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David Lee King

New Way to Think about Technology and Tools, Part 1 – Scene at the Airport



I’ve seen this scene a lot at the airport lately – a person on a cell phone, Blackberry, or laptop, sometimes plugged into the wall… talking or typing away. And it’s made me realize there’s a shift going on here – but not the one you’re thinking of.

Tell me – what do you think this person is doing? Is he:

  • chained to a device?
  • using a gadget?
  • doing email?

Or is this person:

  • connecting with others?
  • keeping up with friends?
  • checking in with his kids?

(ok, ok, I know… we obviously don’t really know what he’s doing. But let me make my point anyway :-)

See the shift? People used to think of computers and “gadgets” as primarily devices that you used – like using a typewriter. The activity was operating the machine.

But now, for some of us … when I turn on my computer, it’s more of a connector, like a telephone. With my laptop, I’m not “using the computer.” I’m writing. I’m editing video. I’m playing with photos. I’m writing music. I’m doing non-techie activities.

I don’t “use the phone” – I’m talking to someone. When I’m txting on my phone at the mall, I’m not “chained to my device” – I’m connecting with someone.

When I’m answering email, doing email” is not the activity – I’m answering questions, offering my input, or throwing out ideas to others. I am connecting with others.

See the shift? I’m not operating a machine anymore. I’m connecting with people. HUGE SHIFT!

Librarians – in order to connect with your younger and wired users, you need to adapt this same mind-set.

photo: http://flickr.com/photos/95911695@N00/2329436525/

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://tscott.typepad.com/ T Scott

    Columbia, Missouri. 1988. Joint meeting of the health sciences library groups of Kansas City and St. Louis. The speaker is Mark Frisse, head of the informatics lab at Washington University. He says, “The point of networks is not to connect computers to computers, it’s to connect people to people.” We all nod, thinking, “Of course!”

  • http://tscott.typepad.com T Scott

    Columbia, Missouri. 1988. Joint meeting of the health sciences library groups of Kansas City and St. Louis. The speaker is Mark Frisse, head of the informatics lab at Washington University. He says, “The point of networks is not to connect computers to computers, it’s to connect people to people.” We all nod, thinking, “Of course!”

  • http://stainedglasswaterfall.blogspot.com/ Warren

    David,
    Good points. Whenever I’ve run computer and internet classes for seniors (in a public library setting), their overwhelming motivation for attending classes is not ‘to learn how to use a computer’, rather they want to ‘see pictures of my new grandchild’ or ‘write to my nephew who is travelling overseas’.
    Warren

  • http://contentdivergent.blogspot.com/ robin

    I agree that quite a few “older” library users are just as keen on technology, so that they can connect with their families and friends.

    …and I would like to point out that there are a lot of librarians who do not need to ” adapt this same mind-set” because we are of that mindset. ;-) It’s not a generational thing, either.

    robin

  • http://contentdivergent.blogspot.com robin

    I agree that quite a few “older” library users are just as keen on technology, so that they can connect with their families and friends.

    …and I would like to point out that there are a lot of librarians who do not need to ” adapt this same mind-set” because we are of that mindset. ;-) It’s not a generational thing, either.

    robin

  • davidleeking

    Robin – I agree, there are definitely librarians that are already there. There are also lots that aren’t even close – they’re more the ones I’m talking to here. They’re the ones that “do email” once a week. It’s a big switch from that mindset to realizing that when you’re emailing, you’re connecting with others…

  • davidleeking

    Robin – I agree, there are definitely librarians that are already there. There are also lots that aren’t even close – they’re more the ones I’m talking to here. They’re the ones that “do email” once a week. It’s a big switch from that mindset to realizing that when you’re emailing, you’re connecting with others…

  • http://contentdivergent.blogspot.com/ robin

    True, there are a few those around. Thanks for the interesting discussion.
    If I were to look at this photo without any context, I would probably see a person who had found the free wifi (next to a window can sometimes be a hotspot) and I’d be unpacking my stuff in that area.
    ;-)
    robin

  • http://contentdivergent.blogspot.com robin

    True, there are a few those around. Thanks for the interesting discussion.
    If I were to look at this photo without any context, I would probably see a person who had found the free wifi (next to a window can sometimes be a hotspot) and I’d be unpacking my stuff in that area.
    ;-)
    robin

  • http://infodoodads.com/ Michael

    Usually I read your blog posts and nod my head in agreement while I read. This one…I’m not so sure.

