Category Archives: Culture

Synesthetic Language Development?

I have a friend who has a slight issue with what she calls “synesthesia”. Well, perhaps it’s not synesthesia, but rather a strong sense memory. She actually gave me a bottle of body wash once because she couldn’t use it because of the memory it evokes. When I think of synesthesia, I think of it as related to this old school game called Rez:

I was always sad that I didn’t get to play it, but from what I’ve seen of it, it looks amazing like some crazy experience combining music and visuals (and tactile experiences using the Trance Vibrator (only in Japan)). Apparently it’s been released for the Xbox Live Arcade, so I might look into purchasing it for my brother. Using this as an example, I like to think of synesthesia as having your wires crossed – you see music, you taste sounds, you smell colors, etc. It’s not enough to say that your senses are heightened or that they evoke a memory – if anything, that’s pretty common place (for example, take Proust – A Remembrance of Things Past/À la recherche du temps perdu and the tea/madeleine memory)

In any case, back to the point of this post: synesthesia as a connector between languages. A recent New Scientist article suggests that the way words are spelled implies a connection to how we view a word. For example, there is something in the way the word “apple” sounds that evokes an image of the apple. This is a poor example, as we already have an association to the word apple and the image of the apple. However, think of what happened when we first created words. We create a memory and a connection to the word and it’s image. Perhaps this image is just the corporeal form of the apple. But what if this connection we create has something to do with the smell of the fruit, or the taste of the fruit. At this point, we aren’t just calling it an apple because it looks like one, but rather it reminds us of one.

Given the existence of loanwords (words borrowed from other languages) I wonder if we can say that these loanwords have a synesthetic connection to the idea of the object described? Can anyone think of a loanword and the object that it is associated with? Is there something about that word that lead to it’s usage, rather than the creation of a new word?

I find this fascinating and often wonder why I never took a psychology class – I’d love to study the idea of memory and it’s creation. There was a class offered at SJSU about language and memory and the creation of language. If only I had the time to take that class, I would have been ALL over it…
Synesthesia and the origins of language – Boing Boing.

I *heart* Interface Analyses

I love reviews of different user interfaces. Ever since I took a class at SJSU SLIS about Web Usability, and even before that when I was a closet graphic design major wannabe (does that even work?), I was in love with the way we interact with computers and terminals and phones and other things.

There has been a lot of hub-bub today about the release of Lion, the newest version of Mac OS X. Rather than focus on the elements that are new or the new features, I’d like to point out an in-depth review of the update. Within this review is probably my favorite section of any software/hardware review I’ve ever read: the author reviews the interface updates that have taken place with Lion. In all honesty, I’m not a designer, so I can’t really comment too much on whether something is necessarily ugly or not. For me, a lot of my perceptions regarding an interface comes from how I interact with an object. If to me, the interface is awkward or difficult to understand, I take the time to figure out why I think it’s awkward and then absorb that so that I no longer will commit such sins against interface design in my work.

Okay, let’s get on to the actual discussion of the review. One of my favorite phrases, if you have known me long enough, is “mental bandwidth”. For example, if I am reading three books, and working on three projects, I am currently at my mental bandwidth limit – it describes exactly how much brain processing power I have available. It’s not necessarily a comment on ones intelligence, but rather their ability to deal with issues and items that come on. So this reviewer mentioned that the “bandwidth” necessary to parse an interface has increased greatly in the past few years. This comment reminds me of an assignment I had where we had to provide examples of good and bad interface design. One example was sleek, smooth, and handily provided all options that were necessary. The other provided every option IMAGINABLE on screen…creating a cluttered look. The mental bandwidth necessary to deal with this type of interface is greater than one that is simple and to the point. I think this is one of the best aspects of Apple design – they have Human Interface Guidelines for all of their products. In this way, they ensure that products are easy to understand and use.

One off-shoot of simple and smooth design is using real life analogues to replicate the feel and intention of a product. Apparently, in Lion, iCal and the Address Book provide the experience/look of their analog copies. Despite the fact that these changes do not negatively affect the usability of the product, it also doesn’t necessarily add functionality. I’m of the mind that the design of the product should increase it’s value. I guess you could say that I’m very “form follows function”. I’ll have to deal with these interfaces more before I can truly pass judgement, but I guess these changes are fine – as long as the product is still usable then who cares about the design. It’s not as if I had a hand in creating the interface, so I shouldn’t complain.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones – Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Review

Online handles as a discussion of identity change

God, to look back at my first online handle is like…foreverago.

