Ok, so I’m in a bit of a emotional whirlwind today, and maybe that has something to do with my reaction to yesterday’s New York Times magazine cover piece on the future of books in the sense that I’m looking for all kinds of validation for leaving my desk job and deciding to try to bring these ideas to wider audiences, and that I’m hoping that when the New York Times starts getting all visionary that maybe I’m (we’re) really on to something knowing full well that the Times has been wrong before and that all of this is a crap shoot, but that this paragraph literally gave me chills (though it may not have on any other “normal” day):
“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, remized, 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.”
And then this:
“In addition to a link, which explicitly connects one word or sentence or book to another, readers will also be able to add tags, a recent innovation on the Web but already a popular one. A tag is a public annotation, like a keyword or category name, that is hung on a file, page, picture or song, enabling anyone to search for that file. For instance, on the photo-sharing site Flickr, hundreds of viewers will “tag” a photo submitted by another user with their own simple classifications of what they think the picture is about: “goat,” “Paris,” “goofy,” “beach party.” Because tags are user-generated, when they move to the realm of books, they will be assigned faster, range wider and serve better than out-of-date schemes like the Dewey Decimal System, particularly in frontier or fringe areas like nanotechnology or body modification.
The link and the tag may be two of the most important inventions of the last 50 years. They get their initial wave of power when we first code them into bits of text, but their real transformative energies fire up as ordinary users click on them in the course of everyday Web surfing, unaware that each humdrum click “votes” on a link, elevating its rank of relevance. You may think you are just browsing, casually inspecting this paragraph or that page, but in fact you are anonymously marking up the Web with bread crumbs of attention. These bits of interest are gathered and analyzed by search engines in order to strengthen the relationship between the end points of every link and the connections suggested by each tag. This is a type of intelligence common on the Web, but previously foreign to the world of books.” [Emphasis mine.]
Now, might that be a bit of hyperbole? (There’s that word again.) Um…I dunno. Certainly, it’s not something that people with no context of what’s happening on the Web can even begin to understand. Either way, it’s amazing, amazing writing, I think. And in the new Socratic spirit of this space, it begs a number of questions.
Should we be thinking about how to prepare our kids for a linked, tagged world?
What strategies do we need to develop to read and write in linked, tagged world?
How do we best harness the potential of a world where knowledge is easily connected and, therefore, increasingly overwhelming and, as my wife pointed out, perhaps paralyzing?
I want to write more about this, not only because of the implications for the education system but because I find this discussion, this move to a more linked and tagged world to be extremely interesting. If you read the article, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Technorati Tags: books, reading, writing, learning, education
Chris Barker says
The electronic library is a fascinating possibility in the future. I love the ability to search entire books as opposed to simple abstracts. Electronic libraries will need to address the way in which students interact with the information as it would be easy to overload them.
I use Logos bible software which is heavy with linked articles and a “full” electronic library and I often find that the massive amounts of information at my finger tips can often distract me from the original intent of reading any given article.
Another item that will need discussed is teaching students to discern the academic integrity of any given link, and how to do that quickly, if possible.
I am guessing going to a wide scale electronic school will be another thing that the kid’s who are currently in school will be deciding once they gain a strong footing in the education field, as many immigrants will see this as another threat to traditional education.
If taught how to harness these skills well, I agree with you, this can be an amazing thing. The thought of students approaching learning with quick access to a good context surrounding what they are learning about is very exciting.
Tom Hoffman says
I’ve never thought tagging was very important.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read this article in it’s entirety, but have seen an interesting post/response to it on an ARCLog titled “Book Soup”.
David Warlick says
Coincidentally, I’m getting ready to head over to a distance learning conference in Asheville. These folks are already teaching and learning in an exclusively digital and networked information environment. I suspect that most of them have not yet formally grasped tagging, RSS, and their ilk, but they’re working in a world where information literacy means a lot more than merely being able to read the text on a piece of paper and consistantly perform long division calculations.
I’m hoping to have a lot to talk about from this conference.
And again, great luck to you on all of endeavors.
