What is Beginner's Mind

Having 'Beginners mind' is to approach a subject enthusiastically, with openness and without preconceptions, even if you are an expert. It represents a willingness to ask questions and challenge assumptions; both essential to the scientific process.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How to help people frightened by new technology

Here is an interesting article in Science Daily about people who are afraid of new technology. The study, performed by Economic and Social Research Council in the UK found that people afraid of new technology tended to be poorer and less educated. They are frightened by media reports of virus and the hazards of computer use and tend to be hampered by their ability to spell.

The study found that most computer courses that were available are concerned with work related subjects (how to use spreadsheets and wordprocessing) but did not address what people needed to do in their personal lives (email, shopping and finding information online).

I believe that this provides a huge opportunity for libraries to become more relevant to their communities. We could make an impact on computer technophobia by developing classes, courses and tutorials that specifically address these fears and needs. Wouldn't it be great if we could produce an online tutorial, perhaps using podcast or videocasting technology that would address these problems!!! Then, when folks drop in the library, we could hook them up to the tutorial and we could address their needs in real time instead of directing them to a class.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More on Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur

Andrew Keen's book the Cult of the Amateur has started me thinking about news organizations. He says:
Newspapers and news magazines, one of the most reliable sources of information about the world we live in, are failing thanks to the proliferation of free blogs and sites like Craiglist that offer free classifieds, undermining paid add placement pg 8.
While it is true that newspapers and magazines are failing, it does not necessarily follow that this is due to blogs and Craigslist. Circulation is certainly declining, but is because of blogs? A study by the Pew Research Center as reported in the State of the Media Report 2007 suggests the following reasons:

Why People Are Not Reading the Newspaper

"What is it that you like less about newspapers compared with TV, radio or the Internet?"
Don't have time
Don't like to read
Inconvenient to get/don't subscribe
Not interesting/nothing there
Cost/not free
Layout (small print/big pages)
Just pile up/clutter

Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, “Online Papers Modestly Boost Newspaper Readership,” July 30, 2006

I can think of several other reasons that Americans might be abandoning newspapers.

  1. The consolidation of newspaper ownership reducing the points of view expressed in an area.
  2. Americans increasingly distrust newspaper journalism (see below)
  3. Corporate ownership of newspapers driving profitability goals. Since state and national reporting is a big expense, many newspapers have reduced their news staff and have focused more intensively on local (and less expensive to report issues)
The State of the News Media Report 2007 indicates that local newspaper credibility is at an all time low.
Overall, local daily newspapers sat on the lower end of the scale among media on believability, lower than CNN, Fox News, NPR and local television, and above only the Associated Press. In 2006 19% of people said they believed all or most of what they read in their daily paper, down 10 points in eight years. (Another 40% believed a good deal of what they read in the paper, though less than “most”).
Looking in today's Baltimore Sun, I found one small paragraph on page 7 about the crisis in Burma/Myanmar, nothing on Darfur, and barely anything about Iraq or Afghanistan. Is it a wonder that we have no clue about what the world thinks about us.

I believe that newspapers lost their audience log before Web 2.0 and blogs came along. Many newsrooms abandoned international coverage, professionalism and integrity for profitability. This is reflected in the drop in circulation and subsequently, advertising. Many people are turning to blogs or major newspapers online coverage to get the news that the local papers cannot or will not cover.

Keen does bring up a good point about the demise of news staff and professional journalists. I hope that the public will always support good journalism wherever it can be found. It is worth its weight in gold. But I maintain that newspapers abandoned us long before we abandoned them.