September 15, 2006 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on September 15, 2006.
Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:
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Three new tools for maps: for learning about, and discussing with others, things such as "Paris" & "France" & "libraries" --
1) "GoogleEarth/GoogleMaps" -- the Whole Earth, visual
One need only install the free download, now available for Mac or PC, and *presto* any link encoded with the appropriate geographic coordinates leads you to aerial photos of the precise library or bookshop or museum you seek... focused to the finest detail...
You can see people walking on the sidewalk, cars parked in the courtyard: not quite the faces and car models and license plate numbers, yet -- but if you know that the Porsche driven by Madame la Directrice is red, at least you can see whether she is "in"...
Or *was* in: the photos are not *that* new, in fact :-). But they are not that old, either: "within 2-3 years", Google currently guarantees. So at the moment the chantier of the new Quai Branly edifice shows up online, not the completed museum: close enough to find Paris places visually, tho, for the many among us for whom "12 bis rue St. Jean" means little more than a headache over whether "St." is "St" or actually "Saint", and how it's sorted...
Examples of the use of this GoogleEarth tool may be found, now, on FYI France: http://www.fyifrance.com/fyi1plib.htm -- i.e.
GeoRef link: http://firstname.lastname@example.org,2.363442&output=kml
GeoRef link: http://wikimapia.org/#y=48849616&x=2363605&z=17&l=0&m=a&v=2
Adresse: 1 rue de Sully, 75004 Paris
-- the general point being that not only is it useful to be able to "locate" a thing, but in addition, nowadays -- given the disorientations of Globalized digital information, with all of those similar-appearing library "websites" -- it increasingly is important to remember that a thing is "French" and "in Paris", or "Tibetan" and "in Lhasa"... With a GeoRef link a user need only point & click, and up pop both maps and amazing aerial photos.
And GoogleMaps does not even require a download: just go to their website and point & click there --
-- or click on other websites' links which use GoogleMaps.
I confess a personal preference for the soaring videogame-style graphics of GoogleEarth, though: kind of fun, to begin from outer space, zoom in to the planet, careen off Africa, bank east to Europe, and then head down dizzyingly to Paris and the Left Bank and suddenly find yourself in the Luxembourg Gardens, standing by the boat pond... less practical-looking but more fun, and for user-friendliness so often it is the fun that counts...
2) "Wikipedia" -- the Whole Story, over time
For the more textually-inclined, then, consider the astonishing Wikipedia: 1.3+ million articles in English, now, increasingly multilingual -- 355,000+ articles in French -- definitely not the last but increasingly always the first word in "research"...
The greatest advantages of Wikipedia to my mind being two: two very traditional advantages of digital media generally --
-- one latest trend being the "wikification of everything", i.e. by adding in links, to Wikipedia as to other online places, in non-Wikipedia articles and websites, see for an example --
3) And finally, "WikiMapia" -- a fascinating & new (launched May 24, 2006) combination of the above two!
So now comes a team of two young computer scientists, Alexandre Koriakine and Evgeniy Saveliev, operating from somewhere inside the Ukraine and Russia -- or so I understand, personal geographic location being a somewhat fuzzy and irrelevant idea on anything so globalized -- and they have this idea of combining the two...
They have made a "wiki", and plugged that into "GoogleMaps"...
So now, by going to,
-- or by going elsewhere and clicking there on links containing the proper geographic codes -- one can obtain the fascinating aerial maps of GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps, focusing down to the detail of Madame la Directrice's voiture and so on, but also accompanied by the *immediacy* and *interactivity* of Wikipedia:
i.e. you now can "find" things, anywhere on the planet, and help others to find them -- with immediate results -- all the while discussing this animatedly with dozens or hundreds or perhaps even thousands of others, who are elsewhere on the planet...
The question formerly having been, "Would anyone want to?"...
But that question having been answered -- pretty effectively by now, it seems -- by the immense and still-growing popular successes of GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps and Wikipedia.
Does all of that "immediacy" and "interactivity" generalization have any real meaning? Why yes, it does --
One need only measure the speed of development: the rapidity with which each of these, and other digital information techniques like them, have progressed from small local crude experiments to major factors in our emerging digital information infrastructure, and in our increasingly Globalized digital information network.
Beyond size gratia size, moreover, or speed gratia speed, immediate and interactive information is proving to be immensely practical. The extent to which it already has revolutionized entire industries has been documented well: in terms of the financial success of firms which have "embraced the new technologies", and in terms of the financial failures of their competitors which have not -- see the impending collapses of GM and Ford, two among the many which never did "get" digital...
The extent to which the immediacy and interactivity of networked digital information is revolutionizing cultures, too, beyond the financial fate of "firms", increasingly is measurable as well: consider "digital film", "the iPod", the recent electoral defeat of a senator from Connecticut, the recent Presidential race fund-raising and electoral phenomenon of a former-governor of Vermont, "People Power" in the Philippines, online e-newsletters of French Presidential candidates -- many things cultural now are attributed to the increasing influence of the new information networks, and there will be more.
Libraries? The notion that information might be "immediate" and "interactive" is an old one, for libraries... since the first user access question was posed, since the first "shhh" was uttered... Libraries have been leaders, in information access and use, since long before the latter "went digital", and so long as there continue to be human users libraries will continue to lead.
So what is the practical use of the "new mapping", then, of GoogleEarth & GoogleMaps & WikiMapia and so on, in libraries?