    Remembering back to my first 386 the whole point was to connect to Prodigy and use discussion boards, etc. After that it was BBSs, then the Internet, then IRC. This connecting with people thing isn’t anything new. It has existed this whole time. Easier? Yes. More convenient? Yes. Cooler? Absolutely.

    I find it more interesting that the language is changing, to more accurately represent the activity.

  • http://infodoodads.com Michael

    Usually I read your blog posts and nod my head in agreement while I read. This one…I’m not so sure.

    Remembering back to my first 386 the whole point was to connect to Prodigy and use discussion boards, etc. After that it was BBSs, then the Internet, then IRC. This connecting with people thing isn’t anything new. It has existed this whole time. Easier? Yes. More convenient? Yes. Cooler? Absolutely.

    I find it more interesting that the language is changing, to more accurately represent the activity.

  • davidleeking

    Michael – I’m probably not meaning people like you. Think about your local/regional colleagues… any of them fit in this category? I certainly have colleagues that do – that’s who I meant.

  • davidleeking

    Michael – I’m probably not meaning people like you. Think about your local/regional colleagues… any of them fit in this category? I certainly have colleagues that do – that’s who I meant.

  • Frank

    What if we just stopped worrying about those colleagues who aren’t as computer savvy or aren’t interested in being on the cutting edge of the electronic revolution? Some people are content to be left out and some to rely on others. John McCain admits to letting his wife do the electronic heavy lifting and although the campaign is working hard to limit any damage from what he’s said he has admitted to not being too interested or informed about things electronic.

  • Frank

    What if we just stopped worrying about those colleagues who aren’t as computer savvy or aren’t interested in being on the cutting edge of the electronic revolution? Some people are content to be left out and some to rely on others. John McCain admits to letting his wife do the electronic heavy lifting and although the campaign is working hard to limit any damage from what he’s said he has admitted to not being too interested or informed about things electronic.

  • davidleeking

    Frank – that’s not an option at my library, and I hope it’s not at yours, either. For example, we consider our website to be a branch library (we call it our digital branch). And everyone has to participate.

    What would you do with reference staff who “only work the desk” and, say, refuse to do telephone reference? Or someone at circulation who “doesn’t check out videos?” That would be sorta silly, right? Or how about this – a patron goes to the desk and asks for help using an encyclopedia… and the librarian replies “I don’t know how to use that – I only use dictionaries.” Also silly.

    Social tools are now part of libraries (in some libraries, anyway), like it or not. And if some staff can’t use them, in essence you have some staff that can’t navigate part of the library. Not a good thing, in my book.

  • davidleeking

    Frank – that’s not an option at my library, and I hope it’s not at yours, either. For example, we consider our website to be a branch library (we call it our digital branch). And everyone has to participate.

    What would you do with reference staff who “only work the desk” and, say, refuse to do telephone reference? Or someone at circulation who “doesn’t check out videos?” That would be sorta silly, right? Or how about this – a patron goes to the desk and asks for help using an encyclopedia… and the librarian replies “I don’t know how to use that – I only use dictionaries.” Also silly.

    Social tools are now part of libraries (in some libraries, anyway), like it or not. And if some staff can’t use them, in essence you have some staff that can’t navigate part of the library. Not a good thing, in my book.

  • Frank

    I understand what you’re saying, David. It just seems tiresome to keep hearing about it. Maybe it would be better to discuss constructive ways that we use to deal with such people. I recently sent one to a conference and had her come back and share information from the conference with the rest of us. There are, however, some people who refuse to cooperate. Those people will eventually leave or retire. That’s what I mean by saying we should let them be. Didn’t the Library of Congress recently offer early retirement to librarians who would not cooperate with changes?

