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One could argue that slang words like “hangry,” “defriend” and “adorkable” fill crucial meaning gaps in the English language, even if they don’t appear in the dictionary. After all, who actually decides which words make it into those vaulted pages? Language historian Anne Curzan gives a charming look at the humans behind dictionaries, and the choices they make on a constant basis.
Published on Jun 17, 2014
In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we’ve ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education.
We made this video, built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested. However, we encourage everyone to seek out the full speech (because, in this case, the book is definitely better than the movie).
But not the way you think.
The last time I saw something on a trip that gave me an idea to blog about, I didn’t do it fast enough and David King beat me to it. Not this time! (Sort of.)
On my way to Massachusetts Library Association conference last week I flew Delta and they had a seat-back in-flight entertainment system. Here’s a few photos: (click to embiggen)
Here’s the question: what’s missing?
How about “Read” as a choice on that main menu? Or, on the second menu, how about “Books” to listen to?
Well, it does seem that Singapore Airlines and the National Library Board have already beat me to the audiobooks idea. (Thanks Dan.)
So, who wants to set something up with e-books and Delta?
P.S. Delta’s system runs on Linux! (Though all those “Invalid arguments” did make we wonder about the system’s stability.)
In case you haven’t noticed I think about Copyright. Author’s rights. Libraries’ rights. Purchasing vs. accessing. Is copying theft or not. I read about these topics. I think about these topics. I blog and speak about these topics. I don’t want to sound like I’m obsessed, but it’s something that’s important to me as both a librarian and an author.
But now, it’s starting to creep into my everyday life. For example, this morning I was reading an Advance Reader’s Edition of the next Dean Koontz novel 77 Shadow Street. Very earl in the novel I can across the following paragraph:
Blandon was one of the Jerks. He belonged in jail, but he bought his freedom by loading up on attorneys in five-thousand-dollar suits. No doubt he had also threatened to take half his political party down with him if they didn’t put their hands up the backsides of their puppet prosecutors and puppet judges to ensure that the Muppet show called justice would follow the plot he preferred.
Instead of enjoying the image of a lawyer as human Muppet I immediately thought "hey, Muppet is a trademarked term (I think). Did he have to get permission to use that? Even if he didn’t have to, did he anyway?” (Ok, technically this isn’t a copyright issue, it’s a trademark issue, but close enough to make my point.)
Sure, it’s probably fair use. But is this a Kleenex vs. facial tissue sort of situation? A Muppet is a type of puppet. Did Dean need to be that specific? If Disney sued and he changed it to “puppet” to settle the suit, would that change the metaphor? Should I be writing Muppet™ every time just to cover myself.
Oh, and let’s not forget that this is a edition of a book that clearly states “NOT FOR SALE” on the cover yet I purchased it on eBay. Sure, right of first sale and all, but is that statement on the cover an implicit license to the original owner of this copy? Did they ask for it then resell it, or was it given to them by the publisher unrequested. (Yes, that has actually made a difference in some first sale doctrine court cases.) Oh, and did you know that even though the first sale doctrine most likely applies to selling this copy, you can’t sell one on Amazon? (Their site, their rules, but I’m sure it’s because they don’t want to piss off the publishers, legal or not.)
I guess my point is that copyright in this country has gotten so complex that it just doesn’t necessarily make sense, as applied, any more. All of this makes me think of something I recently heard Cory Doctorow say which I’ll need to paraphrase as I can’t find the actual quote:
Copyright is like banking regulation. Sure we need to regulate banks and those large transactions but that doesn’t mean those regulations should kick in if I want to borrow five dollars from a friend.
Yes, copyright has it’s place but industrial grade regulations shouldn’t necessarily apply to the individual. If for no other reason that it’s starting to make my brain hurt.
So, I’m back from Internet Librarian 2011 and as usual my head is full of big hairy audacious ideas but at this point there’s only one thing that’s blog-worthy; the story of what happened to me around gaming night.
When it comes to gaming I play the occasional video game but I’m more of a player of card and board games. One of my current favorites is a card game called Fluxx from Looney Labs. It’s hard to describe since the rules and goal of the game constantly change, hence the name. During gaming night a fellow librarian came up to the table to watch the game and asked “how is this game relevant to libraries?” In my infinite wisdom I answered “uh, just to have fun.” Later she asked “why did you bring this game” and my equally stellar answer to this question was “because I enjoy teaching it to others.” Both answers were completely accurate but obviously I’d not thought either of these issues through at all.
The next morning the opening keynote at the conference was given by John Seely Brown, former head of Xerox PARC, author of the classic The Social Life of Information and the forthcoming A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. One of his central points was that context is just as, if not more, important than the specifics when it comes to learning. This is something I’ve believed for years, and try to pass along myself whenever I get a chance. For example, I may not necessarily know how to solve a specific computer problem but I understand the context of the computer and it’s software enough (maybe something like, right-clicking in windows generally gets you a menu of options,) that I can apply the context to the specific situation and solve the problem at hand.
The next morning Donna Hopkins, the librarian at Champion Technologies and player of Fluxx the previous evening, came up to me and said “listening to the keynote this morning reminded me of your game last night.” At first I didn’t understand the connection at all and I asked her to explain it to me. Her basic point was that the basic rules of Fluxx, draw a card then play a card, was the general context of the game. However, as the rules and goals change, you need to take that general context and apply it to the particular situation that you’re faced during your turn.
Let’s just say that I have a completely different point of view when it comes to this game now. Yes, it’s fun. (I’ve not yet taught it to someone who’s later said they never again wanted to play it.) But now I think I can use it as a way to demonstrate the context vs. specifics concept.
So, who’s up for a game of Fluxx?
(Image source: Wunderland.com – How to Play Fluxx 3.0)