when viewed from abroad seems even more dominant than it actually is. Technique, too, is not always so obviously value-free. So it is useful to consider such questions from both sides of La Manche, and both sides of The Pond. And Asia offers even larger waterways to cross: if the old barriers in The West can be negotiated satisfactorily, then perhaps the new barriers now-emerging in The East will not be as difficult. JK.]
[Note: I thought it might be interesting to consider how school libraries and librarians approach these subjects, in France -- particularly considering that the architects of the new information universe are so young, many only recently left "school" themselves, and a number of others dropped-out early-on from their "university" programs -- Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, the list is both stellar and extensive -- also considering that, in the US & UK anyway, the school-library and librarian increasingly are rare and rapidly-disappearing commodities, while they are common and excellent and increasing presences now in Asia. We need to treat our teenagers better: for better or for worse they are inventing our digital world, now, plus a few of its spin-off galaxies. JK.]
[Note: The ENSSIB is another rare commodity, ironically -- an excellent and government-sponsored & supported institution devoted to _both_ digital information _and_ library service -- in most other places the choice has been made, to do one or the other but very rarely both -- but both plus their elegant combination are very badly needed, now. It's become a flood... the dam broke, Ma, levee's gonna break, water's comin'... This publication, and others like it, demonstrate the interesting "documentaliste" approach to information, per se, which the French have been practicing for a long time. JK.]
[Note: Archives, a branch or maybe-better-put a cousin of libraries -- increasingly an important relation, as the problem of preserving the precious paper books, now become-critical thanks to acid paper and the overwhelming / crushing influence of digital information, threatens the old collections and the library institutions themselves. How to preserve? Yes, by all means provide access too, but how to preserve? It's expensive... And there are tough choices to be made: per Umberto Eco, "When I pick up a Gallimard from the 1950s, I have the impression of having in my hands a lamb being burned as a sacrifice... who, what authority will decide which books to retain? Plato and Dante have known their periods of disgrace, although they have been able to transcend the centuries..." JK.]
[Note: The approach to this common technical problem taken in a foreign non-anglophone culture... Will users -- even engineers, highly-trained -- take the same approaches, even technical, in Middle Eastern and Asian and African and Latin American cultures structured very differently from our own, cultures which structure things-political & economic very differently? JK.]
[Note: Teachers -- remembering that so much of our digital universe is being invented and run by teenagers nowadays, as-mentioned -- the 20-somethings, and the Jobs & Gates & Zuckerberg and others who all left school -- it seems the schoolteacher, not the college professor, is the key influence or at least the key & perhaps only real opportunity we oldsters have to influence... My own favorite teacher explained he loved working with 13 & 14-year-olds, because, "that is the last time our minds are open". JK.]
[Note: The digital library francophone... Are there differences? Is a spoken & written human language really an indicator, a carrier, of unique characteristics, approaches, attitudes, biases, "structures", ways in & by which we perceive & work with our various universes? Or is it really "all the same"? Or at least, if it's really different, does language give us no clue about it? Were Austin & Ayer & Wittgenstein & the rest all wrong about that? Trying to use a French library is one way of finding out: the French do structure knowledge differently... so maybe the Chinese do as well? JK.]
[Note: See several of the Notes above, here, plus... The documentation center, in a non-anglophone culture -- are there differences there? The famous name in documentalism -- a combination of librarianship and other things which emphasizes text over its containers -- is Paul Otlet, a Belgian --
[Note: Children -- small children -- how is "reading" different, for a small child these days in France? For a small child anywhere? With 6-7 hours, or even 8 or 9 say some studies, of television to watch per diem, in the US... how do they do it, when do they do it? Do they ever sleep? A small child these days is inundated with bits & bytes -- I won't say information, it's more just data, it would be like calling a gâteau au chocolat and a glass of grand cru and a sugar lump all the same thing -- but children don't read those bits & bytes & commercial "pub" emissions, they absorb them, it's an interesting sort of osmosis... and when they grow up, now they can do it all via iPhone and iPad... "Reading" has changed, changed utterly. JK.]
[Note: The Law, particularly on copyright and software-- the latest word, perhaps, from a recently-minted student, in this arena so-dominated generally by recently-minted students -- and, in The Law, les différences françaises, like but not limited to the droit moral by virtue of which Victor Hugo (d. 1885) still holds copyright to Notre Dame de Paris (Gosselin, 1831). JK.]
[Note: A little bit of history...JK.]
[Note: The professions... the ever-changing professions... adaptability having become their hallmark, in our hyperactive-seachange digital world: a world in which, as Intel's Andy Grove ruefully pointed out, Only the Paranoid Survive (Crown Books, 1999). JK.]
