Final Reflections

This journey has reminded me that social media tools are as useful as you choose to make them. Sometimes they offer immense, but underutilized possibilities while at other times too much functionality–or fluff–can lead to utter distraction. Through this 23 Things exercise I have explored new ways to use old standbys and encountered creative solutions that incorporate emerging or unfamiliar resources. I have at times been excited by the breadth of available networks and at other times overwhelmed while trying to think about how to incorporate every possible resource into my life and into an information literacy context.

This latter point has perhaps been the best learning experience of all. Thinking about the available Web 2.0 tools and selecting those that most conveniently deliver the content to meet my needs in different situations closely mirrors the selection that is necessary in information literacy endeavors. Some resources meet needs better than others; some are better designed or written, more authoritative, or more in-depth; others have brevity and simple language in their favor. What works best depends on the particular need and context. More isn’t always better, nor is complexity. The key is in the proper assessment and selection of tools, just as of information resources. This has been my own lesson in evaluation and selection and is one that I will try to carry forward when deciding which Web 2.0 tools to use, to teach, and to discard.

Of course, when I began this blog I also noted that the 23 Things for Archivists program was interesting precisely because it looked to the future. The program has many more stages that the Reference, Access, and Outreach Section of the Society of American Archivists has yet to expand and I look forward to seeing the remainder of the intermediate and advanced lists when they are completed. The latter has been left open to the evolving nature of Web resources, indicating with the caption 47-∞ that indeed this project is a living, growing process. I am summarizing my thoughts on my experiences here, but this in no way indicates that the learning process is done. As the list indicates, change is constant with technological tools and staying connected requires constant awareness and exploration.

Advertisements

Thing # 26: LibraryThing

You may remember that in an earlier post I used my LibraryThing account to create a customized widget for this blog, so I am obviously already familiar with this social network. In the spirit of how I began this blog, however, I am ending it with a deeper look into a web resource that I have only used in a minimal capacity. There are clearly more sophisticated uses for LibraryThing, and learning more about them has transformed a mildly entertaining platform into a potentially useful tool. In the spirit of deeper exploration, this is what I have found.

LibraryThing Basics
Ease of use is the first notable component of LibraryThing because it allows books to be cataloged simply by adding titles to a list. Once a user adds a book the remainder of the cataloging metadata is added automatically when LibraryThing imports records information from library catalogs. MARC and Dublin Core metadata can be imported from a number of prestigious sources such as the Library of Congress, British Library, and Yale University. Given this capability, the suggestion in the 23 Things article that small libraries are using LibraryThing as a cataloging tool makes sense. Since users can specify the source of the metadata, libraries can ensure that the records they create are the highest quality possible. An additional perk is that LibraryThing allows social functions, including tagging, so it is possible to use both formalized data such as authorized subject headings and folksonomies, which can increase the return rate when users search. These tags also offer a way for people to easily browse resources on similar subjects.

The scale and scope of LibraryThing is also notable. The site statistics indicate that there are 1,321,097 members, with 61,555,555 books cataloged, 74,860,118 tags added, 6,029,197 unique works, and 1,370,340 reviews; chances are, if your library owns it, it’s already cataloged in here. This makes the site a wealth of information about books, which could be extremely useful to libraries or archives as a research tool, regardless of whether an institutional account is maintained. Also, the price is certainly right–at free up to 200 books, $10 a year for more, or $25 for a lifetime unlimited membership, it should be an easy expenditure for any library to justify.

LibraryThing for Libraries is an additional resource that can integrate LibraryThing into an existing OPAC, providing popular features such as cloud tags, recommendations, the ability to write reviews, etc. This adds a much-needed social dimension to library catalogs, which run the risk of seeming opaque and dated when users are accustomed to retrieving extra metadata from places like Amazon.com. The ACRL blog provides a description of how this has been incorporated into the Claremont College Library OPAC. In short, the features include similar book recommendations, user tags, and reviews, all of which make it easier for users to find resources. These are good tools for information literacy instruction because educating users as to how tags can help identify resources in easy-to-understand language is important. So too is explaining the differences between authority headings and natural language, both which have retrieval strengths and come together in this system. Using the widget feature is also a good way to showcase favorite or new books in the collections.

