Category Archives: Culture

Starbucks Chiseled Collection as the mainstreaming of the New Aesthetic

It’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been working on a bunch of projects, some articles are in the pipeline, a book chapter or two will be coming out in the next year, and just general academic librarian issues.

I’m currently sitting at Starbucks, drinking what is possibly one of the sweetest drinks I’ve ever had here – a Caramel Ribbon Frap, just to try it out. I was looking at their marketing for the drink and their new collection and realized it’s very…New Aesthetic-y. You know, that new glitch aesthetic, homemade/handmade/diy/imperfect. Examples of New Aesthetic include this tumblr, a very good article from Wired, and this post by Gizmodo with links to other examples.

At Starbucks, they released their early summer drinks and a new collection of cups that are chiseled like idealized icebergs. Looking at it, I don’t get the cool/chill look that they are going for – I get the digital, imperfect aesthetic that they didn’t mean for. It’s almost the perfect example of a mainstreaming of the New Aesthetic – an introduction to the world of a new look for consumer products.

What do you think? Are you familiar with the New Aesthetic? What do you think of it?

On the need for a conversation

These past two weeks, I’ve spent them considering what to do for some conference/paper proposals.

As an exercise in becoming a better, more proficient writer, I figured I should start to write down my ideas and see if I can get a conversation started about them.

There’s a call out for the gameRT for proposals for ALA Midwinter and I figured the best proposal would be one that I’m familiar with: hosting the first International Gaming Day @ Your Library event here at Cal State East Bay. I’ll talk about proposing it, the setup, the advertising, the actual event. Then discuss successes, failures and future possibilities for gaming events. I’d also like to see how many other academic libraries hosted such an event – maybe there could be a network of us!

One more is a call for papers for a journal called Library Hi Tech. The theme of the issue is smart spaces, and I was considering modifying one of my presentations on personal learning networks and talking about how learning networks have changed in virtual space, and how we need to be malleable with our spaces. This one isn’t as fully fleshed out thought.

Not for a proposal, but I am interested in editing some previous papers that I wrote in college and updating them to include new research and maybe submitting them to a journal, specially the ones I wrote about World of Warcraft, and some other ones I wrote about celebrity theory.

Oh! Actually! Speaking of celebrity theory, how does this sound – I’m thinking of a PCA/ACA proposal, in which I examine Hallyu and the perfection of the celebrity industry within it? It would consider celebrity theory, pop culture theory and psychology. It’s very in-vogue, and totally within my realm of interest.

There are a few more sitting in the back burner, but I’m not yet ready to reveal them. All in due time…

Ready, Steady, Go: Ready Player One and the celebration of nostalgia

I just started reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and so far, I’m enjoying the possibilities in it.

The book is organized into 2 levels with multiple chapters within each level. I’m currently still in Level 1, Chapter 5. Despite the setting of a near-future Earth, I don’t feel like it’s too sci-fi-y. In all honesty, it almost feels like a Neal Stephenson book, in the style of writing. Parts of it feel like it could be lifted from Snow Crash, which I have yet to finish too (maybe I should get on that….). That being said, I don’t think this will be part of the pantheon of sci-fi writing at all – it feels too…normal. Nothing is outlandish, everything feels like it could happen, it’s great!

I was side-eyeing the book though, when the history of GSS was being discussed…it felt almost like a word for word description of the founding of Apple. As inspiration, he definitely could have done worst but, at the same time, be a bit more original! I just needed to change the names to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and it was Apple.

I’m really looking forward to finishing this book, mainly because I love, love, love seeing games, simulations, virtual environments, AR, being discussed in a book as part of normal society and not some sort of fringe element. I hope that the rest of the book continues as it’s been so far.

What I really can’t wait for (especially since it’s too early to tell right now) is the element of nostalgia that really drew me to this book. Nostalgia is always such an interesting thing – why do we venerate things that have passed? Why do we only pick out the most interesting elements of the past and hold them up on a pedestal? I’m totally a perpetrator for nostalgia – I always look back fondly at the past. At least in Ready Player One, there is a reason – they need to become well-versed with the past to unlock the secrets of a game.

I’m very excited to finish this book. Here’s hoping it’s as good as I’m building it up to be!

Patron Privacy in a Self-Service World

Shelves and shelves of books, wrapped up in paper with peoples names on it. The infamous hold shelf. What once was behind the circulation desk is now out in the open, allowing anyone to come in and pick up their holds.

I used to be a big opponent of these types of self-service changes being implemented in libraries. I was worried that they would reduce the need for staffing, and as I was a library clerk at the time, I feared that these changes would lead to me no longer having a job in the future. However, these worries were unfounded – there will always be a need for some sort of staffing as there are tasks that only humans can handle – such as shelving books, pulling books, customer service and just plain on human interaction.

Back to the main point of this post – self-service holds. I really didn’t like the idea of it at first, because I love dealing with people when I am picking up a book from the library. There were instances when I would breeze into the library, pick up my hold in the shelves and check out at one of the machines, and then leave – not once running into a library employee. It was great for ease of check out, but I kind of missed running into people and then talking about what I’m reading at the moment.

