June 20, 2006

LISA V: A. Wolpert, Convergence

Ann Wolpert, Director of the MIT Libraries, gave the first invited talk for Tuesday. These are my notes on her talk, not detailed transcriptions. I quite enjoyed her talk!

Convergence: How Information Technology Blurs Boundaries and Creates New Opportunities

Convergence describes a business or service environment that is transformed when previously unrelated technologies combine. Powerful driver of innovation, but you need the right kinds of things to combine and the right social and economic factors as well.

Info Technology is the convergence of many things – has driven extensive convergence innovations. Initially we saw it in finance and entertainment, but also in a whole variety of other areas, including science and libraries. (Not to mention the explosion of the Internet!)

Cell phones are even starting to impact library use! (Students and researchers taking cell-photos of computer screens, archival materials, etc)

Newer IT tools are radically changing the research methods; students are no longer trained in research methodologies, but by the environment of the Web and the Internet (Wikipedia, Flickr, Amazon, etc).

Wow map of wireless action on the MIT campus at 3am – heavy use and activity! Dang.

The nature and norms of information are changing, both in the “social life” and the “technical life”.

Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”, Atlantic Monthly, 1945. Predicted the need for continually extended, stored, protected and consulted data, and described a fast, responsive, easy-to-use desktop system for information search, retrieval and management. (Based on microfiche technology!) He’d be pleased with the technological advances today, but not with the researcher’s ability to freely consult, store, manipulate and use their data (publisher’s rights, intellectual property laws, etc).

Libraries and researchers are awakening to these convergences.

The “Library as Place” is also changing; the networked environment is turning it more into “Place as Library”. Add in the nature of information and the Library is a whole new entity… but one that definitely will continue to be important as a place. However, the other side of the coin is that wherever a researcher is, the library will also be there.


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