  • Frank

    I understand what you’re saying, David. It just seems tiresome to keep hearing about it. Maybe it would be better to discuss constructive ways that we use to deal with such people. I recently sent one to a conference and had her come back and share information from the conference with the rest of us. There are, however, some people who refuse to cooperate. Those people will eventually leave or retire. That’s what I mean by saying we should let them be. Didn’t the Library of Congress recently offer early retirement to librarians who would not cooperate with changes?

  • http://veryofficialblog.com Shannon Paul

    Thanks so much for saying this, David. I feel much the same way.

    I’m not a librarian, but I enjoy your blog very much. Actually, I work in public relations, and am way more connected than many people in my life. As a result I find myself often defending my choice to have constant (mobile) access to email and socialnetworking sites. Sometimes friends or family members will ask if I ever “take a break”. I tell them yes, and explain that working and playing may sometimes look the same to an outside observer that’s not be as engaged in social media.

    It’s important to recognize that we aren’t tied to machines, but that the machines simply facilitate our connections and relationships with other human beings.

    Thanks again for spelling out the difference!

  • http://shannonpaul.wordpress.com Shannon Paul

    Thanks so much for saying this, David. I feel much the same way.

    I’m not a librarian, but I enjoy your blog very much. Actually, I work in public relations, and am way more connected than many people in my life. As a result I find myself often defending my choice to have constant (mobile) access to email and socialnetworking sites. Sometimes friends or family members will ask if I ever “take a break”. I tell them yes, and explain that working and playing may sometimes look the same to an outside observer that’s not be as engaged in social media.

    It’s important to recognize that we aren’t tied to machines, but that the machines simply facilitate our connections and relationships with other human beings.

    Thanks again for spelling out the difference!

  • http://www.fastforwardblog.com/ Paula Thornton

    Thanks for reinforcing what I’ve been SCREAMING about for years (and taking flack from colleagues/practitioners). We should not be designing for “users” — it makes the individual subject to the thing. It’s the wrong mental model.

  • http://www.fastforwardblog.com Paula Thornton

    Thanks for reinforcing what I’ve been SCREAMING about for years (and taking flack from colleagues/practitioners). We should not be designing for “users” — it makes the individual subject to the thing. It’s the wrong mental model.

  • http://www.thegrubstreetdiaries.wordpress.com Brandon

    I’ll agree that the way people think about computers and the way people use computers has changed quite a bit from the late eighties/early nineties, when computers were still expensive machines you used at work or school for work and school tasks. However, I can’t say that this is a “huge shift,” or that the shift is worth getting all excited over. Using computers to network socially is nothing new (in fact, one could say that it all started with e-mail itself, and e-mail has been around quite some time). The shift has been gradual and spread out over a long period of time; it didn’t happen overnight.

    It’s no different than when librarians, journalist, and other media people call video games “a new technology.” Video games have been around since the seventies; that’s four decades. They are not new, nor are they emerging. They are near-pinnacle in their development, as evidenced by the newest generation of consoles: the graphics are prettier, but the games haven’t changed that much.

    Such is the same with computers and social networking. Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter didn’t happen overnight. Also, your statement, ” I’m not operating a machine anymore. I’m connecting with people,” bothers me. You are still operating a machine; that, coupled with the idea that the tasks you are doing are not so much “new” as “recently popularized” (even writing music and photo-editing) makes it really hard for me to get excited about this huge shift of which of you speak.

    Never-the-less, computers are more prevalent now than they have ever been. That is something that we need to get accustomed to and to learn the new skill sets necessary to operate this technology. That much, I won’t argue.