However, I was always kind of wary of the holds area. The biggest issue with this area for me is that anyone can see what you have on hold. What if you were requesting a book that you didn’t want people to know you were checking out? We value the privacy of our customers, yet we flaunt it constantly by putting their holds out there.

Has anyone out there in libraryland come across any instances of privacy violations with holds? I would love to know more about it.

What ever happened to teenage boy literature?

Even though I’m not too big on YA lit, I often find myself having to think about YA lit a lot – and not only because I work at a high school library, but because of the emergence of YA lit as a viable genre for publishers.

I love seeing the new books that come in from Ingram – every time we receive new books, it’s like unwrapping a Christmas/Birthday present (for me, it’s the same thing…) because I can’t wait to see what new books I’m going to want to check out. In recent years, I’ve found that I prefer nonfiction books as my pleasure reading. As much as I love reading a good fiction book and getting lost, I so rarely find that captivating book that just makes me want to READ.

I was lucky this past summer that I found a good fiction book – Almost Like Being In Love. But aside from that, I’ve mainly been reading nonfiction. I looked back at my history of reading, and made a realization today – I’ve read mainly nonfiction nearly my entire life. I wonder why I never got hooked on YA novels…

Then, I saw this list of Top 5 YA novels and made another realization – very few YA novels are geared towards boys. I guess thats an awful thing to say – why must novels be divided up by gender? Why can’t literature be cross-gender? In the YA genre, the last book/series that I can think of that had appeal equally among boys and girls was Harry Potter. The more recent popular books tend to be geared towards female readers.

Is there a reason for this? It’s not as if boys don’t read books – the Library rats at my work can attest to that (mainly boys!) I guess it could be because it’s so much easier to pinpoint what a girl reader would enjoy, hence making it easier to write? Who knows…


Delicious’d: Logic Games Online – Nurikabe

So this is the first post in another series I’ve decided to start, and I’m calling it Delicious’d – a series of posts about things that I’ve bookmarked in Delicious. In this way, I get to review the things that I thought were apparently good enough to save.

For this first post, I decided to go with the first thing I ever Delicious’d: Nurikabe.

What a fun little logic game, similar to minesweeper in that you have to use clues to determine the binary nature of each block. Each reload of the page will bring you a new Nurikabe to work with. You should definitely check it out if you want something to do to kill time

I think at this point, I might have been going through my Sudoku phase…although, was sudoku big in the US in 2006? I don’t recall it being super popular yet. I wonder why this was the first thing I ever book marked. The interesting thing is that it says “Imported” as one of the tags..imported from where? Was I using a different bookmarking tool at the time? I actually think I might have been using Furl – I loved it cause it saved a cached copy of the page!

This is going to be an interesting series…I wonder what I’ll find in my 5 years of Deliciousing! (OMG, it’s been five years? The first thing I ever bookmarked, was on Nov 3rd, 2006…)

Tourism is a big deal okay?!?!

So it looks like the United States has finally decided to join the civilized world and have an advertising campaign promoting itself as a tourist destination. Granted, they didn’t really need such a campaign, as most of the world loved to come to America anyway (See: Ellis Island, “roads paved with gold”, etc….) but I’m sure it couldn’t hurt to have a united front to show people what is so great about America!

Let’s take a look at this campaign…I bet it’ll be awesome and cool and all that jazz.

What’s the name again? United States of…Awesome Possibilities? Really? Yikes…we couldn’t have come up with something better? It didn’t NEED to included “United States of” as part of the name of the campaign. Screw it, I’m comparing this to Iceland Wants To Be Your Friend.

Okay cool, Icelands campaign has the name of the country in it as well, but at least it wasn’t a cheesy title! Iceland wants to be your friend implies a warmness, a friendliness, an approachability that is just not present when you title your campaign “Awesome Possibilities”. You just didn’t try very hard. Plus, what I enjoy the most about the Iceland campaign title is that it’s not necessarily about what’s so amazing about Iceland, but that Iceland wants to converse with you. United States of Awesome Possibilities implies (to me) that the campaign will essentially be a more national version of something cheesy like Pure Michigan. yikes! Why can’t America do something fun?

I’m really hoping they do something innovative or at least interesting with how they market themselves. Right now, it seems very plain and uninteresting. However, if they were to take a page from Iceland wants to be your friend, I hope they make it about a story – a story about the United States and it’s people. And that it encourages conversation – one of the best things about Icelands campaign is that it carried a conversation with the audience and included them as part of it’s story.

Overall, it might take a lot of convincing to get people to visit the United States of Aweso…America. While we may be a destination for a lot of people, many others find us to be an abhorrent nation and would never support travel and tourism here. We must target those who might be willing to spend their money in America, but are unsure as to whether or not they want to. Rather than change the minds of those who don’t like America, we have to work to convince those on the fence to just suck it up and visit!

I’ll probably be watching this campaign really closely and comparing it for a while to Iceland Wants To be Your Friend. This might seem unfair, but I’m already thinking Icelands campaign is gonna kick ass compared to United States of Awesome Possibilities.

