Speaking of Skeuomorphism

With all of the changes taking place over at Apple, people are wondering how it will affect the design of their future products – both the external look and the software interface. As a result, skeuomorphism is very much on the minds of systems and UX designers.

Skeuomorphism gets a pretty bad rap among many tech-savy computer folks. It’s kitschy, it’s gimmicky, it’s corny. Some feel that it dumbs down the essential nature of digital technology. By over-emphasizing analog equivalents (equivalencies that are, arguably, false in their foundation) skeuomorphism runs the risk of obscuring many of the things digital technology can do that analog can’t – the aspects of the digital tool for which there is no analog equivalent.

Mashable has a delightfully snarky gallery of some of Apple’s more infamous uses of it:

Say Farewell: Apple’s Skeumorphism Hall of Shame

Many of these criticisms are largely correct. So why am I still a fan of skeuomorphism?
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Conveying Authority

When I was in school to get my MLIS, I had an assignment in my Reference class to observe reference librarians in real-world situations. I sat in at the reference desk at my local branch of the Chicago Public Library over the course of several days. I noticed something odd about the way the reference librarians dressed at this branch: sometimes they dressed in more formal professional attire – long-sleeved, button-up shirts and ties for the men; blouses and skirts, or dresses for the women – but at other times they dressed very casually; sometimes the same librarian would be dressed professionally one day, and the next day casually. I saw no rhyme or reason to this.
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The Continuing Saga of Copyright Reform

On Friday, I saw this article on Techdirt:

House Republicans: Copyright Law Destroys Markets; It’s Time For Real Reform

And it gave me such hope that our elected leaders might finally openly acknowledge and own up to everything they’ve done wrong with copyright over the past couple of decades! This passage, in particular, echoes everything I’ve been arguing about copyright for years:
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Library-Based Social Book Apps: A Question of Ethics

My library has been researching the SirsiDynix® Social Library app for Facebook. While there appears to be incredible potential in such social media-based library apps (friend recommendations, reviews, wish-lists, in-platform catalog interactions), for me it raises some serious concerns about patron data and privacy.

And it’s not just my innate antipathy to the thought of sharing any of our patron information with Facebook – an organization that sets the standard of notoriety for selling users’ personal info to any advertiser that wants it…
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Everything, Anywhere, All the Time

Yesterday, the Kansas City Public Library held the first ever Kansas City SirsiDynix Users Group Conference at our Plaza Branch. Representatives from several KC-area library systems and from SirsiDynix met and discussed what the future could hold for ILS systems and library technology.

Web-based services, cloud services, APIs, fully integrated discovery layers, social media integration, the role of mobile apps, patron-driven acquisitions, one-click downloads, the relationship of the library OPAC to the library website…

We’re brainstorming the nature and structure of libraries in the Digital Age.

I came out of the conference with three major take-aways:
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The True Scope of History, Part II

Homo sapiens is unique on this planet in that we’re the only genus with only one species. It’s not normal to be the only species within a genus! All other animals exist in a world in which there are others very like themselves, but not them.

Humans, by contrast, take it for granted that there are no other species in the world like us.

It didn’t used to be that way, though. We used to share this planet with other people who weren’t us.
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The Purpose of Human Imagination

The Internet Librarian International 2012 conference wrapped up yesterday. Perhaps the most widely circulated tweet from the conference came from Airport Librarian (@airprtlibrarian):

We have libraries because people need a place to dream. The collection is not the main goal. #ili2012

— Airport librarian(@airprtlibrarian) October 30, 2012

“People need a place to dream.” Yes!

[Edit: At the request of Airport Librarian, I’d like to credit David Lankes as the original source of the quote, from his keynote speech.]

The human ability to dream and to imagine is one that has fascinated me from a very early age. The scientist in me wonders: Why do we dream? What necessary function is served by our imagination?

Why do people need a place to dream?

I had an experience during my freshman year of college that informed my understanding of the purpose of imagination more than any other…
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