June 24, 2008

Implementing the Prototype (Thinkering Spaces III)

Hav­ing 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 Illi­nois Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy Insti­tute of Design folks are going to imple­ment two instal­la­tions in the Chicagoland area so that they can mon­i­tor them closely. While they hope to put one in Chicago itself, they’re also look­ing at putting the other in a nearby sub­urb in order to get usage data from a range of demo­graph­ics. Accord­ing to the grant’s time­line, this will hap­pen around Sep­tem­ber and will last for a few months, as this is phase is a tem­po­rary one. Then project staff will ana­lyze and pub­lish the data in 2009.

We all agreed that there needs to be some starter con­tent for users to play with from day one, and while the intent is to pro­vide an unstruc­tured, infor­mal learn­ing envi­ron­ment, I think there’s also some hope that stu­dents will be able to use it to col­lab­o­rate on school­work, too. So they’ll need to find some con­tent part­ners, espe­cially for the long haul. One of the things I like about this project is that it’s another way for libraries to gen­er­ate and pro­vide access to local con­tent. I’m thrilled that the trial will be in this area since Chicago has such great his­tory. In fact, a meet­ing we had the next day reminded us that 2009 will be the cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion of Daniel Burnham’s plan for Chicago, which is a nat­ural fit from every angle — recre­ational, infor­ma­tional, and edu­ca­tional. In addi­tion, res­i­dents could build resources about the com­mu­nity and attach to books infor­ma­tion that, as TJ noted, can’t be found on the web or on Ama­zon when you look up a title online.

Per­son­ally, I won­der if teach­ing media lit­er­acy has more impact in this type of envi­ron­ment where users are mash­ing up con­tent from dis­parate resources, and I think there are nat­ural tie-ins for teach­ing both kids and adults about pri­vacy, fair use (using Cre­ative Com­mons licenses), and dig­i­tal iden­tity. Unfor­tu­nately, it may be too late in the cycle to plan a con­tent mod­ule around pol­i­tics and the elec­tion, but maybe the users will do that them­selves (espe­cially with a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date from Illi­nois). When there are more of these instal­la­tions in libraries, it’s easy to imag­ine a net­work spring­ing up where librar­i­ans curate con­tent and post it online for other Thinker­ing Spaces projects to down­load and [re-]use. Imag­ine hav­ing some­thing like this in place in New Orleans and sur­round­ing states so that vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina could record their sto­ries and add to the body of knowl­edge that will be pub­lished in print. As the IIT folks said, the book becomes the patron repos­i­tory, and it is no longer a pas­sive object. It’s not just open source space, but open source con­tent, too.

Obvi­ously it will take time to scale this up in terms of num­bers, so IIT is design­ing a plan. I would hope to start region­ally, build­ing statewide in Illi­nois, and then expand­ing across the coun­try. In fact, with the right fund­ing, a part­ner­ship with IFLA would make it pos­si­ble to do this inter­na­tion­ally and tie sis­ter cities together through the instal­la­tions to let users col­lab­o­rate across geog­ra­phy. And maybe ALA’s Pub­lic Pro­grams Office could inte­grate this type of space with its exhibits, and when it trav­els from one site to the next, user-generated con­tent goes with it, avail­able for users at the next site to remix. So many possibilities.

But right now the work is focused on get­ting those first two test instal­la­tions up and run­ning. I’m hop­ing to track this project very closely, visit the libraries where they are imple­mented, and report back peri­od­i­cally. I’m opti­mistic about the poten­tial for inter­ac­tions and part­ner­ships within the com­mu­nity, although I’m wor­ried that the short time­frame can’t pos­si­bly expose all of the pos­si­bil­i­ties. I think just see­ing how users play with con­tent in these new ways will be enough to spark our col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion (as it did mine) and give us a glimpse of the future.

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8:36 am Comments (7)


  1. […] Imple­ment­ing the Pro­to­type (Thinker­ing Spaces III) Hav­ing 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 Illi­nois Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy Insti­tute of Design folks are going to imple­ment two instal­la­tions in the Chicagoland area so tha… […]

    Pingback by Books and Magazines Blog » Archive » Implementing the Prototype (Thinkering Spaces III) — June 24, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

  2. […] imme­di­ately reminded of the Thinker­ing Spaces that Jenny Levine has been post­ing about. The bit about “medi­at­ing objects, rules and events” makes me think that libraries […]

    Pingback by there’s a stranger in the library! - walking paper — July 5, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  3. So I am absolutely blown away by this project. Bring­ing the cre­ation of new con­tent into a library space, be it phys­i­cal or vir­tual is a really impor­tant step in appeal­ing to new media lit­er­acy. I’m won­der­ing why this project lacks any kind of con­tent push to mobile devices though? Its great to have this portable inter­ac­tive space that can be set up in pub­lic libraries, but I imag­ine I’d really like to “take home” some of the con­tent when all is said and done. Is that part of the plan, or am I miss­ing something?

    Comment by Nate — July 5, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  4. […] le savoir Le blog Shifted librar­ian con­sacre trois arti­cles à un pro­jet nommé Thinker­ing spaces développé par le Illi­nois Insti­tute of Technology’s […]

    Pingback by Bricoler le savoir « Blog de veille bm — July 8, 2008 @ 2:54 am

  5. The folks from IIT did some ini­tial field work at our library. It is so cool to see the vision turned into reality.

    Comment by Karen — July 8, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  6. Thinker­ing­Spaces…

    Thinker­ing­Spaces, Jenny Levine
    Jenny Levine kir­joit­taa The Shifted Librar­ian –blo­gis­saan MacArthur-säätiön rahoit­ta­masta ja Illi­nois Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy Insti­tute of Designin suun­nit­tele­masta ThinkeringSpaces-tutkimushankkeesta, joka kuu­lostaa v…

    Trackback by Sorvipenkin äärellä — August 14, 2008 @ 12:27 am

  7. […] Imple­ment­ing the Pro­to­type (Thinker­ing Spaces III) These icons link to social book­mark­ing sites where read­ers can share and dis­cover new web pages. […]

    Pingback by The Shifted Librarian » Thinkering Spaces in Libraries — September 22, 2008 @ 10:36 pm

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