Why I love practical math

During high school, I learned that I loved math. I loved that challenge of solving problems, of learning new techniques to solve older problems, learning about the quirks of the number systems and how to get around them. In my mind, math was about the challenge of solving problems through various means. My favorite part of my math homework was trying various formulas and ideas to solve the problems we were given. If it didn’t work, I could always erase my paper and get back to work. It was about attempting things.

I’m pretty sure my logic is a little flawed – most people don’t like math because they see it as a challenge to solve problems through any means. For those who do like math, it’s learning about the beauty of numbers, of figuring out the logic behind systems, of finding out “y?” (what up, random Adventures of Pete and Pete reference!). It takes a special kind of person to really enjoy math – they have to be willing to work through problems and to be stymied by not finding the right answer.

In college, I realized that as much as I loved math, there were things that I didn’t enjoy about it. I find abstraction to be annoying sometimes – as much as I can wrap my head around certain problems, when there are multiple layers of abstraction, when I have to transform my logic too many times, I get annoyed because I don’t see the practical application of the abstraction. This is why I loved my practical math classes – I took courses on mathematical modeling, on game theory, on learning MatLab for numerical methods. I learned so many practical skills from these classes and I enjoyed each class immensely.

I like learning about why the things I am learning about are important or applicable to real life. It’s why I really enjoyed my sociology degree because I learned about things that are interesting and actually about real life, about real interactions. It’s why I pursued my MLIS – I learned skills that will help me with information design and helping people find the information they need.

In life, the most important thing is to enjoy what you do. The second most important is learning transferrable and applicable skills. It’s time to encourage students to think about more than just their grade, but to also think about how what they are learning will help them in the future. At the end of the day, teach skills, not just content.

How to Fix Our Math Education

More views of the Uncanny Valley

God, what’s wrong with me? I enjoy any mention of the Uncanny Valley, especially when there is scientific evidence about the existence of it/how our brains react to it.

It appears that there is evidence of an issue in our brain when we encounter the Uncanny Valley. The activity in our brain when we see three different types of objects were scanned using fMRI: robot, android, and human. From my understanding of the scans, it looks like our brains reacted JUST similarly enough to both Android and Human motion/appearance to make it seem unsettling that the android was not human. In simpler terms,  I guess you could say that there was just something off about the motion of the Android that made us aware of the fact that it wasn’t human.

Maybe it is the fight or flight response – our brain is taking in all of these cues regarding the person in front of us, processing it for behavior, action, appearance, and then encouraging us to act on what we see. A human moves how we expect it to me, with fluidity, bending motions, etc, whereas an android, no matter how well designed the gears, motors, rotors, moving parts, still moves similarly to a robot. We see what we think is a human, but it moves like a robot – induce panic, fear, action. In some cases, it just creates a sense of unease.

I have never actually experienced the Uncanny Valley before, but I have felt in my gut that things were off in things that aren’t related to human/android interactions. I may be looking at a book or some kind of print, and feel ill at ease regarding it – maybe I subconsciously realized that it was offset, or had typos and I get this vague feeling that something was wrong. I wonder if the Uncanny Valley is applicable to this feeling, or if I’m just hoping to put a phrase to it. Maybe it’s intuition, or just being particular. Any clues?

Brainscans in the Uncanny Valley – Boing Boing.

The Internet as subject: referencing pop culture in works of art

In slowly trying to finish off my Draft posts queue, I sometimes wonder what I was thinking when I saved an article to writer about later on. I think I liked this article mainly because of the confluence it depicts regarding the rise and acceptance of the Internet in our daily lives and the need for writers to address the existence of the Internet.

I often wonder how writers of a certain generation choose to deal with the popular culture of the time. For example, how did writers in the 60’s address the hippie movement, free love, all of that jazz? Was it something that they focused on, or was it mainly some throw away comment that no one will ever really remember? Notice that I mention Popular Culture, because culture itself should be mentioned and addressed in works of art. I mean, look at the works of art that were created during World War II – they were mainly reactions to the big cultural event at the time.

I wonder why we place less emphasis on Popular Culture and it’s effect on art – by definition, popular culture is the more widespread and accepted form of culture. Referring back to the article I link below, I can’t believe there is even a question about how to address the rise to importance of the Internet on our daily lives. As something that affects our actions and decisions every day, it is imperative to address it in art. I can understand the worry that referencing something that is constantly evolving could be seen as something dangerous – what if your reference becomes outdated quickly? What do you do? But at the same time, it seems negligent not to discuss something that we are all familiar with. Crafting a novel that is set in the present time, and to ignore the effects of the Internet, just seems odd and outdate – like the author is a Luddite.

As one commenter pointed out, the issue with referencing the Internet is that the vast majority of it is textual – it’s a little boring to mention text in your novel, I guess. Anyway, things to ponder regarding this topic: what other popular culture movements have you noticed there being a lack of in works of art? Do you think not recognizing the effects of the Internet, and not referencing it in works of art, show that the author is out of touch with reality?  I’ll wait to hear back from other regarding this, before I put up my own thoughts and ideas as a comment.

How novels came to terms with the internet | Books | The Guardian.