Let’s see…I think the first screen name I used was back in like, 1992 – whatever generic AOL screenname we had. I’m pretty sure I used my parents screen name then convinced them to let me create my own AOL name. That became ARCRA25 – ARC – my initials. RA – repeated for good measure. There were apparently 25 other ARCRAs out there. Nice and generic yes?

This handle stuck with me until high school…senior year. I created a new AIM screen name to um, anonymously chat with a friend….yeah, let’s go with that story. This became “secretfanofu”.

OH actually..before this, I had a variety of screen names that I used on DDRFreak, to chat with folks about Dance Dance Revolution. The one that stuck with me the most…was TemporarySpastic. 1) Let’s get serious, I’m a little spazzy. 2) This was from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. 3) it was often shortened to “spazzy”.

Back to “secretfanofu” – this screen name stuck with me forever. Until recently, I used either secretfanofu or my full name, andrewcarlos as an identity. Now, I’m trying to unite my online identities as a librarian and information professional under @infoglut.

What about you? Share your stories about embarrassing online handles!

The Eternal Shame of Your First Online Handle – Technology – GOOD.

Visualizing the Food Desert

It’s been a long time since I did anything related to cartography. I think the last project I did using GIS was back in 2008. It’s been too long and I need to find a way to become much more proficient at it. I’d like to someday develop the skills and knowledge that would make me a good map/GIS librarian – perhaps I could pursue a MURP or an MA in Geography…

In any case, I thought this might be an interesting project – visualizing Food Deserts. So for those unfamiliar with this concept, the USDA has kindly provided this definition:

The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as places where at least a fifth of the population lives at or below the poverty line, and a third of the population lives more than a mile from a large grocery store.

I’d love to get some data from the Census bureau and create an interactive map that allows you to visualize food deserts in local areas, perhaps add an additional layer to it that shows the availability of fast food restaurants as a replacement for a grocery store.

Project aside, it seems odd that in this day and age there could be a food desert – I guess what makes me  question this is the fact that I’ve lived within a mile of a large grocery store pretty much my entire life. I can’t imagine that it’s like to not have access to one. Granted, that’s only half of the definition – to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t lived in an area where a fifth of the population lived below the poverty line. I guess I’m blessed in that I have never had to worry about where my next meal will come from. I wish there was a way for me to help the community better…

Source: Beyond the Food Desert Mirage – Food – GOOD.

DIY and the Librarian Perspective

So this has been something that I’ve been kicking around for a few months but I have finally gotten the chance to put some ideas down on (digital) paper.

I’ve always been interested in the DIY movement, in the Maker movement, in different aspects of programming and digital life. To this end, I have actually gotten together with a friend and we are working on a project encouraging librarians to take part in these movements. It’s all very exciting right now and nebulous but I think once we get our thoughts straightened out, it’ll be a great project.

I don’t know exactly how many librarians would be into this idea, but it really couldn’t hurt to put it out there. I think there should be enough to start it off and then, with proper marketing and advertisement at conferences and social media, we will be able to get a good amount of people interested in the idea of DIY and Maker Faire-type events for Librarians.

Here are some things that I am currently working on/enjoy DIYing/having fun with:

  1. Learning Processing – I want to do an interactive art project regarding space in a gallery
  2. Learning Ruby on Rails – working on a few websites for myself and for friends. Working on creating an Assignment Calculator for work – students can use it to determine how much time they have, what steps they need to take, what resources are available to them
  3. Learning how to bookbind – I’ve always wanted to do this and it seems SOOOOO fun
  4. Knitting – I’m so behind on my projects, it’s embarrassing

So keep an eye out for an announcement regarding the beginning of this project. We are still hammering out minor details (such as the name of the project) but hopefully we can launch it by Internet Librarian 2011 – seems like a great place to launch a program like this.

Do we have the right to be forgotten?

Old article, but for some reason, I’m feeling like writing about old news.

As I said in my previous blog post, I’m all about transparency…as long as it doesn’t offend anyone or mess up your chances at getting that job. If I write an article, I don’t care if it floats out there. If I make a bad decision, I live with the consequences of it.

