Module 5 Reflection: Hyperlinked Communities
In my Module 1&2 reflection, I critically examined the definition of “libraria” throughout the centuries and compared it with the last twenty years in the western world. What I did not explicitly mention is that I conceptualize today’s and tomorrow’s library as a hyperlink to hyperlinks. As the machines we use grow smaller and more capable, they will increasingly shrink wrap around our bodies until they penetrate them as implantations and cybernetics. This is already being done – Deep Brain Stimulation therapy has had tremendous impact in psychiatry and brain surgery. Today’s science fiction will always become tomorrows reality.
So where does this leave libraries and librarians? Well, I don’t expect them to go extinct. Instead, they might continue on their digitized and virtualized career paths until they only serve as “mixed reality” (technology which allows a user to interact with a 3D layout over actual physical reality: HoloLense from Microsoft). So rather than whine about the real extinction of the classical “Alexandria” libraries, I’m going to tout and embrace the appearance of Hyperlinked Libraries.
My commentary is as much about library communities as it is about community building in general. Peter Block wrote about community systems building in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging (2009). I think his premise is spot on, however, I disagree a nuance to this discussion that Professor Michael Stephens writes about in his SJSU INFO 287, Module 5 description:
“Building a relationship between the librarian and the user is a step toward establishing the bonds of community. That’s why we can’t just hide behind our reference desks or our virtual lecterns and hope that students or users listen but leave us alone. Active engagement begins here. If we can articulate our purpose and goals well and use it as a basis for building community, we are on the right track.”
Community is definitely the result of bond-building with others — I concede this point. But I do not think information professionals “hide behind our reference desks or our virtual lectures…”. I argue that info professionals including librarians are progressively being replaced by maker-space facilitators and libraries with virtual reality. My reasons are both social and economic: academic and public libraries are constantly competing for funding with other entities and other missions. When libraries transform fully into maker-spaces for communities and webpage portals for academia, librarians will need to accommodate their members via virtual everything. (Below is a medical student and professor studying VR anatomy.)
Technologies such as the HoloLense are free for qualified communities (they offer it to thousands of different non-profits and schools). They plan on increasing their awards and improving their technologies. I do not thing that government funding will be provided for libraries whose document collections are made of paper in the near future. I think the funding will go towards far less expensive mobile devices and information professional hubs.
Book/physical print analogue libraries will become maker spaces. And the “healing power” of the last physical libraries (Stolls, 2015) will be experienced virtually, in a mixed-reality or virtual reality library. I do not mean that community building will become a sterile and anonymous experience. Neither do I mean that new technologies will fix what people haven’t been able to and probably cannot. I agree with Danah Boyd’s comment in What World Are We Building? (2915) when she argues that technology is made by people and contains all the good, bad, and ugly that we do, in society through our communities. Instead, I think it’s going to “mirror and magnify” our physical behaviors. The implication is simply that community will still be fostered by libraries and information professionals will continue to serve those communities but with far greater resources and types of services (just consider the entire library collection from Europe and Asia hyperlinked into your local community).
And just to modify my point a little, mixed reality systems will become so lifelike that in-person interactions will be satisfyingly replicated, but never replaced. This is the leverage that government funding will use to abandon physical libraries as such. This is why only maker-spaces will survive and thrive. I have a computer at home and an iphone in hand, but I don’t have space for a sewing workshop, nor the budget or expertise for procuring and using sewing tables with large pattern-cutting grids, expensive tools such as a reliable and decent quality machine, variety of often expensive materials, or a teacher to physically guide my fingers the first time I put fabric to the needle.