ASIST08: My So-Called Life on the Web

(But first, an aside about conference internet access: It is crappy. And I’m a poor graduate student who can’t afford to spend an obscene amount of money everyday for a decent connection. There is free “access” in some parts of the conference hotel, but it goes in and out like crazy and it’s not available everywhere. Maddening. It does make me realize how spoiled I am for access and how hard it is to not be able to get information or do my work when I want to. Ok, aside over.)

Yesterday afternoon I attended a session on the good and the bad of the online world. The speakers were William Jones of University of Washington, Fred Stutzman of UNC Chapel Hill, Cathy Marshall of Microsoft Research, Gary Marchionini of UNC Chapel Hill, and Allison Brueckner of cALiCo Information Consulting. My notes on this are a bit briefer than for the earlier two sessions (I was getting tired), so I’ll just share a few thoughts I jotted down, mostly, again things I want to look up or look into.

Fred Stutzman brought up the hypothesis that young people might be more accepting of loss of privacy on the web because they’ve been raised in a more closely surveilled society, that that political and social change made the kind of online disclosure we’re seeing now possible. Intriguing. He also pointed out that we’re beginning to see more negotiation of privacy: in each specific social space online, people are controlling who can see what and when and where with greater specificity.

Cathy Marshall talked about some of the myths of digital archiving, and I wish she’d been able to present a bit longer, and get into some more detail about the subject, as it’s quite timely in relation to my Digital Preservation class. She said, at one point, “Benign neglect has its virtues in that it automatically culls itself,” and I’d love to hear more about her ideas around beningn neglect and the fact that we’re trying to save too much. Another interesting myth she refutes: “Kids will know what to do.” I talk about this a lot, the assumption or idea that the younger generation are information experts, just born knowing how to deal with the digital.

Gary Marchionini talked about a great concept: proflection. He draws together the intentional identities we present online, and the intentional ways people talk about us, with the “ambient” or unintentional ways that we present and are presented online, and molds them into this concept of the Proflected Identity. I really like his concept of the ambient identities on the web, the way you are known through the things you buy, your click streams, your search histories, your citation webs, etc. He also mentioned a tool, a personal web crawler created by a student at UNC Chapel Hill, called the Context Miner.

Allison Brueckner spoke last, and talked about Second Life, utopias, and dystopias. She brought up some interesting points about the utopian vision that the web was when it was created, before technological barriers reinforced class barriers and we realized that, despite its promise, it tends to recapitulate the barriers to information and community that exist in real life.

As I mentioned, my notes on this presentation were more scant, and I’m sure I’m doing real justice to these presenters, but I did find their ideas useful. I would have liked to hear a little more from all of them, but they wanted to include a solid amount of time for group discussion, so I felt each speaker was a little rushed. There was a lot of good stuff there, though.

After the presentations, there was an evening of receptions, and while the receptions I’ve been to at other conferences were awkward and boring, both Tuesday night receptions were fun. There was good food, tango dancing demonstrations, raffles, meeting people, wine, socializing…all good times.

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