Now I know on many levels I’m not normal, but there are moments in the blogging process that just give me butterflies. Many of them occur serendipitously when I’m reading and two or three pieces of content flow up from my network that begin to click together in my brain like magnets, making connections. And at that moment, my mind starts writing, composing a post that it needs to make sense of the ideas, the patterns that seem to be emerging. I’ve come to rely on the blogging to cement together the pieces and make them more of a whole, one that I know is never fully complete, and never will be. And that’s when the butterflies come, in that moment of recognition, when things seem to make more sense. They tell me some molecules have moved, that I think I know something that I didn’t before. It’s what keeps me doing this.
Obviously, that happened just now as I was wallowing in my Google Reader (having left Bloglines far behind), reading post after post that made my brain hum with thought. But what clicked were a couple of items that just led so seamlessly one into another as I pulled them up.
The first was from if:book which is one of my favorite reads these days. Kim White writes about the coming “sea change” in terms of the structure of and reading of digital books. And much of the analysis is hung on the work of Jeff Han, whose amazing TED presentation floated up again someone’s blog a few days ago, and who was the subject of a feature in Fast Company which Tim Lauer pointed to this morning. (The picture above is a snip from another video of Jeff Han at work that’s on the FC site.) Kim’s description of how 3D, touchscreen computing will affect books is compelling:
Here’s an example of how it might work, imagine the institute’s Iraq Study Group Report in 3D. Main authors would have nodes or “homesites” close to the book with threads connecting them to sections they authored. Co-authors/commentors might have thinner threads that extend out to their, more remotely located, sites. The 3D depiction would allow readers to see “threads” that extend out from each author to everything they have created in digital space. In other words, their entire network would be made visible. Readers could know an author’s body of work in a new way and they could begin to see how collaborative works have been understood and shaped by each contributor. It would be ultimate transparency. It would be absolutely fascinating to see a 3D visualization of other works and deeds by the Iraq Study Groups’ authors, and to “see” the interwoven network spun by Washington’s policy authors. Readers could zoom out to get a sense of each author’s connections. Imagine being able to follow various threads into territories you never would have found via other, more conventional routes.
Now that would be an amazing capacity, to follow the connections and gain all sorts of context as to the authors and the ideas and their evolution. And it would demand reading skills that revolve around following connections and vetting sources in ways that would challenge our current pedagogies. Talk about active reading…
In that same vein, I’ve been spending some time clicking around Daylife, which is a newish news puller-together that looks to contextualize what’s happening in the world and connect the events to the people and the history around it. It’s not the 3-D world that Kim describes, but as I read David Weinberger’s post this morning it was clear that it’s a step in the right direction. The individual topic pages (like this one on Condoleezza Rice) are full of content…pictures, articles, people who are connected in some way, quotes, Wikipedia entries, etc. It gives the opportunity to drill further down into the information in ways that newspapers can’t. Now I know this is new, and it has a ways to go in terms of building up resources, etc. But it’s the direction I find interesting.
And it leads me to a better understanding of one of my favorite excerpts from one of my favorite articles about all of this, “Scan This Book” by Kevin Kelly:
Yet the common vision of the library’s future (even the e-book future) assumes that books will remain isolated items, independent from one another, just as they are on shelves in your public library. There, each book is pretty much unaware of the ones next to it. When an author completes a work, it is fixed and finished. Its only movement comes when a reader picks it up to animate it with his or her imagination. In this vision, the main advantage of the coming digital library is portability â€” the nifty translation of a book’s full text into bits, which permits it to be read on a screen anywhere. But this vision misses the chief revolution birthed by scanning books: in the universal library, no book will be an island.
Turning inked letters into electronic dots that can be read on a screen is simply the first essential step in creating this new library. The real magic will come in the second act, as each word in each book is cross-linked, clustered, cited, extracted, indexed, analyzed, annotated, remixed, reassembled and woven deeper into the culture than ever before. In the new world of books, every bit informs another; every page reads all the other pages.
Which is another vision that gives me butterflies.
In his TED presentation, Jeff Han said:
I kind of cringe at the idea that we’re going to introduce a whole new generation of people to computing with the standard mouse and Windows pointer interface. This is the way we should be interacting with machines from this point on…There’s no reason in this day and age why we should be conforming to a physical device. They should conform to us.