Social Aspects
In addition to library accounts and plugins for an OPAC system, individual user accounts on LibraryThing offer research possibilities. For starters, organizing titles that you have read gives a good review of what you have already covered in your research. This is especially true since titles can be organized in different ways, including lists of books already, books you’d like to read, books you’ve shared with others, etc. More importantly, just like resources such as CiteULike, it is possible to identify quality users and learn from their library selections. Simply clicking a book in my collection reveals other users that have selected the same book. I can then check out their selections to see if they have identified resources that I might find helpful; using the “similar library” feature can function in the same way. Once I identify a great user I can follow them to see additional recommendations as they are added.

It is also possible to identify additional resources by following tag links. I tried this out by searching the topic art conservation, which revealed 106 books. I clicked on The Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art and got a user list, LibraryThing similar book recommendations, and a tag cloud. Clicking on conservation broadened my resource list, which was both useful and overwhelming. This action returned over 6,000 titles, many of which were focused on natural resources and animals; sifting through, however revealed that some titles not returned in my initial search were useful. This is a key feature of tagging since narrowing and broadening searches can reveal different types of resources, and clicking tags offers some direction for users that can’t think of additional search terms.

Applications for Information Literacy
LibraryThing is a more powerful search tool than I had previously realized. For information literacy instruction it would be useful to have students create an account and follow a class library list, with collections dedicated to information literacy, research, and related topics. Students could in turn collect titles related to their own research project and follow appropriate users to identify additional sources; they could also be assigned to follow the lists of classmates covering similar topics. The groups feature could be utilized as well as a means of instituting a mandatory discussion forum centered around books.

This community of classroom users could post responses and share resources. Of course, I noticed many of the groups on LibraryThing are dormant while others are quite active. That’s how it goes with social networks. In order to make a LibraryThing group related to a class successful, it would need to take the place of other possible social network group tools (too much of a good thing) and be mandatory. The fact is that students get busy and often forget about voluntary participation. Even so, incorporating a public group organized around a class could leave a quality record of insightful discussion. This could then be continued or shared with later classes.

So what did I learn here?
First, I have learned that I am not using even a quarter of the potential that LibraryThing offers in terms of research and instructional possibilities. However, this is a broader issue with social networking tools. Over the course of working through the 23 Things list I have realized the importance of using a variety of tools that Web 2.0 technologies have made available and have explored ways to enhance those that I am already using. These networks and programs really do offer sophisticated solutions for acquiring resources and creating content. However, as exciting as any new resource may be, I have had to remind myself that there is a limit to the time I can spend participating. Some resources are simply better for some tasks, and wise selection is the key to avoiding information overload.

Thing 24: Cloud Computing

I decided to round out my last two blog entries by moving on to the intermediate list provided by 23 Things for Archivists. This list has a number of exciting entries, working up to 46 items that librarians and archivists should know about Web 2.0. If nothing else, this list demonstrates the importance of technology in serving contemporary patron needs and making workflows more efficient. Of course, this intermediate list is also a nod to the tremendous time commitment that Web 2.0 tools can require–only two of the topics in the list actually have full entries. Finding the time to implement new technologies and resources can be tricky. Given that stark reminder about time and resources, it seemed only natural to pick up with cloud computing. At its most basic, cloud computing allows users to store and access data and software over the Internet, increasing convenience and decreasing the need for maintenance and technical programming knowledge.

