I’ve already decided: when Google Reader shuts down, I won’t be finding an alternative for my 500 or so feeds. I’ll create some bookmarks of my favorite places on the Internet but so much of the stuff I filled Reader with over the last 5 or 6 years will not come back around. Google has given me an involuntary reboot of my Internet media consumption, a reboot that I needed but have been reluctant to implement.
This year is looking to be the most wide-open, blue-skied year of my life. Everything is new. I need that in my information consumption too.
I spend a lot of my time teaching basic technology workshops at my library. Many of the participants in these workshops have never had the opportunity to learn about computers or technology. For some, sitting down at one of our laptops may be the first time they have even touched a computer.
In my first workshop I always warn them away from frustration. Think of it, I say, like you’re learning a new language, which in many ways they are. This usually puts them at ease. When learning a new language there is never an expectation that the student start out at a certain level or with a basic understanding. If someone takes a beginning French class, no one is going to judge them for not knowing the meaning of merci. This starts to erase the stigma around technological illiteracy and relaxes the classroom. Things can progress (slowly!) from here.
However, there inevitably reaches a point where we get to the more abstract terms. Everyone has heard of the “cloud” but how can I explain it to someone with a very basic understanding of technology or the Internet? More importantly, how can I explain it without making them feel stupid? How can I explain it well?
My answer to those questions are as simple as they are obvious: First, with patience. Then, with repetition.
But sometimes it’s more complex than that. Here is where language comes back. Many of our terms – our metaphors – are so abstract that they are difficult to understand. Like the “cloud”. It’s a catchy term but it misses a lot and confuses our understanding. Emails are not floating around our atmosphere.
But confusing our understanding isn’t the most insidious thing that some of our metaphors do. Frank Chimero reminded me of this the other day. He says:
I think there’s a strong likelihood that metaphors like “The Cloud” and sayings like “It Just Works™” reduce a user’s appreciation of the software/hardware they are using. “Magic” is a great word for selling product, but it also can cheapen all the sweat it takes to get there. If the seams have been covered, you can’t admire how things connect.
Justin wrote a great blog post today musing on the future of Teen Services in libraries. He sees a model of good Teen Librarianship being teams of awesome people collaborating together. It can’t be a one-man show. How can libraries do this? He writes:
Investing: To me, that’s key. Surround yourself with the people you want to work with
Yes! This reminds me of something that Austin Kleon writes in the introduction to his book Steal Like An Artist (h/t Brainpickings). It is a concept that I have been thinking about over the course of last year – especially as I move around in my profession and have the chance to meet new and cool people. The concept is this:
There’s an economic theory out there that if you take the incomes of your five closest friends and average them, the resulting number will be pretty close to your own income.
I think the same thing is true of idea incomes. You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.
Remember, this is true both online and off.
I miss Yann Martel’s fantastic What is Stephen Harper Reading project. His battle to encourage reading in our leaders, or to start young people as readers in order to make them great leaders, is inspiring and, I think, one of his greatest contributions to literature. Even though I don’t care much for his writing, I have tremendous respect for Martel as a thinker and appreciate his efforts to promote literacy.
I can not see how you can be a thinking person who is head of a government without having accessed what fiction can give you. It makes you be someone else, somewhere else, during the duration of the book. And that’s very very useful. It helps you get beyond the confines of your narrow life. Overall, the cumulative effect over time tends to bring down blinkers, tends to increase tolerance.
Read a lot of stories and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and the lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others. – Martha Nausbaum
2012 was a big year in reading for me. I read a 63 works of fiction, 26 works of non-fiction, and 20 graphic novels.
My New Favorite Author:
This was the year that I discovered the works of Michael Ondaatje, an author that blew my heart out with every sentence. His haunting and dream-like novel Divisadero is my favorite work of fiction read in 2012. I first read it in March and then again in August after I’d cycled through all of his other novels at least once (or in the case of Anil’s Ghost, twice). I also read a lot of his poetry, though not in book form. My favorite poem by him is The Cinnamon Peeler. It makes me long to visit Sri Lanka.
I also read more contemporary books this year than in years past. There was a lot of good stuff that came out in 2012 and I didn’t get to nearly as much of it as I would have liked. Of particular note were a few debut books from authors like Christopher Beha, G. Willow Wilson, Robin Sloan, Katherine Boo, Lawrence Osbourne, and Kevin Powers. There were also some strong books by established authors like Andrew Miller, Per Petterson, Jami Attenberg, Scott Lasser, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Graham Joyce.
My Top Ten Books published in 2012:
- What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha
- Can Animals Be Moral? by Mark Rowlands
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
- Pure by Andrew Miller
- The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
- It’s Fine By Me by Per Petterson
- Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Honorable Mention: The Forgiven by Lawrence Osbourne, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max, Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
Full list of stats:
All titles can be found HERE.
Total Fiction: 63
Total Non-Fiction: 26
Total Graphic Novels: 20
# of above read as eBooks: 15
Average per month: 9.1
Average per week: 2.1
Best month: November (13 titles)
Worst month: January (5 titles)
Favorite Fiction Book Read: Divisidero by Michael Ondaatje
Favorite Fiction Book published in 2012: What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha
Favorite Non-Fiction Book Read: *The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film* Michael Ondaatje
Favorite Non-Fiction Book published in 2012: Can Animals Be Moral? by Mark Rowlands
Favorite Graphic Novel Read: Habibi by Craig Thompson
Favorite Graphic Novel published in 2012: any of The Unwritten titles by Mike Carey that came out this year
John Palfrey recently gave a short TEDx talk about his work with the DPLA. It’s a good introduction to the project and why it is needed.
More info at DPLA