My question is how fast is all of this going to reach our kids…and what does it mean for our curriculum right now. These literacies aren’t necessarily new, but they are much more complex. Our younger kids, my kids, are going to need to have them. I don’t think, right now at least, most schools have much of a clue as to how to address them.
chris larry says
How amazing is that NY Times magazine article by Kevin Kelly?!?!?! And it caused a bit of rukus when it came out…did you read John Updike’s response in the Book Review secyion a few weeks later…what a “hater”…
Thanks for all these links!
Carolyn Foote says
This idea fascinated me that in our current libraries, “each book is pretty much unaware of the ones next to it. When an author completes a work, it is fixed and finished. Its only movement comes when a reader picks it up to animate it with his or her imagination. ….the chief revolution birthed by scanning books: in the universal library, no book will be an island.”
Louise Rosenblatt’s theory of reader response is that the book is the reader to some extent–the experiences, tastes, and meaning that the reader brings to the text.
This will still apply but the reader will have so much more context to work from.
And of course the idea of being able to digitize all the connections an author made in composing something seems incredibly daunting at our technological vantage point now, and a little overwhelming for a reader.
It’s like having someone’s mind that you can connect with visually, with all its connections, pathways, traces of memory, etc. that led the author to their conclusions.
It reminds me of blogging or del.icio.us–by seeing what the authors we are reading are reading, we can begin to form a network of shared communications, even if only minimally.
As a librarian, these ideas do blow me away.
I also think there is loveliness in the printed book, a piece of paper you hold in your hands and touch, and bring only your own meeting of the mind with the author.
I’m one of those who believes that one thing won’t lead to the demise of the other, just as videos haven’t been the demise of the movie theater, etc.
I could be wrong. I have to say that online resources have changed the use of nonfiction at my library already. Publishers publish reference books that are tremendously more visual, and even then, students gravitate towards the internet, as do teachers. I do think the ability to connect ideas online is the reason why, so that desire for connection of related ideas is definitely a strong one.
The nonfiction that circulates the most now are narratives though our fiction still circulates as much as before, if not more.
I agree that the e-readers that try to mimic the look of a page seem to miss the point–I find that awkward–and misses the point of the connectivity part of the text online.
Will — Your post connecting to Ted Ham’s TED presentation is something that every teacher who uses any degree of computing technology needs to watch and wonder aloud about with colleagues who are ready to ask brave questions. I posted about the video a few days back when it came my way…and I consider it to be one of the 3 most startling interactive technologies that I’ve seen in the last year that may one day (sooner than we may think) have a profound impact on the way our students not only interact with information, but intuitively create content as well.
I’m out in Portland, Oregon on Saturday working with architects and leaders from a variety of school districts who are craving new ways of thinking about the future of schooling and school design. Along with Karl Fisch’s 2020 Vision presentation, I’ll be showing the Ted Ham TED video as well, with the obvious caveat of “what impact will this have on the school design spaces and learning experiences we seek to inspire from this point forward?”
Thanks for posting such a delightful analysis of this video (with the must-listen-to quotation about no longer ‘conforming’ to the physical boundaries of our previous assumptions about technology).
Look forward to seeing you in Philly in 2 weeks.
Kelly Christopherson says
Well, guess I’d better start saving for one of these! This is the future – forget one-to-one computing! Education as we have known it has been introduced to the final straw – the waves of change are now of tsunami size. My only hope is that we can convince educators and those in education who aren’t looking, to raise their heads and prepare themselves. I will definitely be showing my staff and my students this video. Let’s get busy!!
Mike Hetherington says
My students now walk to the Smartboard at the front of the classroom, place their hands on the Google Earth image, and rotate the globe toward the intended location. They then double tap the board to zoom in on the city, mountain range, lake etc. The first time we tried this the novelty wore of after a few minutes and the kids accepted the interface as natural and intuitive. Can’t wait until every computer is outfitted with a touchscreen. Of course, I see a time coming when every computer is a touchscreen, flexible, foldable, with wireless internet access and carried in the students pocket…
Justin Medved says
Your post made me reflect back to a unique moment that happened in one of our school computer labs. In August all of the elementary classrooms (K-5) were outfitted with projectors and Smartboards. All of our students are now immersed in this interactive touch sensitive environment daily. One morning I popped into one of the ES computer labs just as a kinder class was sitting down. I noticed five separate students intuitively go to touch the screen first rather than go for the mouse to start the login process. Spending much more time in front of the Smartboard than the monitor it seem logical to these young students that all computers should operate this way. For these students touch was certainly easier and felt much more natural. It was a really interesting moment that I think speaks to this post and the potential for this kind of technology to flourish across all mediums for multiple purposes.