Cloud Computing
The Common Craft video on cloud computing explains that users can access server space, software, and data storage programs that are housed in remote locations. Quite simply, it functions like electricity service in the sense that users often pay for what they use, without having to worry about how the service itself works on the back end. This can free up time and money that would ordinarily go into understanding and maintaining current hardware and software; the benefit as I see it is that users can then focus on creativity and design. It is also obvious that nearly everyone using a computer is working in the cloud these days, without even realizing it. Email access was the most common example of cloud computing used throughout the articles I read, and is one that I never even think about. However, I have several Yahoo email accounts and a Gmail account through USF, none of which I have ever bothered to route through a desktop email client like Outlook. Instead, I access these accounts via the Internet from any computer anywhere and I also receive and read the messages on my Blackberry. This is apparently the essence of The Cloud, in which connecting through a browser allows an uncluttered workflow and data storage–I can have 2 GB of emails in each account–offering access anywhere and saving space on my own hard drive.

Moving beyond the basics of email, I began, as the 23 activities suggested, to think about other ways I already use cloud computing. Social networks were an obvious activity, since all my posts are stored out there in the cloud on some unidentifiable servers. I don’t have to save copies of these items on my own machine because the posts, lists, etc. are archived and managed within those networks. Service such as Flickr and YouTube function the same way since I can store videos and images and access and share these anywhere. Not that I am about to erase all the original files on my computer, but certainly some people do use those services in that manner. Of course, it is worth noting that the possibility does exist for data loss, especially with the aforementioned free services. If Flickr closed down, many people would lose their image archives since transition isn’t always seamless, especially when you are looking at hundreds or thousands of files. Sounds unlikely? Consider the “sunsetting” plans Yahoo has for Delicious, which would eliminate the carefully-chosen web resource lists of individuals and institutions (some of which represent many hours of web curation).

Given this real possibility of data loss, organizations obviously need assurances that any cloud computing will not result in a catastrophic loss at some future date. The Library of Congress and the non-profit DuraSpace addressed this issue several years ago with the DuraCloud pilot program. According to the DuraSpace blog, “to ensure perpetual access, valuable digital materials must be stored in a durable manner. DuraCloud will provide both storage and access services, including content replication and monitoring services that span multiple cloud-storage providers.” In other words, it operates on a model similar to a LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) network where multiple identical copies are stored across geographically diverse servers and cross-checked and repaired to insure that each is pristine; a failure of one server does not permanently erase all the data stored there. This is obviously a good solution for institutions looking to store their files, especially those that have significant value, in an archival manner.

Storage is different than access though, and many LOCKSS networks provide only dark storage (backup). DuraCloud also offers access to the materials, which is another important consideration. This prevents organizations from having to maintain an access copy of each document they want to share, which could amount to considerable expense in storage and management. Smaller institutions may not be able to afford the space, and this might limit digital file sharing. However, cloud computing that manages and stores the data as well as offering access makes digital file sharing of collections more affordable and possible (without needing as much internal IT support). The GreenTech section of the TechSoup group also notes that cloud computing in this manner saves on energy and e-waste since many individual organizations do not need to run duplicate hardware–each cloud server is utilized to a higher level of capacity, rather than many low-use servers running.

Collaboration
All of the technical benefits aside, cloud computing makes sharing and collaboration easier. Thinking back to the Flickr and YouTube examples above, working in the cloud enables users to share and in many cases edit the work and open a dialogue around it. Google Docs comes to mind as a major program that allows users to create (or upload existing) presentations, forms, spreadsheets, etc. so that they can be edited from any computer and by multiple users. This has obvious benefits from a workflow perspective. Instead of circulating a master copy and asking people to edit, save, and send it on, multiple users can access the document remotely. This can eliminate confusion over which copy is the “latest” version and make accessing the document easier.

I also began to think about the ease of use that many cloud computing applications promise. Just recently I used Prezi software to create an online presentation. The program is Flash-based, and I have neither the money to purchase Flash nor the time to learn the program at the moment. Prezi, however, is built online and offers visual tools to edit the presentation while the software writes the Flash code in the background. The presentation can be edited and accessed from any computer with an Internet connection and shared publicly via the Prezi website. Much like Google docs, I can also allow multiple users to have editing privileges. There are a few performance issues since building online means that sometimes the website, and thus design efforts, are slow–cloud computing is by no means a flawless concept. However, the benefits and convenience far outweigh the drawbacks.

