LibrarianShipwreck

"More than machinery, we need humanity."

“Computers enable fantasies” – On the continued relevance of Weizenbaum’s warnings

“The computer has long been a solution looking for problems—the ultimate technological fix which insulates us from having to look at problems.” – Joseph Weizenbaum (1983)   Trying to keep … Continue reading

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Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-Ninth Week

Everybody loves a good post-apocalyptic tale for it reassures us that though the present moment may be quite bad the future could always be worse. * According to the news … Continue reading

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Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-Eighth Week

I can acknowledge that I panicked during the first few days of the pandemic I stocked up on too much toilet paper and hand sanitizer bagged rice and dried beans … Continue reading

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Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-Seventh Week

The year is new the plague is old. * A mantra for the start of the year: I will spend less time staring at screens and more time gazing at … Continue reading

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Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-Sixth Week

When you unwrapped holiday gifts with your family I hope that you received exactly what you wanted and if what you received was not what you wanted I hope it … Continue reading

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No Such Thing as a Free Lunch : Labor in Open Source Systems Implementations

This post is adapted from a presentation I gave at the Amigos Library Technology Roadmap conference earlier this month. I supervise the library systems unit at a public R1 university … Continue reading

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A Luddite Library

“If the Luddites had never existed, their critics would have to invent them.” – Theodor Roszak   One way of telling that controversies about technology are intensifying is to watch … Continue reading

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Waiting for the Fail Whale – What Y2K can teach us about Twitter

“What we use is not ours simply because we use it.” – Erich Fromm   Breakdowns have an annoying habit of not arriving on time. It often seems as if … Continue reading

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Theses on the Techlash

“The problem is not to use technology but to realize that one is used by it.”- Paul Virilio   Once a term gets widely adopted by the press, and earns … Continue reading

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The Internet is Broken. Can We Fix It? – A Review of Ben Tarnoff’s “Internet for the People”

Can you remember the moment when you first suspected that there was something wrong with the internet? Was it when you started to get creepily specific targeted ads? Was it … Continue reading

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Life’s a Glitch – what the non-apocalypse of Y2K can teach us

As families watched from home, Dick Clark stood on the steps of the town hall hosting the final New Year’s Rocking Eve of the millennium. The excited crowd chanted the … Continue reading

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Where We’re Going, We’ll Probably Still Need Roads – a Review of Paris Marx’s “Road to Nowhere”

You can learn a lot about your society’s relationship to technology by looking at its streets. Are the roads filled with personal automobiles or trolley-cars, bike lanes or occupied parking … Continue reading

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Singing About the Dark Times – Theses on Doomerism

In the dark times Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times. – Brecht   It sure seems like things aren’t going particularly … Continue reading

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Jonah, Cassandra, and the Doom-Sayers — Reading Lewis Mumford During the Pandemic

“If we would conquer the hell that now threatens to engulf us, we must not seek merely for a little less hell, we must not content ourselves with a sort … Continue reading

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“Technology in the Present Tense” – Notes from a Weary Luddite

“The future is not a blank page; and neither is it an open book.” – Lewis Mumford   1. Here is a confession from a weary, self-identified Luddite: For someone … Continue reading

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Balance of Terrors – on Günther Anders

“You should not begin your day with the illusion that what surrounds you is a stable world.” – Günther Anders It has been 70 years since Bert the Turtle instructed … Continue reading

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“I’m so sick of Y2K!” – A review of Y2K: The Movie

“I’m so sick of Y2K!”   Contrary to the stereotype that every disaster movie begins with the experts being ignored, there is at least one disaster movie that begins with … Continue reading

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“Things Just Go On” – More Theses on Doomscrolling

“That things just go on is the catastrophe” – Walter Benjamin. One of the risks of declaring victory is the possibility that your declaration will prove to have been premature. … Continue reading

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Look Around – Yet Another Piece about “Don’t Look Up”

Truly, I live in the dark times! The guileless word is folly. A smooth forehead Suggests insensitivity. The man who laughs Has simply not yet heard The terrible news. – … Continue reading

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Inventing the Shipwreck

“Our societies have become arrhythmic. Or they only know one rhythm: constant acceleration. Until the crash and systemic failure.” – Paul Virilio “Conversations about technology tend to be dominated by … Continue reading

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My Favorite Books from 2021

“We read books to find out who we are.” – Ursula K. Le Guin   I would like to say that I spent 2021 alternating between reading related to my … Continue reading

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Against Technological Inevitability – On 20th Century Critics of Technology

“The myth of technological and political and social inevitability is a powerful tranquilizer of the conscience. Its service is to remove responsibility from the shoulders of everyone who truly believes … Continue reading

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The Magnificent Bribe

“The bargain we are being asked to ratify takes the form of a magnificent bribe.”- Lewis Mumford (1964) “Nearly 50 years ago, long before smartphones and social media, the social … Continue reading

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Specters of Ludd – A Review of Gavin Mueller’s “Breaking Things at Work”

A specter is haunting technological society—the specter of Luddism. Granted, as is so often the case with hauntings, reactions to this specter are divided: there are some who are frightened, … Continue reading

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Imagine the End of Facebook

“On the one hand the computer makes it possible in principle to live in a world of plenty for everyone, on the other hand we are well on our way … Continue reading

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Librarian Was My Occupation – Remembering the Occupy Wall Street People’s Libary

