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Technohype Makes You Sound Silly

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.

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Comments

  1. Schalken says:

    Twitter is like a blog for people who can’t express more than one sentence of a thought at a time and who enjoy talking about themselves. The only reason why one person follows another person’s twitter is because they hope that somebody will do the same for them, so that they can then get an ego boost pretending to think that somebody cares what they ate for breakfast or what cookie-cutter “indie” album they’re listening to.

    That said, if librarians are quick to adopt every technofad that comes along, they seem equally slow to ditch them; aren’t there some librarians who still like Second Life?

  2. library geek woes says:

    ‘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.’

    That line alone made my day. I’m an avid Twitter user, and tween texting behavior used by adults on Twitter makes me want to tear all my grey hair out by the roots. And yes, I agree, technohype is something we need to be aware of. All these apsps are tools or toys, but don’t often constitute true behavioral changes.

  3. I was the kid with the drum says:

    Once I built a Twitter,
    Made it fun
    Tweeted things all the time.
    Once I built a Twitter, now it’s done.
    Brother, can you paradigm? (Last line stolen from William Safire)

  4. ASY says:

    Some annoyed librarians are better writers and can get their point across in many fewer words.

  5. librarytwit says:

    Librarians should be aware that technohype is just that. It gets annoying when you attend a conference or training session and feel belittled because you aren’t into the latest greatest technology. I didn’t care about Second Life, wiki’s or any of the newest trends and the funny thing is some of those trends I ignored have now fallen by the wayside.

  6. Dances With Books says:

    I’ve got to agree with librarytwit above: one does get tired of conference sessions with the latest, greatest tech where they make you feel like you are less of a librarian if you do not have a library photo fetish, or a library sign fetish, or a fetish for whatever the latest 2.0 toy is. Actually, labeling them fetishists would degrade what an actual fetishist does.

    (Had more, but the comment system seems to have eaten it. And by the way, can someone fix the damn captcha)

  7. Anonypotamus says:

    I don’t see how Twitter is, in any way, useful to librarians in the professional sense. I think that needs to be the first test. Facebook or MySpace can be useful for letting certain demographics know about events and the like at the library. Blogs are of limited use when disseminating policy changes and such (with a very heavy emphasis on “limited”). Wikis can (potentially) be used to offer user reviews of library materials, which will inevitably descend into obscenities. Still, the professional function.. the idea.. is all that anyone should get excited about. Catchy and/or annoying buzzwords should always be avoided. If someone says, “Isn’t Twitter really great?!” our response should be, “Communication is really something. Would you like to go make papyrus?”

  8. anonymous says:

    One of the things that is missing from academic librarians’ discussion about 2.0ish things is the impact on student learning. My institution is accredited and is accountable to an accrediting body that dictates what we do to further student learning. Twitter, blogs, flickr, etc., can be great communication tools, but I have never seen any evidence that students are voluntarily using them or paying attention to them.

  9. rex says:

    very refreshing. Yes, things are convenient enough, thank you. Now how about working on content for a while?

  10. Annoyed at the Annoyed Librarian says:

    Y’all are a bunch of dunces. Twitter isn’t for libraries. It is for you librarians to connect and post 164 characters of drivel to say you are annoyed at the latest flash in the pan technology.

  11. Idiot Box says:

    I’m still waiting for Cuil to become the super great search engine it was hyped to be. Amyone remember the old Commodore home computer? How about CB radios? This buisiness with twitter is the mental equivalent of the leisure suit.

  12. Idiot Box says:

    I’m still waiting for Cuil to become the super great search engine it was hyped to be. Amyone remember the old Commodore home computer? How about CB radios? This buisiness with twitter is the mental equivalent of the leisure suit.

  13. Irritated Librarian says:

    Wow, Schalken, like sweeping generalizations do we? Where do you get off telling us “The only reason…” I’m not in the technohype camp by any means but statements like this p*ss me off.

  14. RJP says:

    All true librarians know a worthwhile technology when it comes out.

    If you are dazzled by flash, then you didn’t study hard enough when you got your MLS and are the reason the profession is going to pot.

  15. gershbec says:

    I often share your cynicism AL, but this is a strawman argument. You’re hypothesizing that this could have come from a librarian but instead it came from an industry that spends much of it’s time hyping technologies. I am active on Twitter and follow lots of librarians, and I see very few gushing about it. They are simply using it as a tool for the simple reason that lots of other people are using it. That is not a bad reason in itself. Technology today is simple enough that we can just rush in and try things with very little time and effort. Some of them may end up having little value and some may not exist in a couple years. It is likely that Twitter won’t exist in its current form in 10 years, but at least we’ll have experience trying whatever it is that our customers are trying, and in the meantime it may have some value to the institution or to us as professionals.

    At least the AL recognizes that Twitter has potential value as a tool. The commenters who deny this sound just as bad as the people who overhype a technology.

  16. AL says:

    “Y’all are a bunch of dunces. Twitter isn’t for libraries. It is for you librarians to connect and post 164 characters of drivel to say you are annoyed at the latest flash in the pan technology.”

    Are you sure that isn’t 140 characters of drivel? Who’s the dunce now?

  17. make room says:

    When I was younger a twit was a moron. I think that says it all dear lemmings. I know my followers can’t wait to know the next time I pick my nose, wipe my ass, or throw up.

  18. make room says:

    When I was younger a twit was a moron. I think that says it all dear lemmings. I know my followers can’t wait to know the next time I pick my nose, wipe my ass, or throw up.

  19. Balanced Librarian says:

    Look, twitter, is a potential tool. It may be useful, it may be a self-indulgent fad. But yea, I think social media tools are worth examining for usefulness. I don’t have much use for misplaced techonohype but neither do I care for uninformed attacks that begin “The only reason…” There is seldom an “only reason.” Here is a potential use for Twitter in libraries – replace RSS feeds for current news on library home pages. Considerably less overhead to manage.

  20. Legal 2.0 says:

    Sorry – but Twitter IS an amazing resource & has the *potential* 2 affect great social change. The recent US election & widespread communication achieved by Obama himself and His staffers was clearly immense.

    Can u deny this?? Yes – it has its share of genuine 2.0 twits who ramble on about their last cup of coffee or whatever giberish – BUT – people do actually goof of in our libraries as well u know! I know what we did in our law faculty library!! ;?

  21. CarpeDiem says:

    Legal 2.0, unwittingly, you are making AL’s point.

  22. Technodope says:

    I’m just starting to peek behind the scenes of libraries, and there does seem to be a faction that tries to get ahead of any new computer technology, seemingly for no other reason than because it’s the “bleeding edge”.

    I think that would be the same crowd of information specialists working in information and media resource centers. Petrified by articles they’ve read on-line, written by geeks who wouldn’t be going to the library, anyway, even if the servers are down for an extended time, they’re desperate to remain “relevant” in the age of the internet. And so they self-consciously try to be hipper than the hip, getting ahead of any new technology, however inappropriate.

    The library should stay on top of some technologies, like web browsers and plug-ins. But for many others, five or ten years behind the leading edge is more appropriate. Or the lowest common denominator. They don’t need to expand their VHS collection because that’s not common enough to be the lowest common denominator, but it’s too soon to replace their DVDs with BluRay because not enough people can use the newer technology. And in general any new technology should be evaluated for appropriateness, not just glommed on to in anticipation of the utopia that technology will bring.