I recently wrote about Dipity online timeline creation, which is another software program that is run from the cloud. I have also recently used Omeka, which is an online digital library/exhibition creation program. I found that while I was working with the “user-friendly” Greenstone software I was lamenting the fact that it could not be built online. I would have had to set up a server on which to house the library; the computer interface was also glitchy and difficult to use. Omeka, on the other hand, ran from the cloud, allowing uploads right to a hosted space on the Omeka server, design from a web interface, and input of metadata. It was far easier to get a product up and running without IT support at an infrastructure and hardware level. I’m not suggesting that everything should be one-click, but clearly cloud computing does eliminate some of the need for understanding backend knowledge that can get in the way of simply running a program.

The list of cloud applications could go on, but one thing is clear–whether we think about it or not, cloud computing is increasingly a necessary part of digital workflows and will continue to dominate software and storage in the future.

Applications for Information Literacy
The possibilities for information literacy instruction range from providing easy access to online materials to incorporating creation tools into projects to creating collaborative class products. Cloud computing resources such as Google Docs and Prezi could facilitate work on group projects. Twitter discussions could be archived to a blog or webspace using a tool such as Dipity, which would allow users to compile a chronological list of their discussion on a topic; a class record of the discussion could be created using the same timeline tool by setting the search feature to pull Tweets, videos, etc. centered on a common topic. Simply having students tag their posts with a specific search term would allow a search feed to pull those responses and compile a course discussion review in dynamic timeline format. Omeka, which offers free webspace to individuals or institutions could be used to create class exhibitions, with each students contributing documents, images, and other resources. This could be organized around a central theme or broken into categories. Either way, the product would be a searchable display of the achievements of the students. This could also be a resource for instructors to create an exhibition to showcase student achievements (useful for funding and performance reviews.

I have discussed only free software use in this blog, but there are many many more paid access solutions that fall within cloud computing. Undoubtedly a small investment in additional resources would yield even more opportunities to enhance teaching and learning in the digital age.

Thing #19: Online Timelines

Online timelines are an excellent resource for sharing chronological information and Thing #19 focuses on creation tools. I chose this topic since I am unfamiliar with creating an interactive timeline using web-based programs and was interested in learning about particular creation tools. The 23 Things description of online timelines that accompanies the learning tasks also indicates some unexpected uses for these tools, including creating a timeline for a class syllabus and collecting Internet postings in order of appearance based on search terms. These ideas offer a good extension of the traditional uses for exhibition materials and could likely supplement information literacy instruction.

Dipity
To start, I explored various articles related to Diptiy, which is an online timeline tool. I learned from the Spellbound blog that display options for timelines include left to right scrolling, flipbook, lists, and map styles. This variety is important from a design perspective since it allows creators to tailor the timeline to fit the purpose as well as the available web layout. Additionally, the timelines can be truly interactive since including links, as well as videos and imagery is a feature; in fact, videos will play directly from the timeline so there is no break in continuity.

A second blog by Mark Krynsky offered information on how dimity can be used to create a lifestream. This can be accomplished in two ways–either manually or through the Dipity import which can automatically pull information from Blogger, WordPress, Flickr, YouTube, Pandora, and other sources and arrange the information chronologically. Additionally, information that is geotagged can be placed on a map. This latter option creates a great tool for displaying collection information in a way that can help users understand context. In fact, this could be done both at an item and a collection level to help users get both global and more specialized views of an institution’s holdings.

