Brave New Online Worlds:Social Networks, Online Communities, MUVEs, and the Future of Libraries WiLSWorld Conference Thursday, July 26, 2007 Pyle Center, Madison, Wisconsin Tom Peters, TAP Information Services
These slides will be Online(I promise) • www.tapinformation.com/WiLSWorld200707.htm
Today’s Topic • How are social networks, online communities, and virtual worlds affecting libraries, and how could libraries affect them?
Rule #1 • Don’t try to predict the future, because you usually will be proven wrong.
Exhibit A • “I think there may be a world market for maybe five computers.” • Attributed to Tom Watson, Chairman of the Board of IBM, but it may be a misquote or a fictitious quote
Hare and Tortoise Henny Penny Fractured Fairy Tales
The Hare and the Tortoise • The Hare is the human imagination. • When confronted with a new technology, we often race ahead in our minds to what seem to be plausible conclusions and outcomes. • The Tortoise is human lived experience. • It often takes years for reality to “catch up” to human imagination, and often the reality does not match the initial vision.
Consider the Unrealized Vision of a Paperless Society • Predictions of paperless societies are now decades old. • Nearly all information is now created in digital format. • Paper usage continues to increase. • In 2000, approx. 36 percent of U.S. paper use went for writing, printing, and newsprint.
The Henny Penny Syndrome • The sky is falling. • Some new technology is going to kill libraries and librarianship. • The HPS is caused by the Hare and Tortoise phenomenon.
Needed: A Henny Penny Meter • The henpenometer or HPM for short • Would measure the “Henny Penniness” of our collective response to any technological development • Google Mass Digitization had a high HPM score, but it may be falling. • The Web initially had a low HPM score, but it has risen since.
My Thesis • As we think about the future relationship between libraries and social networks, online communities, and virtual worlds, many of us don’t see an important relationship.Nevertheless, social networks, online communities, and virtual worlds may have a profound effect on the future of libraries and librarianship.
Get a Grip, Tom! • Am I really suggesting that frivolous online activities such as Twitter, Flickr, and Second Life could have a major influence on libraries? • Am I twitterpated? • I may break the henpenometer
Communities • Shared environment • Shared interests • Shared needs • Individual, communities, societies • Communities and public goods, such as libraries • Libraries serve communities. • Do Libraries create communities?
Online Communities • Ning, Facebook, etc. • Twitter can serve as the communicative glue of a community • What does friendship mean online? • What impact (social, economic, cultural, etc.) will online communities have on earthly communities? • See Castronova’s 2005 book, Synthetic Worlds
Communities Summarized • Earthly: General, localized population • Virtual: Specialized, global population
Social Networks • Basic concepts: Nodes and Ties
Online Social Networks • Facebook • MySpace • LibraryThing • Flickr • Flirtomatic • Twitter • Second Life
What’s Happening to the Individual? • The coming struggle between the individual and the group • Smart mobs • Wisdom of crowds • Online communities
Attempts to Tap into Group Power • Communism (political, economic, social) • Trade Unions (economic, political, social) • Wisdom of Crowds (informational, economic, social)
An Aside: Blogs vs. Wikis • Blogs are all about the individual mind. They accumulate and present knowledge sequentially. • Wikis are about collective intelligence. They present knowledge communally.
The Future of the Individual • The individual already operates in several communities (work, home, professional, avocational, etc.) • The individual self will span several environments (Earth, web, virtual worlds) • The individual may become subservient in new ways to groups
What Does All This Have to Do with Libraries? • Libraries support communities by supporting individuals • Libraries tend to support earthly communities, which are geographically constrained (towns, campuses, etc.) • Libraries often are funded locally
The relationship between the individual and the group. Romantics put the individual on a pedestal. All creativity comes from individuals. The End of the Romantic Library?
The Romantic Library • Focuses on individual users • Provides a quiet place for silent, individual reading and reflection • Does not directly foster and facilitate community building and communication • Diffuses knowledge across individuals. • Fosters individual expertise.
The Rustication of Expertise • As more information becomes available in digital format to just about everyone with access to the Internet, the rustication of expertise may become a pronounced feature of humanity's intellectual landscape. • In the future, the percentage of experts who are affiliated with universities may decline.
The Decline of Expertise • The importance of individual expertise to the advancement of humanity may actually decline in the near future.
Knowledge: Of, By, and For the People • Knowing and knowledge may become a group process, not an individual act pursued in implicit solitude. • David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous (2007) • Knowledge through conversation. • The library as conversation (Dave Lankes)
Usage/Funding Disconnect • “Library patrons don’t care about geographic boundaries any more, but we have to stick within the state, because that is where the money comes from.” • Lamar Veatch, July 25, 2007, during an address at the WiLSWorld Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.
3-D worlds Populated by Avatars Somewhat like the Real World Also unlike the Real World Second Life Teen Second Life Whyville ActiveWorlds Virtual Worlds
Virtual Worlds and Libraries • Real World Libraries: Détente between people and paper • To date, most info interaction has been two-dimensional • 3-Dimensional Virtual Libraries: • Initially, the 3D is for the people • Eventually, the 3D will be for the information.
From Info Objects to Experiences • The emphasis on digital objects persisted through the transition from print to digital. • In virtual worlds, events and exhibits seem more important than collections.
What is King? • Content? • Community? • Conversation? • Experience? • Events and Exhibits?
What Should Libraries Do? • Begin discussing and solving the “Usage/Funding Disconnect” • Embrace social networking, online communities, virtual worlds, and other “Library 2.0” tools and concepts as if there were no tomorrow. • Build and test prototype information experiences.
Is It Really a Brave New World? • From multi-tasking to multi-worlding • From Romantic libraries to communal knowledge repositories
Our Task as Librarians • Apply the trends and affordances of online communal networks to the enduring mission of libraries. • Avoid Henny Pennishness.
Thank You! • Tom Peters • firstname.lastname@example.org • 816.228.6406 • www.tapinformation.com