However, I very rarely make bad decisions that are documented. And if I do, I try to keep it off of the open web. If anything, the worse that happens is it gets posted on Facebook, untagged and unconnected to my account. In this way, I can chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, yet not actually have it affect me. I find it funny when others complain about how some of the things they did under the influence of something is now out there. Clearly, you had the conviction to talk about it, so just own up to it. It’s a nice thought to be able to be “forgetten”, in the sense of having your Google search results modified. However, are you not then presenting a fake face to the world?

I guess I’m just wary of ways in which we are able to alter our appearance. I’m careful about my actions and expect others to be. And if they do end up making a bad decision, own up to it. I respect people who own up to their mistakes more than those who try to hide behind something.

In a way, this article reminds me of a book that I have been working (not very hard) to finish reading, in which it is argued that in the history of humankind, the standard has always been to forget. It is only with digital memory that we have created a culture that seeks to preserve every memory, every instance of pain and joy, every achievement and poor decision. In this sense, Spain is just asking for what we have always been able to do – to forget about the good and the bad.

Spain Asks Google for the Right To Be Forgotten.

Tears and Emotional Vulnerability

I sometimes love a good cry. It feels good to really cry sometimes and just let your emotions out. I recently had an episode in which I cried in public, at the Starbucks that I go to all the time.

I was sitting here, working on some projects for class, when all of a sudden a man walked in who reminded me of my father. I’d seen this man before, but I never made the connection until I was sitting here, feeling oddly vulnerable. It could be the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he ordered his drink, the way he sat and stared at people, it could be a whole lot of different things.

But for some reason, he reminded me so much of my father that I started crying at Starbucks. Like, out and out crying, tears streaming down my face. I tried to hide it as best as I could, by wiping my face with napkins, pretending I was sniffly and had to blow my nose and by hiding my shame under my hoodie. Why was I was so ashamed of my tears? It’s not like I was crying over something petty like a broken nail or a hurt foot, this was emotion from the deepest part of your soul – tears for a lost loved one.

Eventually the tears went away, but I was affected by it for the rest of the day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels awkward when they see someone cry. Though I consider myself a caring person, when I see someone crying, I never really know how to handle the situation, so I tend to stand there awkwardly and just say “it’ll be okay…”. Why do we feel this awkwardness around emotion?

I think that sometimes we are scared at having people become aware of our own emotions, so we get scared when others are freely expressing themselves in public – we question why they are doing it. It might be some form of jealousy – we are jealous of the fact that they are willing to be themselves in public and let others see their true selves. Crying and the expression of emotion tends to show the world that we are vulnerable people and by showing our vulnerability, we worry that others will take advantage of us.

Personally, I don’t care if people see me cry. I’m a sloppy crier sometimes, but I generally tend to be very reserved in my tears. There are times when I force myself to cry, because it acts as a form of catharsis for me. Despite my exploding Facebook feed, I do tend to keep my emotions hidden from others – the Facebook chatter tends to be hollow. My true emotions are hidden from most people….but that’s the subject for another blog post later on.

Look at Me, I’m Crying – NYTimes.com.

Bandwagonning regarding the Future of the Library

This blog post by Seth Godin has been making the rounds on various library/librarian blogs. Lots of people have expressed their opinions, whether of support or dissent towards the post. I guess it’s my turn. I’m nothing if not overly critical of things, so this should be fun =)

It appears to me as if he is showing a progression of people’s perception of libraries throughout various technological innovations. He beings with the idea of libraries as a warehouse for books for sharing. When books were expensive, this was the main perception of libraries – as a place to access knowledge that the common person could not afford.

He next goes on to point out the idea of the library as a house for a librarian. This part, I don’t quite understand his point. By saying that with the decreasing costs of books and the increase in knowledge production, is he suggesting that the librarian has become an integral part of the library. Sure, I buy that idea – if only because the history of libraries shows that we acted first as guards to this knowledge, that the stacks that we are used to did not exist before and that people had to ask librarians to GET books for them, rather than browse.

He then addresses the issue of a separation between librarians and libraries. While libraries are still the storage facility for books and physical materials, librarians have to be knowledgeable about both these physical items and their digital counterparts. As librarians, we can’t just assume that we have to LIVE in a library – we have to be willing to move beyond such relationships and be willing to live everywhere and nowhere.

I think, in the end, we both agree on what we think is the future of libraries – we are no longer just warehouses for books, but a community center as well, a knowledge center, a technology center. While many librarians will bristle at the idea of working in a community/knowledge/technology center, this is the way that information is moving. We have to be able to adapt to a changing information environment and answer the needs of our constituency. If not, then we aren’t really fulfilling our duties as librarians.