Dipity is as much an aggregator of social networking content as an academic resource, making it yet another organizational tool available for managing social resources. I found several suggestions for compiling a channel to do just that on Jack Humphrey’s blog; his personal Dipity channel pulls resources from YouTube, Twitter, WordPress, and an RSS feed. The real power is in tailoring what is pulled to avoid seeing every possible tweet and instead organize content around a theme. Everything is then displayed in an orderly and aesthetic manner, with contents available right from the Diptiy channel.

It is worth noting here that for academic timeline creation, Simile is a popular widget that can be embedded into a webpage and contents entered manually. However, it lacks some of the features that Dipity offers, including most of the social functions.

One of the upsides of using Dipity seems to be that the timelines can be both embedded into a website and hosted on the Dipity page. The former is important for including resources within an institutional page or exhibition website, but the latter allows for serendipitous discovery of your contents. The Dipity homepage features a spotlight of user-generated timelines as well as a search feature. There is also an option for purchasing a pro plan (starting at $4.95), which allows you to use custom backgrounds, which is important for institutions trying to create a cohesive look. For a good example embedded into a website and branded for the organization, see the Minnesota History Timeline at the Minnesota Historical Society website.

Trying it out
I decided to test out Dipity by creating a simple timeline, titled My Life. Of the numerous options available for populating the space, I chose to allow the program to pull links from my Delicious page and also to compile entries based on a search term, technology, set to pull only videos from YouTube. These parameters are rather narrow, but I could easily have included blogs, Tweets, my YouTube channel, search results from websites other than YouTube, music linked from my Pandora account, etc. I could also easily have added manual entries and uploaded content, which would be the most useful function for a library or institution.

Classic Timeline:

Displayed in a Map Format:

Applications for Information Literacy Instruction
Obviously from an organizational standpoint, using timelines is an excellent way to add context to objects or collections in a visually appealing manner. For information literacy courses there are a number of possible uses. As a teaching tool creating and embedding a timeline into a webpage or course software would generate an interactive resource on a given topic–particularly with a tool such as Dipity, which plays and displays content right within the timeline space. For instance, it would be possible to record video tutorials and place them alongside tweets, blog posts, articles, and uploaded documents or images; this could cover a range of information, including things like an ever-expanding resource on information literacy topics, or a chronology of technology use related to the Internet. Creating a timeline of topics to accompany the class syllabus would create a visual aid that might help students better understand the trajectory of the class.

Students could create online timeline projects showcasing resources on a given topic. They could also use a Dipity channel in place of the widgets discussed in the previous post. In that instance they could link social network accounts to the timeline and generate a compilation of their communications for the course held over Twitter, blog posts, etc. They could leave this as a stand-alone channel or embed it into a website. Either way, their communications would be compiled chronologically as a resource for both the instructor to grade and other students to read through and comment.

Thing #15: Widgets

Widgets are all over the web (calendars, countdowns, weather, etc.), but I usually don’t think about them so I decided to take this opportunity to explore the concept in a little more depth. Web widgets, according to Wikipedia, are simply small applications that are embedded and executed within a web page. When used appropriately they can add important content and functionality to a web page and enhance user experiences by providing timely data. Significantly, a well-used widget can keep web content updated and avoid the image of an abandoned website which is a major deterrent for visitors. Also, according to the 23 Things for Archivists description, using widgets to combine all institutional content–such as Facebook and Twitter posts, Flickr uploads, and so forth–can be a good way to let users track all recent content from a single web space. This seems to be an excellent organizational use of these tools.

Meebo Widgets
I mentioned in my first 23 Things post that Meebo chat could be embedded into websites, which is an example of a highly functional widget. Adding a chat feature lets users contact you directly and increases interaction. This is obviously a great tool for instructors to use on course websites or for libraries to use on their main page. It connects users immediately to a live person, which may be a motivator for seeking help in the first place; this could be a good tool for information literacy instruction purposes since stand-alone sessions may leave unanswered questions and using face-to-face reference may be intimidating for some students. Of course, embedding chat in a website can trigger an abandoned website feeling in users if it is not staffed properly; it is only useful if someone connects regularly, perhaps leaving it open from 9-5 during the work week.

