Monday, April 21, 2008

Microcontent and Its Discontents

I'm terribly excited, and I bet you know what about. Yes, that's right. Flickr is now adding video content! Yay!! The site where the self-obsessed post pictures of themselves but also where serious photographers actually post good photographs will now be open to the gits who post their inane antics on Youtube. Yay!! The videos, however, will be limited to 90 seconds, which should be within the attention range of just about everyone. According to some blog I read but can't recall, this is microcontent at its best! I didn't realize microcontent had a best, but I'm willing to believe it.

Let's consider some of the "microcontent" out there right now. For many years we have had the soundbite, which many people think have contributed to the decline of political discourse and the general dumbing down of political information for most people. And we have texting, from which has evolved a semi-literate dialect and discourse slightly less nuanced than pidgin English. Now we have Twittering, where the hopelessly extroverted can broadcast their doings to the voyeurs amongst us. We've got commercials and flashy short content just about everywhere we turn. There's just so much great stuff, we're sometimes told, that it's hard to concentrate on any one thing. Whereas it's possible that really there's an overabundance of complete crap and we've just given up trying to find anything worth concentrating on. It's easier just to let the crap flow over you in 90 second bites.

Some librarians get really excited by all this "microcontent." They like the cute little Youtube videos. They like short little blog posts with their pictures on them. They think books are just too long and old fashioned. They revel in what they mistakenly believe is a "multitasking" society, which is really a society of people monotasking badly in tandem. Is more "microcontent" and more cultural clutter something libraries should be encouraging? Shouldn't libraries fight against the attention-shortening, dumbing down of America, the devolution to Idiocracy?

It seems almost a certainty that if we devolve into a nation of people who can't create or consume content over 90 seconds or 140 characters, then libraries along with every other portion of civilized life will disappear. I understand why people enjoy such "microcontent"; it's because giving in to the rush and flux of flashiness is easier than concentrating or thinking. What I don't understand is why people who seem to be of above average intelligence embrace these trends. But then again, I don't understand a lot of things.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of YouTube, here's a gem sent to me by a peer in my library science program (excuse me, INFORMATION STUDIES program). This makes me physically ill and makes me want to avoid librarianship. They're complaining about work in library school. Uhhhh.....if by work they mean incredibly brain-deforming, mind-numbing drivel, then sure, there's a ton in library sc....information studies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4TKDIgUIiQ

- A discontent library student who loves AL and finds it the only blog in the field that gets it.

Anonymous said...

That YouTube video makes me question my faith in God.

Anonymous said...

AGH - my ears!

Anonymous said...

Well, these kids must not have been all that overworked, because they had time to make that video.

And we can only hope, for the sake of their future patrons, that their skills in the stacks are superior to their skills in front of the camera.

As an aside, AL, you must be relieved that at least the camera operator doesn't seem to be a budding twopointopian. If she were, she'd have figured out how to turn off the time/date stamp thingamajiggy while filming!

Anonymous said...

As usual, a limited view of such matters. AL, what's your favorite movie? Gandhi? Is that long enough for you?

Anonymous said...

Wow! One one hand this video is pretty *insert chiller font* scary, but on the other, is not really surprising. I've been to library conferences where skits are performed and this would fit right in. They seem like younger versions of what I have encountered in this profession.

Love the date stamp!

Anonymous said...

This post makes me glad that I

1) limit my kids' tv intake to movies withou any commercials;

2) encourage reading by reading to them at night and throughout the day;

3) and glad that Youtube, Flicker, et al are blocked by the filters my company has employed on my library's computers.


As for the library school students, unfortunatley I have to wait to go home and see them. However I can imagine since I am a recfent MLS grad and remember some of the things my peers commented on and did.

As for movies, I personally like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, extended editions of course. Own both theatrical and extended editions of course.

Privateer6

boobarella said...

Wow. That video was. . . wow.

So that's what it looks like when you drink the kool-aide and start thinking this stuff is hard. May I never become that.

Anonymous said...

What a god-awful video. How corny and amateurish can you get?!

Anonymous said...

How about Berlin Alexanderplatz, AL? It's 15+ hours of German melancholia.

Anonymous said...

AL, the video is stealing your thunder. :)

I loved the dance routine.

The.Effing.Librarian said...

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dewey_decimal said...

I'm ashamed to say that I got my MLIS at that institution, and I can tell you for a fact that students aren't over-worked. Nor are the assignments particularly challenging.

Anonymous said...

It took me about 90 seconds to read AL'sblog post on microcontent. I'm just saying...