Just as websites need "links" -- there being nothing more self-defeating, in a networked world, than a website which does not network -- so those collections of links now need GeoRef links added to them. The idea that a website can be nothing more than a static billboard, simply a substitute for the old sign-on-the-door advertising the "contents therein", captures the imagination of some who want simply to escape networking's reality. But it's not so easy: Wikipedia's good luck, or genius, lies greatly in the fact that people use the entire Web the way they use Wikipedia -- as a starting-point for research, not an end-point -- but without links to as much as possible, a website becomes merely a dead-end. So library websites need to add the new geographic GeoRef links just as they need to add any other.
Libraries, moreover, are in the business of "context" -- of broadening and deepening a user's understanding of her subject. From the moment the plaintive, "Do you have a book about horses?", first is heard, the librarian's traditional task professionally has been to probe and guide, gently, toward a user's realization that there is more to her question than first appears. The addition of GeoRefs to pathfinders, and opacs, and to subject classification and websites and catalog entries and online databases, is at the very least a broadening and deepening of research, now easily-available via these new tools.
And the carrot & stick of libraries' very existence -- that they are more friendly places for user research than some other venues might be, also that without those users and their sometimes-silly questions libraries might not exist -- prompts a great concern for adding anything, document or service, which users might conceivably need. So, do they need Wikipedia? The immense usage statistics of the latter certainly would suggest so, now... Do libraries need newer digital innovations such as GoogleEarth & GoogleMaps & WikiMapia? What a shame it would be if libraries were to wait, always, until the users told them so...
Perhaps most important, the new geographic tools described here address a societal need far beyond the purview of just libraries. In all of our immense and growing mound of digital information, increasingly there is a loss of traditional definitions of "place". More sedentary civilizations had less problem: there was a well-defined physical area, then, which corresponded with an individual's experience and imagination -- the farm, the village, even the town, and recently anyway even the nation -- few individuals heretofore had personal experience anywhere outside of these "places", and few had the ability even to imagine anything "different". All changed, now, changed utterly, as the poet put it... So perhaps the most important thing which digital libraries can do is to help us to re-define, if not necessarily restore, our sense of geographic place. More geographic information of the sort offered by these new tools might help that. More links.
Note: Digital Library "geographies"
Geography is an exercise of the imagination -- still, in spite of nearly a half-century now of space travel, and of the latter's extraordinary views of our Earth as nothing more than a very beautiful and extremely tiny blue and green ball, twirling and vulnerable in the black void -- because of such views, perhaps.
But even though we now can see ourselves "whole", at last -- and we are Globalizing now in so many ways to meet that challenge -- we still retain our "local" geographies.
We still have our personal spaces, and our local, regional, national: in many ways our old geographic hierarchies have been strengthened, even.
And now we have newer functional spaces, such as "Global Cities" (Saskia Sassen), trans-national peer groups, Virtual Reality, Digital Libraries, "Massively Distributed Collaboration" (Mitchell Kapor) in all its myriad forms -- see,
-- geographic spaces, still, but now inter-connected, inter-networked, inter-operating, via new forms of telecommunication and transportation and thinking: geographies without geography.
Digital Libraries rely on this. To see them "whole" one has to use new kinds of maps, new approaches to mapping, of the types offered now by GoogleEarth, GoogleMaps, WikiMapia. Otherwise "location" conceptually becomes too big, too scattered, too amorphous and confusing.
And we do need, still, to see things "whole": even in supposedly-technical areas, supposedly-susceptible to Globalization, such as Digital Libraries --
Because there still are differences, and differences still are useful. It is just too early, perhaps, for universal bibliography (see Umberto Eco, _The search for the perfect language_, 1995): too early simply to assume that the twelve or fifteen different "OPACS" and "information systems" on a user's computer screen, each contained in its own little box, and each representing a service physically present in a geographic location far distant from the others --
Window #1 the British Library
Window #2 the Library of Congress
Window #3 Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Window #4 National Library of China
Window #5 Indian Institute of Technology
Window #6 University of Canterbury Christchurch
Window #7 Oxford
Window #8 Buenos Aires
-- yet have anything in common, much less present the same generic product or service in their "digital information".
And perhaps never... Perhaps all this variety is as it should always be: a modern free-market-system, supposedly-predicated upon "competition", is greatly in need of variety, isn't it? Whence the variety, then, if we stamp out all the differences?
Yet there still are those Landsat images of our little globe, viewed from space --
-- coupled with the many great drives under way, now, toward Globalization...
To avoid going either too far, or not far enough, we need to establish some sort of dynamic balance. Just as in the global warming / economic development debates, we need similar balances between the "local" and the "global", now, in all things.
In digital libraries too: the great uniformities of globalized digital information are wonderful, without any doubt -- the great dream, long-held, of universal bibliography -- but the fascinating and distinctive local eccentricities which humans offer are wonderful as well. It would be a shame, and an impoverishment, to sacrifice either. To keep the two in balance we need new views of both.
"Analyse : Les tâtonnements du Net français"
par Olivier Dumons et Stéphane Foucart, Le Monde, 15 septembre 2006
[tr. JK] "No one is able to say whether the GEOPORTAL is working well. After a pomp & circumstance launch, on June 23, most of us in the media can say only that there has been an interminable 'out-of-order' sign on the thing..."
They underestimated the demand, and the servers got overloaded, on the new Géoportail service announced with great fanfare -- http://www.geoportail.fr -- which provides magnificent high-res aerial photos, of all of France. But France should not fret: we have our outages and information overloads over here in Google-land occasionally, too -- and even if we are good at hi-tech "launch" planning, we are not so good as the French are at providing other forms of infrastructure -- roads, for example. And these days any US boast about infrastructure, its preparation or provision or repair, can be countered with a single term: "Katrina"... So we all have something to learn from one another, still. JK.
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://email@example.com/ (BIBLIO-FR archive), or http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive), or http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/Collections/FYIFrance/ or http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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