In the fall of 2011, the angry shout of “we are the 99%!” could be heard echoing in localities big and small across the US. The movement had seemed to … Continue reading

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The Climate of Despair – Climate Change, COVID-19, and the Feeling of Impending Doom

“It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us.” – Walter Benjamin   Whenever the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues … Continue reading

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All our grievances do, in fact, remain connected

[hi, long-lost other writer here, apologies for the long absence] Two things got libraryland heated last week, and at first glance they have little to do with each other. First … Continue reading

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Technological Lessons from the Pandemic

“The public be damned is the private motto of the majority of our citizens: which means that they are damning themselves; and at a serious crisis like the present one, … Continue reading

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Theses on Technological Pessimism

We fly over the mountains As though there was nothing to it Great are the works of humans! But bread for all? We can’t do it. Child, ask why Can … Continue reading

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Theses on Techno-Optimism

“If you fall in love with a machine there is something wrong with your love-life. If you worship a machine there is something wrong with your religion.” – Lewis Mumford … Continue reading

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Burn it All – a Review of “Your Computer is on Fire”

It often feels as though contemporary discussions about computers have perfected the art of talking around, but not specifically about, computers. Almost every week there is a new story about … Continue reading

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They meant well (or, why it matters who gets to be seen as a “tech critic”)

“We need technology to live, as we need food to live. But, of course, if we eat too much food, or eat food that has no nutritional value, or eat … Continue reading

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Broom-Scrolling? Assume-Scrolling? Bloom-Scrolling? – what comes after Doom-Scrolling?

“The true path is along a rope, not a rope suspended way up in the air, but rather only just over the ground. It seems more like a tripwire than … Continue reading

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Authoritarian and Democratic Technics, revisited

“The viability of technology, like democracy, depends in the end on the practice of justice and on the enforcement of limits to power.” – Ursula Franklin I. Is technology a … Continue reading

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The Cassandra Conundrum

“We hate the people who try to make us form the connections we do not want to form.” – Simone Weil   One Let us begin with a riddle. Question: … Continue reading

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“The Tree of Science” an English translation of Eugene Huzar’s “L’arbre de la Science” [Part 1]

When the locomotive of progress carries us away, it is quite permissible to ask the mechanics who direct it to be prudent and to moderate its speed before having assumed … Continue reading

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Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-Fifth Week

What sets this winter apart from last winter and the one before that is that this winter we really cannot pretend that we haven’t been warned. * The newspaper of … Continue reading

December 29, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-Fourth Week

Is there a prayer to say at the start of a new wave? Yes, there is a prayer to say at the start of a new wave: I pray that … Continue reading

December 20, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-Third Week

Please be advised: when they told you that you could bring a plus one to the holiday party they were not inviting you to bring the plague. * It’s nothing … Continue reading

December 16, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-Second Week

When they hear you say that you are sick and tired they will ask if you mean it literally or figuratively to which you are free to reply with a … Continue reading

December 9, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Forty-First Week

How do you survive a plague? Easy, you do not try to survive the plague instead you focus on trying to survive the week. * When I read the headlines … Continue reading

December 1, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Fortieth Week

A mantra for a Monday morning during the plague times: I am trying my best to survive this and on the days when I fall short of trying my best … Continue reading

November 25, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-Ninth Week

In the month of November I will not be trying to write a novel grow a mustache or attempt some new project I will focus my attention on trying to … Continue reading

November 18, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-Eighth Week

Look, I get it, my tastes are somewhat odd I prefer music that sounds terrible foods that are too spicy movies that have vampires and not catching viruses though I … Continue reading

November 11, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-Seventh Week

I have heard it said that the pandemic’s end is in sight but I have stood atop a tall building and so I know that which is in sight can … Continue reading

November 4, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-Sixth Week

And now you know that the most realistic virus movies are the ones in which the virus wins. * There’s no point in being frustrated when the elastic ear loops … Continue reading

October 26, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-Fifth Week

You say that when someone is wearing a mask you cannot tell cannot really tell if they are truly smiling and though that may be it is worth bearing in … Continue reading

October 21, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-Fourth Week

You keep telling me that the pandemic is over but the more you insist the more loudly you shout the more furious you get the more I believe that the … Continue reading

October 14, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-Third Week

Remember: even now after all this time you still have not survived the plague, even now you still have only survived the plague thus far. * I know you long … Continue reading

October 7, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-Second Week

If you turn on the news you will hear it said that the pandemic is over though this will certainly come as quite a surprise to the virus. * “The … Continue reading

September 28, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirty-First Week

If only there was a specific date a clear singular one to which we could connect the pandemic we would be able to know which date to set aside as … Continue reading

September 23, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Thirtieth Week

If you spend enough time atop a plateau it becomes easy to forget how high above the ground you truly are. * You must understand we are in a different … Continue reading

September 16, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Twenty-Ninth Week

Should you find yourself wondering why it is that some people continue behaving as though there is a pandemic consider that it may be because there is still a pandemic. … Continue reading

September 9, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Twenty-Eighth Week

When we speak of the plague we dream about the before and we fantasize about the after so that we do not have to consider that we are still mired … Continue reading

August 31, 2022 · 1 Comment

Plague Poems – The Hundred-and-Twenty-Seventh Week

They were so eager to forget it ever happened that they decided to forget it was still happening. * Should you find that you are still feeling anxious consider cutting … Continue reading

August 26, 2022 · 1 Comment

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