[Note: Multimedia? In a French context, remember, that term includes comic books... different strokes... Our US context perhaps has been unduly-influenced by our enormous & enormously-powerful media organizations, which & who to no small extent defined the world they inhabit: the rest of the world may have moved-on recently, however -- and may be in need, now, of a new term, one which includes comic books, in its French usage anyway. i.e. I wonder how those ancient bound-slat "books" get classified, in cultures which use them: China, Thailand, I have some on my shelves from India -- bamboo slats, or any other grass or reed which will un-roll will do -- also thin wood -- Egyptians made them from papyrus. They do not work like a "book", at all, they are everywhere and always have been, yet Western "multimedia" means sound tapes & video disks & movie reels, all just recent corporate stuff: find me a library "multimedia" collection which contains Asian slat books -- perhaps broader & better terms, or several of them, are needed now. JK.]
[Note: If there is one term to have emerged from the era of digital information differently, outside the anglophone sphere where it was invented, it has been "social media" -- at home it developed cute gossip, while overseas it developed revolution -- the developments, and these differences, are not over yet. How the French think of "médias sociaux" may provide clues as to how the Middle East, and Asia, and Africa and Latin America are thinking of them -- or as to how differently these thoughts are, to the original models developed in London, and New York and Cupertino. Gutenberg's bible had a different impact too, in Mainz, where it was an expensive showpiece peddled to a few rich people, as versus the many other places which adopted and developed his techniques, later on and in nearly all cases for Something Completely Different: technology sometimes -- often -- takes on a life of its own. JK.]
So it is not yet the case, anywhere, that the only interesting materials on this particular immense variety of topics are *online*. Sometimes, then, it still pays to pull the cascading bits & bytes together by backing-off and reading a thought-out, well-considered, comprehensive & congenially-formatted "book"... maybe an e-book, altho those mostly not-yet, still...
I am trying to become a fan of e-books -- so far unsuccessfully, but I do keep trying -- the marriages I've seen so far, however, between the speed & agility & flexibility of digital information, and the thoughtfulness & organization & sheer sagacity of the same information presented as print, have not been happy unions. I am all for access, but preservation's a problem too: we need to carry forward some part of the vast panoply of editorial exactitude, presentation sleight-of-hand -- mise-en-page -- marketing skills and structures, financial aplomb, and general wisdom, assembled over centuries by our traditional publishing efforts and industries. Otherwise digital information won't be able to pay its bills, sell in the first place, be readable, scale-up, or be able to spel. Nothing worse, then a verdammten auto-complete spell-checker which doesn't spel rite -- unless it's one that doesn't consider speling rite to be important, or one which refuses to spell wrong when you want it to. Cacaphonies...
So the EPub standard may solve many problems of l'édition. And the iPad may make the mise-en-page of iPhone-squinting more presentable. And gradually the whole process may come to make more sense financially -- currently it doesn't, as the same text can be procured for $7 or $70 or $0 and still in no case make a profit for anyone concerned, and libraries have lost their sense of purpose, as have bookstores, and people are "reading" both far more and far less, and in all cases are understanding vastly less of whatever they read.
So there's still room for a printed book or two. It still represents a completed thought, in a format designed for easy presentation and understanding. After a day, or longer, of sound-byte-chasing -- what passes for reading, in this early phase of the digital information world -- headline-scanning on GoogleNews followed by header-browsing and spam-filtering in email, then followed by YouTube clip-browsing, Pinterest image-pinning, MMORPG video gameboard chatting, tweeting and texting "Hey..." or "Wazzup..." or tapping "Like" to several hundred of our global thousands of Social Media friends... not in-depth relationships, these...
After a day of all that activity, anyway, it seems nice and even useful to sit down, regularly and even daily, to an old-fashioned, one-stop-shopping, well-considered & comprehensive & non-networked printed book, on a subject.
Do you remember the effect of a good "textbook", before and even after all that random and apparently-disconnected "secondary" reading, in a school or university class? The textbook initially presenting and later drawing back together all the wandering strands of a subject... That's a bit the feeling, now, of ending a day spent Internauting, negotiating the torrent of bits, wandering the backchannels of the chat groups -- concluding all that with a good printed book, which contains no tempting and distracting electric plugs at all, in or around it.
Happy reading, then. All this will change further, I am certain. But for now a few good printed books still may help. I am off to re-read Jarod Lanier's, You Are Not A Gadget (Knopf, 2010): maybe my print copy -- or maybe via my iPhone Kindle version, if that's out yet... so maybe I'll Google something while I read, or Like it, or Tweet it, or Pin it...
Jack Kessler, email@example.com
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive), or http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/Collections/FYIFrance/ or http://www.fyifrance.com -- also now at http://www.facebook.com ("Jack Kessler" My Notes), and at http://fyifrance.blogspot.com/. Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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