A story out of Canada posits that Facebook is on its way out and Nexopia on its way in (outside link here). I dunno. I don’t see a 1% dip in traffic to Facebook as a sign of its doom. Hell, that could be accounted for by the demise of or wising up to of several of the most annoying applications that are now running amok there. Or it could be accounted for by the death of Scrabulous. For those of you who haven’t listened to NPR Scrabulous is… wait — what am I saying???
Anyway, I don’t think Facebook is in too much trouble. Sure, hipsters move from trendy thing to trendy thing and then ditch it as soon as others discover it. But, there are too many mainstream people wasting time on Facebook now for it to be declared dead because a few kids are on some other social networking site.
No, the death of Facebook will happen when people realize that basically they are spamming each other with pointless messages all day. Or when some group of hackers launches a virus that takes advantage of the system’s extensibility, connectivity, and ubiquitousness. Then, on August 4, 1997 Facebook will become self aware and launch a pre-emptive strike against humanity in the form of some cute and cuddly kitten application.
But seriously, the kids are probably already looking for the next social networking site because their parents and everyone else are already on Facebook. I doubt Nexopia is the “next big thing.” The next big thing is more likely some combination of wiki, Facebook, and Second life. Facewiklife: a place where kids can create avatars and cyber each other, talk smack about their teachers, have cute kittens and cool clothes, but their parents aren’t allowed.
Finally, I’m going to leave you with what I think is a very challenging article on the nature of technology, race, gender, and poverty. Dale Dougherty challenges us by asking
Is the high-tech world indifferent to the problems of the poor? Do we have any competence that matters in helping them find a better life? Or are we just making “the happy few” that much happier?
His argument is a powerful one and backed by common sense data. 20 years ago, you could live a middle-class life on a high-school diploma and now people with Master’s degrees are worried about job prospects unless they get a second Master’s degree. If it’s that hard for people with that much education to earn enough to even pay off their student loans, then how much harder is it for people in a working class city like Tacoma who have no college degree?
And this happens, Dale argues, because it is too often true that technologists and other professionals spend their time making innovations for each other rather than for the people who probably need it most. Leaving poor people and the underserved with what used to be called the digital divide. Sure, there are places like One Laptop Per Child who are trying to bring some technology into some people’s lives. But the technological difference between that $100 laptop and an iPhone is vast and neigh insurmountable. The facts are clear, technology is exploding among the wealthy and being used to create more wealth and the poor are getting poorer and more disenfranchised by technology.
Now, one of the many things that I love about working here is that we do what we can to provide tools for the poor to make a better life for themselves: whether it’s through access to the grant making software, to our collections, or just simply access to information. If “the network plus the database is the computer” then at some level we are at the forefront of computer access for all of Tacoma, right?
And that’s why I spend almost as much time making, maintaining, and planning for the public systems as I do for the student systems. This is not to toot my own horn, but rather to say that as we are transitioning from the old, bricks and mortar, academic library into whatever kind of library we all think we should be; we should keep in mind that we are the public’s first, and sometimes only, gateway to “the computer.” And we, as librarians and library staff, have a historical and cultural obligation to continue, nay, expand that access. If we choose the other path (restricting access) I think we run the danger of becoming no more than gatekeepers for corporate databases.
You’re all probably tired of hearing this from me and unfortunately you’ll probably have to hear about this in the future. You all know how tenacious I can be.
Anyway, check back later to see if there are any updates or more tech news about the library.