The.Effing.Librarian said...

sorry, I didn't realize we were discussing the video. which I guess proves AL's point, that we'd all rather talk about some youtube clip...

Kurt said...

All this talk of a short attention span is just ridiculous. I grew up with television and video games and I . . .

Oh candy! You know I really like candy . . .um . . .

Anonymous said...

Amen AL.

We don't get anything short in our library.

Short stories? puh leeeze....

Poems? any thing shorter than the Illiad (in Greek) is junk.

Music? If it isn't Wagner's the Ring Cycle, get the hell out....

Movies? You want movies?!? You can really get the hell out of here.

We only want monks who have taken a vow of silence to sit and read the Bible here.

Thank you very much.

Tim Reynolds said...

If any of us had the nerve to do that skit we would call it sarcasm. After all we read Al. Whats scares me about the video was I dont think they were being sarcastic.

Now getting back to AL. I been thinking about your last post and this one and how they go hand and hand. The sad fact is all of these 2.0 programs etc. are the direct result of the failure of the librarian's and educators that came before us.

We adapt all of this, even you AL because a blog is 2.0 tool, because we did not get what they were trying to teach us. Sure as I sit here in front of this screen I know we are going to let down the generation after us. It is going to get worse and worse.

Darn I didnt drink my Kool-aid now I have to go shoot myself.

\bvb said...

If I have time to read all these comments my assignments must not be all that hard (or interesting).

Honestly, I think all the "hard work" in library school now is keeping up with all the garbage that's supposed to change our world/field/lives/toilet practices rather than anything worth learning.

I think I'll go hurl now...

Anonymous said...

which I guess proves AL's point, that we'd all rather talk about some youtube clip...

But it's so awesomely bad ;)

I even watched it a second time to try to discern the lyrics--something about burning passion in their souls. Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

The AL makes a good point. My local news has succumbed to newsbites and useless information. The online version is no better. Thankfully I know where to find real news, and I have replaced the local crap with something more worldly.

I have to agree with my colleague who posted the video and comment. As a student of that LIS program, I can say that our library school is not hard and that it is full of mind-numbing drivel. And while I would go hungry if I had to sing for my supper, I put my creative energy into better things.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I just wasted 6 minutes of my life watching that!!!

Brent said...

It seems almost a certainty that if we devolve into a nation of people who can't create or consume content over 90 seconds or 140 characters, then libraries along with every other portion of civilized life will disappear.

A bit of a dramatic hyperbole you wrote there AL. Something a YouTube consuming public can understand.

AL, I'm sure you recognize that communication evolves. It's just not clearly stated in your post.

But with that said, what librarians are doing now makes almost no sense. However, amongst all these librarian genetic mutations, there will be something that survives for the betterment of librarianship.

It's all been foretold in the Hegel dialectic.

I'm Kat! said...

We adapt all of this, even you AL because a blog is 2.0 tool, because we did not get what they were trying to teach us. Sure as I sit here in front of this screen I know we are going to let down the generation after us. It is going to get worse and worse.

See, Blogs are not a 2.0 tool because they were invented and developed before the idea "2.0" was even developed. 2.0 is what hip academia labeled the radical movement they observed occuring that at the moment, a tool which is now rapidly erroding their ivory towers of peer reviewed journals.

It is not so much that we aren;t "getting" what they are trying to teach us, but rather the fact that what they know is redundant, obsolete, or irrelevant, and what we know is so far advanced they have to stop everything to devleop new curricula to help those behind the curve catch up.

In short, the problem is universities [teach theory in preparation for higher level development] are trying to do the work of vocational community colleges[teach a skill for competancy level employment], or in otherwords, my MLS classes are filled with 40-50 something old people who are trying to learn all this new technology which I was bottlefed since my infancy.

The young people will be leading the reins for a long time, I think.

That short attention span is code for "hurry up, man, because I already know what you're about to say, and if I don't, it's because it's irrelevant to life today!"

Anonymous said...

Actually, my personal response is that much of what is new in the library world is re-packaged basic common sense. I go to meetings where people younger than me natter on about the obvious. I am really beginning to believe that we would be better off with library managers with an MBA or a marketing backround than with an Information Science backround. They might actually notice things and think every now and then.

Fabulist said...

"It seems almost a certainty that if we devolve into a nation of people who can't create or consume content over 90 seconds or 140 characters, then libraries along with every other portion of civilized life will disappear."

According to my husband - a high school chemistry teacher - this time has come. The good news is that government has given this state a legal designation and so has the medical world. Trust me folks your kid is not 405 or A.D.D. he/she IS JUST PLAIN LAZY!