On a related note, I mentioned in a previous post that I had not seen the Meebo chat embedded in the 23 Things website opened at any point, day or night. To date this is still the case.

Social Networking Widgets
Widgets are common for sharing resources across websites, so much so that they have become embedded in the web landscape. Recent blog and Twitter updates are a fixture of many sites, and through this program I learned about several extremely useful tools. For starters, the 23 Things activities suggested adding a widget to an existing website, so I decided to add one of their featured tools. Since this blog is focused on Web 2.0 and information literacy it seemed like the perfect place to embed a widget from LibraryThing. I set up my widget to display books from my LibraryThing account (see My LibraryThing on the right), customizing it to fit the color scheme and design of my existing blog. The widget tool on LibraryThing prompts this personalization, with options to change collections, animations, font, spacing, etc. Entering this data generates code to copy and embed, which I did using the html/script gadget within Blogger. As you can see, I already had several Blogger-generated widgets along the side, however the LibraryThing addition is the first outside addition.

The other social networking widgets covered included Facebook tools for adding like and share buttons to web pages, which is useful for articles and professional blogs. It also covered adding your profile badge, or more usefully for institutions, a page badge that links to you Facebook content; an activity feed is also available to showcase recent posts. Similarly, the Twitter widgets will create a feed of your recent posts on your website of Facebook page. Flickr has a tool for sharing photo additions, as does Facebook. This, of course, covers only a few tools, but these websites are some of the main places that institutions regularly post content. Linking them is a smart idea for organizing that content.

It’s also worth noting that widgets can function on the computer desktop as well, and several of these web-based tools have desktop versions. For instance, Flickr has a desktop app that allows you to drag and drop photos without opening a web browser.

Applications for Information Literacy Instruction
As an instructor, I would use some of the available social networking widgets to share course-related content or information literacy tips on a class or IL website. This would give students a chance to benefit from Facebook or Twitter information literacy tips regardless of whether they decided to follow, friend, or like either me or the library. Assuming they found these posts useful, they might even decide to sign up for more regular status updates. Similarly, widgets posting content additions from delicious or CiteULike could offer students valuable links to reference resources. (The Widgetbox website contains these among many others.) The options include an “add this” widget so that others can mark your site in their own bookmarks; this could drive additional users to institutional IL pages.

Interactive experiences could also be facilitated using a number of different widgets. Incorporating only the particular applications I have already mentioned, it would be possible to encourage chat and sharing within an information literacy class environment. For instance, students could be assigned to keep a blog or create and maintain a personal website throughout the semester that included several widgets. They could be assigned to do any or all of the following, using widgets to share their activities with classmates:

  • Open a Twitter account and participate in “tweet” discussions assigned during class
  • Create an account with delicious and/or CiteUlike and bookmark useful resources, either on an assigned theme or a topic that they are researching individually
  • Use a LibraryThing account to catalog books, assigning them to specific categories–they can then share all or only certain categories using their widget

Students would then be required to review some or all of the class websites weekly and comment on the shared resources. This would allow students to learn about valuable resources from their peers in an interactive forum. This could potentially equip these students with dozens or even hundreds of useful information sources.

Thing #12: Creative Commons

Oh the beloved Creative Commons, buzzword of the century in library circles, it is up there with cloud computing and Web 2.0 as the most talked about trends for the 21st century. Of course, this hype is for good reason. Creative Commons licensing is one of the best tools for academics to share information. I also see this license all the time attributed to fonts, programs, and web templates. Given this importance, I decided to delve into the topic and learn what I could about how it really functions.