Really, what he expresses aren’t new ideas. I think what caused the uproar was that he is a non-librarian bringing up these issues, almost as if he is attacking libraries. He isn’t – shouldn’t we be grateful that the plight of libraries is being addressed by someone OTHER than librarians? Increased visibility and acknowledgment, you know the drill…

Aside: I especially like that he acknowledges that the new library should be a place. I think people forget that one of the best things about libraries is its physicality. While I appreciate the idea of a digital/virtual library, nothing that I have seen can replace the actual design of a library building, the space it occupies, the perspective you gain by sitting in one. Until we develop a platform through which we can replace spatial relations, I think I’ll be a fan of a library building for a while.

Seth’s Blog: The future of the library.

The varied uses of mobile devices: replacement for analog issues

I’ve been working on this post for weeks, but my portfolio has taken up much of my time. This will be very brief, as I just wanted to share Eric Schmidt’s thoughts on mobile devices and their uses for LIS.

At 6 minutes and 15 seconds into his keynote, he mentions this little tidbit below:

Over the next few years, all the mobile phones and tablets that are coming mean that you never forget anything: where you stayed, who you talked to, what you said. You’re also never lost. When was the last time you were ever really lost? And all your friends know where you are, too. You’re never lonely – there are always people “around” you. And you’re never bored, never out of ideas. “We can always suggest new ideas.” (Emphasis mine)

Here are the two things that I’ve always enjoyed about mobile devices: their ability to act as your offboard memory and their ability to act as a continuous connection to your social network.

As someone with serious memory issues, it’s nice to be able to have something on me that allows me to take notes, carry around other information or even look up information on the go. I know that many of these can be accomplish with pen and paper, but by using your phone you are down one less thing to carry. And besides, you have your phone with you all the time. And really, when was the last time using pen and paper helped you find out new bits of information? Remember, the origins of the Guinness Book of World Records was to resolve bar bets – instead of referring to this book, we now refer to wikipedia…on our phones.

In Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal mentions the idea that, in the case of MMORPGs, it’s not about the actual interaction with people but about knowing that you are in the presence of others. Having a connection to your social network acts in the same way. From my personal experience, I know that in certain situations where I am by myself, I take comfort in looking at my Twitter stream and engaging people through that. This is not to say that I am an inherently lonely person, but that sometimes you don’t want to interact with the people immediately around you and you choose, instead, to interact with your online social network (or even your RL friends through text message).

With the rise of ubiquitous computing and always on connections, we now have this amazing device that we carry at all times that allow us to do so many things. Yet, for me, the most useful aspects of the device are things that could be accomplished by analog, old school methods. Interesting isn’t it?

Live from Eric Schmidt’s Keynote at Mobile World Congress.

Locally aware, yet not newsworthy

Context is king. One of the most important things I’ve learned in my MLIS program is that the context of an information need is very important. There is the traditional sense of context: I need help with a project, I need help finding information about such-and-such, What websites are good for solving this type of problem, etc. Basically, this context revolves around the project.

However, I also feel there is the important context of space. For one thing, how do our information needs change based on our location? Remember, the Guinness Book of World Records started as a way to answer bar bets. Who is to say that now, instead of using this tome, we use our phones to Google our questions. In this sense, it is a social context – answering a question that you probably wouldn’t worry about on your own but only with friends.

What about physical location? Does our physical location affect our information needs? Well..yes. What if you are in the middle of a city and completely lost – your information need could be to find the nearest bathroom or the nearest police station. In this sense, the context is purely selfish – not a very social need. However, this does not always need to be the case. Sometimes we are lost in the city as a group and we all need to find the answer for something.

This brings me to the subject of the below link: hyperlocal awareness. With the rise of location-based services, we are now in an environment in which we can find information about our surroundings quickly. Foursquare, Twitter, Yelp, Loopt – these are all sources for information around us. If we are so hip to these apps, why haven’t hyperlocal news technologies been able to gain a foothold?

As awful as this is to say, I tend to find local newspapers lacking in quality. Perhaps people are used to this stereotype of local news and don’t consider the quality of hyperlocal news outlets to be worthy. Do you use any hyperlocal news site, such as outside.in? What do you think of it?

Hyperlocal Heartbreak: Why Haven’t Neighborhood News Technologies Worked Out?.