Speaking of Twitter, "Years from now, when historians reflect on the time we are currently living in, the names Biz Stone and Evan Williams will be referenced side by side with the likes of Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Guglielmo Marconi,Philo Farnsworth , Bill Gates and Steve Jobs — because the creation of Twitter by Stone, 35…, Williams, 37, and Jack Dorsey, 32 …, is as significant and paradigm-shifting as the invention of Morse code, the telephone, radio, television or the personal computer."
Wow! Someone is certainly excited about Twitter! But then again, aren’t we all excited about Twitter!
You could have read hyperbolic hyperbole like the above on any number of library-related sites, no doubt. If you had to guess a librarian who’d write nonsense like that, who do you think it would be? Come on, there must be some names. You know, those librarians who never met a new gadget or "top trends" list or daily affirmational kitten poster they didn’t like. The ones who like to say things like "I Heart This!" and then expect us to treat them like grown-ups with minds of their own. Despite the fact that it sounds like the sort of overhyped nonsense emanating from lots of librarians, it actually came from Time Magazine as part of their recent issue on the world’s 100 most influential people. Apparently, the three creators of Twitter among them constitute an influential person, or rather, each one of them is .33 of an influential person. Something like that.
To put together this issue, Time got some high-powered thinkers to analyze the trends that shape our world and produce insightful profiles of these influential people. No, who are we kidding. This is Time Magazine we’re talking about. Instead this was written by Ashton ("My Boss’s Daughter") Kutcher . And since I’m one of those people who think famous actors are famous because they’re so much smarter than me, I usually just take them at their word.
So we have Kutcher telling us the creation of Twitter is right up their with the creation of the telephone and the radio. It’s "paradigm-shifting"! Since Twitter seems to me merely a combination (or, to use a trendy and totally unnecessary neologism, a "mashup") of several other programs long in existence, I’m not sure that Kutcher understands what a paradigm is. I’ve read Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and could only say to Mr. Kutcher, I know what paradigm shifts are, I’ve seen paradigm shifts, and sir, this is no paradigm shift.
This is definitely the technological flavor of the month, and I quoted Time only because it seemed even more ridiculous in its hype than some librarians. Leaving aside the opinion of an actor once voted #3 on "VH1′s 100 Hottest Hotties" list, the question is, do any librarians believe such hype? In fact, do any of them believe any of they technohype they hype, whether it’s about Twitter or some bogus "trend" in library services or whatever?
One of the things that keeps me perpetually annoyed is seeing librarians babble on about Twitter or any other supposedly new and earth-shaking thing as if it’s anything more than the latest flash in the pan that will eventually grow old and stale without revolutionizing anything at all. The cult oftwopointopia – which apparently includes Ashton ("Dude, Where’s My Car?") Kutcher – tells us we should be excited about the newest new thing, that we should keep a constant eye on all the new cultural and technological trends else we get left behind. There’s never much evidence for that, though. It’s going to be blogs, then wikis , then this, then that, today Twitter, tomorrow something else that will supposedly revolutionize the way we do business, when in fact libraries just keep plodding along just fine without having to bother with the supposedly paradigm-shifting something-or-other that shifts no paradigms whatsoever.
In case you’re trying to get all riled up that the AL is mocking Twitter, I’m not. Twitter seems a tool like any other tool. I’m mocking the idea that it or any of the other supposedly revolutionary new technologies are anything especially earth shattering, and challenging librarians to stop sounding like teenagers with crushes every time a new one comes along.
Librarians can keep going with the senseless technohype, and continue to sound like Time Magazine, or they can quit being so gullible and sound like thoughtful and skeptical adults immune to fluff and puffery. I put the idea out there to try to keep librarians from sounding as silly as Hollywood actors sometimes do.