Creative Commons
I began with the suggested Educause article on seven things to learn about the topic. The beauty of this article is that it provided a simple explanation, seven key points, and a real-world scenario of how CC licensing can be put into place in an educational setting. The basis of the concept is that copyright is either fully enforced or expired, with very little room for anything else. Creative Commons allows people to tailor restrictions so that works are more accessible while still protected. It is really an ingenious idea and one that can definitely loosen the stranglehold some publishers have over information. Materials can be licensed in a number of ways, ranging from free to be used, displayed, and altered as long as the creator is acknowledged, to free only for use in educational settings. This, of course, takes away the uncertainty of fair use and the burden of acquiring permission for every single use. Obviously, this is a good way to boost academic exchange. Creative Commons licensing also helps ensure the the functionality of the web can be fully realized, since linking to content and displaying images alongside text is a necessity at this point.

An article in Library Trends by Cushla Kapitzke notes that traditional copyright law is not well-suited to digital environments where sharing and building on earlier works are the norm; the questions of authorship and ownership can get extremely fuzzy. In such settings we see traditional publishers clinging to stringent usage restrictions, while those restrictions may be inhibiting the flow of ideas. Creative Commons actually gives control back to the information producer, who may well benefit from having their ideas exchanged, programs built upon, or images shared.

As the Creative Commons (non-profit licensing organization) states:

“Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture, and driving a new era of development, growth, and productivity.”

There is really no better way to describe the possibilities for innovation that exist when copyright is tempered by reasonable expectations.

Flickr Commons
Another resource provided on the 23 Things website related to the Flickr Commons program that was undertaken by Flickr and the Library of Congress. The idea is that images are placed on the website and opened up for users to tag and share related information about the images. Cultural organizations are encouraged to participate in the spirit of sharing and promoting access to essential resources that have cultural, historical, and research value. The images are then improved by users that offer information that can help describe, clarify, or otherwise make the images more accessible. The project is one I had heard of before, but I was unaware of both the depth and popularity of the program. The content generated by users has enriched the imagery available in ways that individual catalogers could never have accomplished. The concept is based on trusting people (with a little oversight in the verification of facts) and letting the masses share their surprising expertise.

From a a library, archive, and museum standpoint, Creative Commons licensing represents a needed tool to facilitate information exchange; it is also one that needs to be actively supported in order to help balance the traditional copyright rules that stifle discourse. Flickr Commons is also a tool that can be beneficial for a number of reasons. Noting the tags that users apply to objects can be instructive for institutions that may be out of touch with the ways that users are searching for information. Tagging is assigned using a different set of logic than controlled vocabulary, and it is worth becoming aware of this thinking and using common terms as adjunct descriptors. Also, perusing the collections and information listings of other institutions can shed light on an institution’s own holdings. For example, an institution could find that images depicting a particular building (subsequently identified by a user) might correspond to photographs in their own collection that had gone unlabeled. This information could be verified and then added to these images. Periodic searches could reveal all kinds of useful data that would align with the collections, without ever having to upload them to Flickr. This seems to me to be a formidable tool.

Information Literacy Applications
One of the most essential IL standards involves evaluating information sources and properly using and attributing information. This is a skill that can be confused by opaque copyright laws. Teaching students the meaning of CC licensing can help with this issue by encouraging them to locate and utilize information that has been appropriately authorized. I believe this to be especially true for fields such as science, art and design, and computer science. People frequently get inspiration from the work of others and build their own creations off the efforts of others. This building process is what allows progress to happen, commentary to occur, and ideas to transform society. In seeking out works that are freely available for use and/or alteration, students can be confident that they are legally benefiting from and contributing to the scholarly exchange of ideas.

Thing #11: Geotagging

I chose Thing #11 thinking that I had no real knowledge of geotagging since I haven’t forayed into social check-ins such as Foursquare yet. I was, however, surprised to find while reading the first Wikipedia article on geosocial networking that geo tagging has many other uses and forms. For instance, pulling up a list of restaurants on your smart phone that are in proximity to your physical location and then accessing user-generated reviews, ratings, and pictures is one use, while social shopping in which a user provides data such as links or images of items they have purchased is another; the latter is especially interesting when users of social shopping websites have to physically visit stores to capture sensor data in order to gain points for discounts. In fact, it is plausible to think that such applications could work for libraries or museums as well by encouraging visitors to add favorite items to a social app. This would both promote the institution to the user’s network and increase visitorship–the payoff could be earning enough points for a free admission, complementary coffee in the cafe, or a discount at the museum store.

