June 18, 2008

Mashing Up Content in the Library (Thinkering Spaces II)

Yes­ter­day I gave an overview of the Thinker­ing Spaces project, so today I want to explain a lit­tle more about how we were able to manip­u­late con­tent using the var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies and objects.

TJ puts this book with an RFID tag in it on the reader RFID is a big com­po­nent of the sys­tem, as it iden­ti­fies con­tent and allows it to travel with an object. To start, the TS folks put a book with an RFID chip on the reader, which trig­gers a process that dis­plays the cover on the screen, along with a key­board for typ­ing text to asso­ciate with the title. In this case, the con­tainer is the book, and the user can draw or type to add con­tent that will travel with it. To illus­trate this, they remove the first book and put a sec­ond one on the reader. A new cover image appears, along with some infor­ma­tion that’s already been added by a pre­vi­ous user. Take that book off and put the first one back on, and the con­tent we added reap­pears. The whole thing is very cool, and I imme­di­ately started think­ing about local his­tory col­lec­tions, school­work, and reader reviews. All of which is the point — your librar­ian mind starts hop­ping with possibilities.

Then they showed us a library card with an RFID chip in it. This one hap­pened to have infor­ma­tion about me stored on it, so putting it on the reader brought up infor­ma­tion about me, which rotated with books I rec­om­mend. Oth­ers in the Thinker­ing Space could see all of this about me, which would be great if I was work­ing with a group I’m men­tor­ing, coör­di­nat­ing, or col­lab­o­rat­ing with. The IIT folks under­stand the pri­vacy issues involved, though, so they’re explor­ing dif­fer­ent ways to han­dle this. Alter­na­tives include using avatars with­out per­son­ally iden­ti­fi­able infor­ma­tion, hav­ing the group build a per­sona to achieve cer­tain skills, and using spe­cial cards for col­lab­o­ra­tive clubs rather than embed­ding the infor­ma­tion in stan­dard library cards (this would pro­vide an opt-in sys­tem). None of this is set in stone, but it demon­strates one way in which library users might share infor­ma­tion about them­selves in the phys­i­cal library.

hey, that's me! hey, that's me!

Next, we began play­ing with the story of The Wiz­ard of Oz by plac­ing a Rubik’s Cube with RFID chips on it on a reader. The starter Oz con­tent is attached to this con­tainer and it can include the text and images from the book itself. Plac­ing a sec­ond, blank, paper “sto­rycube” on the reader brings up a tem­plate where some­one can use a wand to drag and drop images into a tem­plate to tell a story, which can then be saved to another object (in this case, it was a small doll). Putting a sec­ond doll on the reader brought up some­one else’s story. The con­tainer could be any­thing that uses RFID or bar­codes. Turn­ing the cube pro­duces other con­tent, such as weather maps (watch for tor­na­does), and putting a cam­era on the reader brings up pic­tures and images related to the book, all of which can be manip­u­lated on the screen.

storycubes put a different doll on the reader and get someone else's story TJ turns the cube and a different weather map appears

TJ then took some pic­tures of the group and other objects in the space, and since his dig­i­tal cam­era had an Eye-Fi card in it, the pic­tures began appear­ing on the screen as well. We could then mash up these pic­tures with text, sounds, and other dig­i­tal con­tent to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive, a pre­sen­ta­tion, a doc­u­ment, or just explore them all together. The space also has a dig­i­tal micro­scope and a web­cam that can project images onto the screen as well.

We also played with a col­lab­o­ra­tive draw­ing table that just does a basic col­or­ing demo right now. How­ever, the idea is that there might be some projects where users can work on their own pieces sep­a­rately to build a larger whole, or they may have to col­lab­o­rate and work together as a team to cre­ate some­thing. Some­times they might have their head down work­ing, but other times they might have their head up, inter­act­ing with the other par­tic­i­pants. Pretty much every­thing in the space is based on col­lab­o­ra­tion, as opposed to sin­gle users.

What I like about these ideas is that they expand on exist­ing con­tent in the library, using the library’s col­lec­tion, and mash­ing it up with users’ ideas to cre­ate some­thing new. It’s Jon Udell’s remixed phys­i­cal library, not just the online one. Or the users cre­ate some­thing new from the begin­ning, based on their inter­ac­tions with our col­lec­tions and ser­vices. The com­mu­nity can con­tribute con­tent and knowl­edge, and the library could archive it.

And it doesn’t have to be just for kids or stu­dents. For seniors who have trou­ble using a mouse and a com­puter, a setup that lets them use a wand (or even bet­ter, their fin­gers) to drag objects might allow them to play with dig­i­tal con­tent (espe­cially local his­tory) in dif­fer­ent ways. Could fam­i­lies cre­ate genealog­i­cal his­to­ries this way and mash them up with com­mu­nity resources? The Shanachies in the Nether­lands intend to build a giant screen in the DOK Library Con­cept Cen­ter where res­i­dents can post their own sto­ries and pic­tures. Imag­ine com­bin­ing that with library cards that let those res­i­dents update their sto­ries and remix them in a Thinker­ing Space.

It will be inter­est­ing to see what hap­pens to things like nar­ra­tive and copy­right in these types of envi­ron­ments. One of the ques­tions now is will libraries be one of them? This project gives me hope that the answer is yes, and hon­estly, what bet­ter insti­tu­tion do we have in which to dis­cuss, explore, and imple­ment the answers?

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10:25 pm Comments (8)


  1. thanks for the exam­ples Jenny. This is so excit­ing and reminds me of my library school expe­ri­ence of cre­at­ing a mock up of a web page (on index cards!! in 1994. we could imag­ine how this would work, but had no real idea of how it would evolve. look­ing for­ward to this stage of the revolution!

    Comment by john — June 19, 2008 @ 8:11 am

  2. This is blow­ing me away! I can’t really put my head around it, and I guess that’s the point; this is just the begin­ning, no? Tech­nol­ogy won’t solve all of our prob­lems, but these tools are going to prove immensely use­ful for so many pur­poses. I really appre­ci­ate you post­ing this!

    Comment by Karl — June 19, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

  3. Thanks Jenny–and your post makes me think that mash­ing up phys­i­cal, dig­i­tal and idea­space in libraries is some­thing that we’re ready to take on more seri­ously, as a pro­fes­sion. Or, I should say, I would have loved to include this idea in our Mashed-Up Library Sym­po­sium, com­ing up next Fri­day at ALA! I am guess­ing you’ll have offi­cial ALA duties to per­form on Friday–and I know this is beta–but the Thinker­ing Spaces would be so cool to have set up for peo­ple to play with…

    Comment by Alice Sneary — June 20, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  4. um, uh.…i’m speachless!

    Comment by aaron — June 20, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  5. awe­some post! Thanks for the read.

    Comment by ron — June 26, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  6. […] explained what the Thinker­ing Spaces project is about and how it works, I want to wrap up some thoughts on it by not­ing next steps. Using the MacArthur grant, the […]

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  8. […] users cre­ative sides by allow­ing them to inter­act with infor­ma­tion, rather than just […]

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