When a 17 year old can’t complete 3-5 questions with time in class to do so and then complains that they are failing…ya lazy. And the parents aren't any better.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that we expect that everyone should be able to sit down and comprehend long tomes and be able to write paragraph upon paragraph. Just like they did in the good old days.

Problem is that in the good old days, the idiots and lazy people were weeded out early and sent to set duck pins or work a shovel in the sewer. Now a days, those jobs are done by illegal aliens and the idiots and lazy people are draining our schools and libraries.

So, if we just ship all the illegals back to where they came from, send the slackers out there to do those jobs, then only the deserving people will get an education.

And librarians won't have to answer stupid questions, have to deal with microformats, and will be able to retire to Antigua at 45.

Next question please.

soren faust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Antigua...by any chance, are you white and middle or upper class? Have ya read Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place.

On a completely different note, I'd like AL to make a post about HOT librarians (guy here). I'm new here (first post after some lurking), so I'm not too familiar with the standards of behavior. I hope this request is not too out of line. I must confess, I'm madly in luuurve with a librarian, who also happens to be a superior. She's hot! Okay, had to get that off my chest....

Anonymous said...

The primary idea of a public library is to offer the possibility of education to the whole populace, not just some overachiever elites who lucked out with a strong support system.

In years gone by, that was the primary idea. Now, they are places where the great unwashed can come play video games, sleep, and surf for porn.

Anonymous said...

Don't miss this exciting library workshop on Generation 4.0!

http://www.nelinet.net/eaccount/EventDetail.aspx?eventid=00000684

Kevin Musgrove said...

I thought microcontent was the conclusion of the staff satisfaction survey.




(sorry)

Anonymous said...

The problem with books is, they're too long. Librarians really need to give up their love affair with books if the profession is to survive.

I'm Kat! said...

I am really beginning to believe that we would be better off with library managers with an MBA or a marketing backround than with an Information Science backround. They might actually notice things and think every now and then.


It's kind of interesting, though, how in Master's school for LS degree we spend a semester discussing what a Blog is and how to use it.

In business school in a Bacholers program, you are expected to use the Class Blog. No discussion on what it is or how to use it or even how it mightbe used in a business setting or change the business world - you are given the link, and you are expected to know how to use it. If you don't know how to use it, you can get help, but you are expected to get that help on your own time. The professor does not go over how to post material to the blogs in class - AT ALL! This after having two Business Classes in my bacholers degree...

It is interesting how many people like to feignly say, "if you can't tell it all to me in 40 seconds, it is meaningless and irrelevant to my life...unless it's about the party/that guy/that OMG moment at work/whatever last night!!!!!

My words to young people everywhere - get smart, and focus on schoolwork, especially your mathematics. Master calculus and how to pay attention longer then fifteen minutes to anyone or anything and you will have Very little competition in the sciences, because the sciences and economics require absolute brute patience and dedication compared to all the soft stuff in this world!!!

Anonymous said...

It's kind of interesting, though, how in Master's school for LS degree we spend a semester discussing what a Blog is and how to use it.<<

No one spends a whole semester discussing what a blog is in a Master's level class. If that's really true, you should demand a refund, and/or perhaps look for a more rigorous program. You could also drop a line to the ALA committee on accreditation.

Alex Grigg said...

. . . said one of the most popular providers of microcontent to librarians.

:P

Now you must come out with a 1000 page treatise on Annoying Librarianship in order to stop my mocking.

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to have a sense of humor and be able to laugh a bit at the profession. It's another to mock one's peers with bad singing in a silly revue. These folks have too much time on their hands and should spend some of it looking in a mirror. I shudder for the future of libraries for many reasons...and now one more.

Anonymous said...

I thought microcontent was the conclusion of the staff satisfaction survey.

It is.

Followed by the microraise we get after a glowing review.

We would get a bigger raise, but we have to give the director a 30% raise to keep her from jumping ship.

Anonymous said...

Microcontent---God, take me now! I've been a non-librarian in "the business" on and off (mostly "on") for over 20 years, and in recent years, I've been bombarded with so much freakin' NON-information in my library, that the word itself("library") means almost NOTHING anymore! Maybe it's 'cause I'm coming off my meds, but I haven't been so fed up with my library job as I have in the last 8-10 years. We got a new director, who wanted (still does) to leave her "mark" (a BIG one) on this community which she doesn't even LIVE in (not even the same COUNTY!), and pushed through a referendum because she couldn't say "no" to a developer who offered the community a "free library" (for a price that included a referendum and higher taxes for those of us who actually live here).It's been one thing after another, "technology-wise". Now she's caught up in the "give the patrons every freakin' thing they want---and even some they don't KNOW they want" torrent. Microcontent---it's filling every little pore in my body, and will probably snuff me out, as I'm inclined to side with AL, which makes me a pariah in "libraryland".

