Wednesday, November 4, 2009

David Hockney, iPhone, and the idea of "original" in a digital world

I've been reading Lawrence Weschler's recent article in the NY Review of Books on David Hockney and his use of the iPhone to make digital paintings.

David Hockney's iPhone PassionBy Lawrence Weschler. New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 16.

And listening and viewing the associated podcast and slideshow of Hockney's digital paintings.

These are born digital works of art. Hockney makes the pictures on his iPhone and sends them to several friends; they send them on to their friends. Weschler notes that none of these images are "copies." Each is the "original." There is no difference between one or another of these images. Hockney has not made a series (an unlimited series?) No one has applied a process to make copies that introduces any difference between the "original" and the "copy." Although Hockney only made one "copy" of any of his digital paintings, there are simply multiple originals. One and many at once. Original and copy at once. The cognitive dissoance is stimulating and revealing.

I find this interesting in how thoroughly this shows the concepts of "original" and "copy" that we use all the time with art objects and books and such are overthrown by digital production and distribution tools and processes. What new ideas and new words will come to replace "original" and "copy"? What new mental models and thus operational models will we construct to live with multiple originals? What new social arrangements will we make to accomodate ourselves to this radical abundance of information, of art, and of originals?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The 21st Century Academic Library

The Yale Archival Reading Group (YARG) has selected as its next text

Lewis, David W. "A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century," College & Research Libraries 68 (5): 418 434.

This is a must read for academic librarians.

Lewis develops a strategy for the next 20 years (more or less) of academic libraries.

Good assumptions and reasonable strategies. However, Lewis doesn't see consolidation of academic libraries as a primary factor in the next couple of decades and continues to think of libraries primarily as physical locations or spaces. Thus he misses the importance of consolidation to libraries as providers of networked information services for teaching, learning & research (and I'd add publication, too.)

As providers of networked information services, there is little reason to be tied to or sub-ordinate to a particular college or university. Individual researchers, students, teachers and writers could draw upon a global information service for their specific needs as a researcher, student, teacher or writer. Of course, campus learning environments would have to be open to such networked information services--but they will have to be to take advantage of the Internet or cloud or world wide computer.

In general, the consequence of consolidation for libraries as providers of networked information services is one big library (probably a for profit advertising supported operation with some non-profit players on the edges) for the Internet. Locally, the academic library would become a museum of the book (and the serial, the map, the manuscript, the archive, the sound recording, the film, etc.); in short, a special collections library with collections that are tied to the library's parent institution.

As I see it, libraries will split into highly consolidated providers of networked information services and local, institution-specific special collections libraries/archives/museums/.