Geotagging
Geotagging is simply the process of attaching location information to objects such as videos, photographs, websites, or text messages, which can then be searched and located according to that geographic information. With photography applications the metadata can be attached at the time the image is captured if the device has a GPS system installed, or it can be added later. Images can also be attached to a map in a program such as Flickr, which assigns the information based on the map location you select. Searching for images (or blogs, articles, etc.) using geotags can provide users with information about sites, objects, and events that may be in proximity to their location or a location they are planning to visit, which could be an effective research tool.

Twittering time away
Users can set their Twitter accounts to automatically add location information to any Tweets. Truthfully, this feature seemed a little creepy at first, but I think with the increasing popularity of check-in programs people are just getting more accustomed to the idea of sharing their location. The benefit of enabling this feature, according to an article by Mashable.com, is that Twitter can tailor the trending topics to your position, which could in some ways actually be useful. For example, news and event information that could pertain to you based on geographical proximity would appear, as opposed to more generalized trends such as celebrity gossip. Of course, there is an advertising angle as well since obviously targeted marketing is a big deal to businesses. However, it seems possible for non-profit institutions to get in on the location based service targeting as well. Tweets and ads based on library events, new exhibitions, resources, and so forth could be directed via local trending feeds. Since reaching users is always a tricky part of social networking, this could deliver timely information to people that are in the area but not necessarily followers of the institution. Yes, it’s advertising, however I think it functions more like the kind of announcements people see on PBS or hear on the radio rather than the more malicious spam-type event ads that we have all come to loathe.

Flickr and Geotags
According to TechCrunch, the Flickr geotagging feature allows users to, among other uses, create a customized map showing photos assigned to their place of origin. The simple act of tagging the photos with location data (which can be accomplished by dragging an image onto a map) makes them searchable by location; the images can be tagged from country to street level. This is a popular feature, as a visit to the Flickr homepage reveals that 4.5 million items have been geotagged this month alone. Of course, identifying information for photographs is important, so it is not surprising that geotagging is popular. It’s also useful to be able search for a city and see interesting images from the area. For instance, I searched Gainesville, Florida and saw some views of Payne’s Prairie that I haven’t noticed before–and for that matter, that we have a Sonic Drive-In here. This is admittedly data that is more socially functional than academic, however it could help people to get a grasp on an area that they plan to visit or discover interesting things about where they reside.

Libraries and museums can also use geotagging on Flickr for more rigorous intentions. The Library of Congress uploaded thousands of images a few years ago with the hopes that people would tag the items with all kinds of information, including locations. This was wildly successful and proved to be a formidable research tool for the librarians. Libraries can also create resources by, for instance, tagging numerous resources they have uploaded so that they display on a map. I could imagine viewing historical stereoscope cards of Florida or African beaded aprons on a map that associated the image with a particular place. Such additional visual and textual data adds layers of meaning for researchers and helps users to understand the proximity of objects to one another.

Applications fro Information Literacy

Geotagging has a few significant possibilities for information literacy purposes. First, it can allow users to receive location-specific news; this could be especially useful to students in business or journalism fields who may need to keep abreast of localized news topics. Using the geosearch in Flickr could also provide valuable research information for students in a variety of fields. For instance, searching for art or artifact imagery within a specific area of Australia might reveal photographs of works useful for a presentation; it could also help in narrowing a topic by revealing a particular type of artifact that is found in certain areas. Even more significantly, it might be possible to find contextual photographs that have been tagged by geographic location. This, of course, would simply be another manner of search strategy, but is one that could at times be quite useful.