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to have a sense of humor and be able to laugh a bit at the profession.

Considering the deprofessionalization of librarianship, I am not so sure this is a good time to be laughing at the profession.

Anonymous said...

Considering the deprofessionalization of librarianship, I am not so sure this is a good time to be laughing at the profession.

Sure it is a good time.

Everyone else is laughing at the "profession".

Anonymous said...

Is this the year of my micro discontent?

Tim Reynolds said...

Not to be a kill joy to all this fun laughing at our profession and education. It is true. In library school I had a friend who said she could a PhD in LIS by doing her doctorial paper on “how to use postems to take notes.”

That being said why don’t we actually start talking about accreditation and classes that are relevant to the profession so it becomes a profession. How many of you working librarians said you could fill books with information they didn’t teach you in school? Maybe not an MBA focus but a focus on public administration?

A good place to start is the book “Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship” they actually write about librarianship the way it should be.

boobarella said...

"Actually, my personal response is that much of what is new in the library world is re-packaged basic common sense."

Ain't that the truth.

But to build on what Tim mentioned above, re: "accreditation and classes that are relevant to the profession so it becomes a profession." I work in accreditation and I can honestly tell you the people who make those rules are just as actively bureaucratic and functionally uncogitate as the people who are frightened/stressed by 2.0. Do we really want them making decisions?

Anonymous said...

why don’t we actually start talking about accreditation and classes that are relevant to the profession so it becomes a profession.

I see this a lot, but I'm pretty sure it's the post hoc fallacy at its most seductive.

A practice doesn't become a profession because practitioners decide to accredit one another. Instead, professionals need to be accredited to protect the public from the depredations of bad practitioners. The need for accreditation is a result of professionalism, not a cause of it.

\bvb said...

>>It's kind of interesting, though, how in Master's school for LS degree we spend a semester discussing what a Blog is and how to use it.<<

You must go to San Jose with me...

I'm Kat! said...

...

But that's the scary part...

I DON'T go to San Jose!

And I have a eiree feelings its JUST LIKE THIS ANYWHERE ELSE TOO!!!!

Anon 8:08, you have made perhaps the absolute best point in this whole debate. This point keeps coming up too, week after week...funny...

Tim Reynolds said...

“Instead, professionals need to be accredited to protect the public from the depredations of bad practitioners.”

We all agree with this statement. What I am saying and others are saying reflect this. Libraries and by extension the public are suffering because of our poor pedagogy and the accreditation system that enforces it. Till this is fixed libraries will continue to lose value and in the end the public will lose.

There needs to be a revolution. The best of my professors voiced this while I was in school, but couldn't or wouldn't act. The revolution has reached the ranks. AL is our Thomas Pain calling for common sense. Are we going to act or pass the problem on?

I don’t know what I can do, but if asked I ll put my 2 cents in. Oh yea, if you make knowledge of the English language an import part of this new pedagogy, please grandfather that in...I am not perfect :)

San Jose State Student said...

There is a semester long class on the use of a blog at San Jose state? Please list the course number so I can avoid it..

the blue bicycle said...

and if microcontent isn't mind- dumbing enough, try teaching a class of text speaking 30 second attention spanned teens just one 'classic' novel per semester ....

i think i've woken up in the wrong century ....

soren faust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Considering how smart I thought AL's readers were (and what tongue-in-cheek senses of humour most seem to have), I'm surprised that everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of the first anonymous poster. Sure, that video clip is cheesy and hilarious in a bad acting sort of way, but at no point did I get the sense that they thought their assignments were HARD. Just that there are a lot.

And on that I can fully agree. Library school didn't teach me much of anything useful, it just kept me really really busy trying to complete all the inane assignments. (Caveat: I attended UWO where the 2 year program is condensed into 1 year). I always said that it's like being in a circus - we just have to prove that we can clear the flaming hoops.

Now that I'm in the profession, I can see that that's actually the best lesson that I learned. The work of being a librarian is not hard, just like the theory in the MLIS program wasn't hard. Managing your time, juggling all the work you're asked to do (with limited resources, not enough time to do it in, etc.) is what the job's about.

Just like library school.

Cut those first-years some slack, eh?

Anonymous said...

NO VIDEOS ON FLICKR!!!

>>:-(

Karen R. said...

Nanocontent is next.