  • http://www.thegrubstreetdiaries.wordpress.com/ Brandon

    I’ll agree that the way people think about computers and the way people use computers has changed quite a bit from the late eighties/early nineties, when computers were still expensive machines you used at work or school for work and school tasks. However, I can’t say that this is a “huge shift,” or that the shift is worth getting all excited over. Using computers to network socially is nothing new (in fact, one could say that it all started with e-mail itself, and e-mail has been around quite some time). The shift has been gradual and spread out over a long period of time; it didn’t happen overnight.

    It’s no different than when librarians, journalist, and other media people call video games “a new technology.” Video games have been around since the seventies; that’s four decades. They are not new, nor are they emerging. They are near-pinnacle in their development, as evidenced by the newest generation of consoles: the graphics are prettier, but the games haven’t changed that much.

    Such is the same with computers and social networking. Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter didn’t happen overnight. Also, your statement, ” I’m not operating a machine anymore. I’m connecting with people,” bothers me. You are still operating a machine; that, coupled with the idea that the tasks you are doing are not so much “new” as “recently popularized” (even writing music and photo-editing) makes it really hard for me to get excited about this huge shift of which of you speak.

    Never-the-less, computers are more prevalent now than they have ever been. That is something that we need to get accustomed to and to learn the new skill sets necessary to operate this technology. That much, I won’t argue.

  • davidleeking

    Wow – comments are pretty split on this! I like what Shannon Paul said (see above comment) – great addition!

  • davidleeking

    Wow – comments are pretty split on this! I like what Shannon Paul said (see above comment) – great addition!

  • http://kamer216.wordpress.com/ Edo Postma

    How I hate it when people refer to my laptop or mobile phone as “a toy”. As if I have those things only for fun, to play with. Even my boss told me that he ordered a “extra good laptop” because I deserved it. He said to me “see it as a treat”. Duh… I’m a heavy user, it’s part of my life, I communicate with it, I do my work on it, I need it! I’t essential, it’s social and it’s my money maker. I have to beg the techdepartment to supply me with solid stuff, and not look for the cheapest hardware around. As long people see laptops, mobile phones, PDA’s as (geek-)toys for people with too much money, they’re not up to recognising these stuff as social tools.

  • http://kamer216.wordpress.com Edo Postma

    How I hate it when people refer to my laptop or mobile phone as “a toy”. As if I have those things only for fun, to play with. Even my boss told me that he ordered a “extra good laptop” because I deserved it. He said to me “see it as a treat”. Duh… I’m a heavy user, it’s part of my life, I communicate with it, I do my work on it, I need it! I’t essential, it’s social and it’s my money maker. I have to beg the techdepartment to supply me with solid stuff, and not look for the cheapest hardware around. As long people see laptops, mobile phones, PDA’s as (geek-)toys for people with too much money, they’re not up to recognising these stuff as social tools.

  • davidleeking

    Hi, Edo! I hadn’t thought about that angle, but you’re right. I certainly have fun with my iPhone… but it’s anything BUT a toy. Same with my laptop… same with most of the stuff my dept. uses every day!

    Toys vs. necessities – two very different beasts!

  • davidleeking

    Hi, Edo! I hadn’t thought about that angle, but you’re right. I certainly have fun with my iPhone… but it’s anything BUT a toy. Same with my laptop… same with most of the stuff my dept. uses every day!

    Toys vs. necessities – two very different beasts!

  • http://chandraprlibraryblogspot.blogspot.com/ Chandra

    I think that it is of great importance for people who are in the field of education to make it a priority to familarize themselves with at least some of the new technologies that are simply waiting to be used.

  • http://chandraprlibraryblogspot.blogspot.com Chandra

    I think that it is of great importance for people who are in the field of education to make it a priority to familarize themselves with at least some of the new technologies that are simply waiting to be used.

  • http://stainedglasswaterfall.blogspot.com/ Warren

    David,
    Good points. Whenever I've run computer and internet classes for seniors (in a public library setting), their overwhelming motivation for attending classes is not 'to learn how to use a computer', rather they want to 'see pictures of my new grandchild' or 'write to my nephew who is travelling overseas'.
    Warren