— dave —
Chris Kaminski says
I believe the connected world is where education needs to progress toward. In order to serve our students in the most efficient way, i find it necessary to elliminate the educational game of catch-up. In an increasing global marketplace, being connected is a key ingredient to success, but above and beyond I think students need to understand how to make the connections THEMSELVES. Students who can become self-directed, self-motivated, and fearless learners will win in the end. Educating these entrepreneural qualities to our students is a must if we want to be at the cusp of innovation. The digital natives (students) know how to USE technology, often better than the educators. What educators need to provide is a means to show students the path of using and inventing technology as a means of making connections in ways we could not before the technology existed.
The one thing that is like the elephant in the room with all of this is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s paper or digital, people are reading less and less. That’s the biggest issue in my eyes…
Bill Fitzgerald says
RE tagging, and its use in education — I try and teach tagging as an extension of critical thinking — tagging allows users to create connections (and then, later, retrace those connections) between disparate thoughts/pieces of content — tagging gets to evaluating, comparing, and categorizing sources.
RE people reading less: I would also say that people read for a shorter duration — This also strikes me as something that technology has exacerbated, but not caused. The amount people read (and the depth to which they examine texts) has as much to do with curriculum design and instructional style as it does with the technology that delivers/structures/supports the lesson.
This is an important discussion. As we teach students (and ourselves) to critically interact and evaluate printed messages, we should realize that something is also being lost in that process. Chris referred to it as distracting him from his original intent in reading an article.
The link below is to an essay by John Leinhard that I heard years ago on my local NPR station. I still refer to it often in conversations about the printed word v. interactive media.
Something will be lost if everything we read is linked and tagged and we no longer immerse ourselves in the journey the author intends for us to take.
Paul Trotta says
We are currently previewing Questia,an online database with individual student accounts. Students can write footnotes,comments or underline text, but,in a subset of tagging, teachers have access to the student’s comments.
If the database reaches the point where an entire paper can be written using Questia resources, the teacher then has a record of the steps the student took in writing the paper.
Or the teacher could ask students to analyze a piece of writing of writing, highlighting and commenting on salient points.
While my school may not buy Questia, for those schools that do, the future is very close.
If:book has an interesting piec both on its blog and in the new Library Journal. http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/archives/2006/05/ifbook_in_library_journal.html
Mark Mitchell says
If you go to our website listed above, you will see the future today. We are a powerful collection of business professional and well-being references (10,700+ books and articles ) that use the power of internet linking, annotation, sharing, search etc. to put these resources at one’s finger tips. The collections grow hourly and are not static. And you don’t need to store or move any books! Sometime, ask me to tell you about the time in graduate school a makeshift wall of books in my apartment toppled over on me! Mark
Mark Mitchell says
My Referenceware website: http://www.corporate.books24x7.com/home2.asp
Terry Freedman says
I don’t wish to lower the tone of the discussion, but why was Dave Warlick travelling to a distance learning conference?! LOL
By the way, Will, I received yr book and will be reviewing it shortly.
Mark Mitchell says
Sorry about the above link. It seems that my “X” in 24×7 is confusing the server. Try this link: http://www.corporate.books24x7.com
Tim Schoch says
I am in love with the idea of being able to enjoy information or entertainment as I wish it…sometimes in print form, sometimes digital, sometimes shared. No need to prepare our kids… their culture is all over this. I mean, I still think of my cellphone as a telephone, silly me. It took my boys to actually show me that a phone has an alphabet you can use to do “other things.” Fiddlesticks.
Lynn Manning Ross says
These great comments inspired me to leave mine: Two CDs, Comptonâ€™s Encyclopedia 2000, that came with my computer wowed me from the beginning and triggered a flow of ideas including the ones discussed about Kellyâ€™s article. Whoever developed Comptonâ€™s software was a genius at the idea of â€œtags, referencing, noting, bookmarking, etc.â€ Having used it over these past 5 years, I can only imagine what Kellyâ€™s description of our future will mean to a world of learners when a Compton-like tool for the Web becomes a reality! PS: If anyone reading this would like a FREE tech-term dictionary that has just been released, hereâ€™s the link http://www.smartsite.com/lamebrain.html. Just load it on your desktop for quick reference (our community college uses it).