Week Seven

The idea of using “prompts” to drive innovation is one that I find highly interesting. My only real experience of a similar concept has been my occasional foray into creative writing, and my perusal of various websites and online forums where people share creative writing prompts and examples of the work that can arise from them.

An excellent example of this type of activity is the following subreddit:

http://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/

Essentially, one member of the forum supplies a writing prompt giving brief details of a situation, event or person; then other members craft their own story based on that prompt. It’s easy to get caught up in reading through the stories, and absolutely fascinating to see how the same prompt can result in so many completely different narratives, styles, and moods.

What makes me think this method could be applied to innovation and do wonders for creative inspiration is the diversity of responses to each prompt. Members of the forum can take a writing prompt consisting of a single sentence and create hundreds of different stories on the basis of that single sentence. Some are funny, some are sad, and some can actually be pretty scary.

It’s clear that these prompts inspire something different for each person who reads them. I feel that prompts can equally be used for innovation, leading to team members freely sharing their thoughts and coming up with new ideas. Sometimes getting the creative juices flowing requires a little push; there’s no telling where the right push could lead.

Week Six

Reading through The Ten Faces of Innovation, I identified more than one persona that I felt was representative of my own outlook and approach to work. I feel that I most closely resemble the person of “The Anthropologist”; my first step in approaching any task is almost always to stand back and observe the situation. I’ve always felt the need to carefully analyze my environment in order to identify a problem and deconstruct it before formulating a problem-solving strategy. I guess you can say I’m not much of an “action” person. However, observation can help to identify problems and potential solutions, anticipate the consequences of those solutions, and ultimately make informed decisions on the best course of action.

I also identify with “The Caregiver”, and I feel that it should represent a significant role in library service. In particular, public and academic libraries experience a great deal of traffic, and need to focus on fostering positive relationships with their constituent communities. Approaching library service as a business, “The Caregiver” can help to provide effective “customer service”, making an effort to understand each patron and their information-seeking goals, and guide them through the process in a way that ensures their satisfaction.

There are also several personae in which I feel my own outlook is seriously lacking. The most substantial of these is “The Experimenter”. In many ways, I feel that this persona is antithetical or incompatible with that of “The Anthropologist”. Experimenters take risks, try new ideas and approaches, and rely less on careful consideration of the variables and more on trial and error. My own approach is the “safer” path; I always weigh my options carefully before proceeding. Experimenting and trying new things is an essential part of innovation because it injects fresh ideas into a project, and I can see that this is an area in which I could use some development.

People can adopt multiple roles; however, I do not believe that one person can occupy every role. The type of innovation explored in this book entails the cooperation and collaboration of a team whose personae are complementary. Teams can achieve success in a way that eludes individuals because they incorporate each member’s strengths and make up for each member’s weaknesses.

Week Five

In the article, What if the Secret to Success is Failure?, Paul Tough takes a critical eye to our traditional education system, in particular its emphasis on testing. I have often felt, throughout my own education, that the emphasis on tests was an unfair and ineffective approach to learning. I often felt that I wasn’t actually learning anything; I was simply memorizing facts so that I could regurgitate them for a test. For the most part, I probably forgot those facts immediately after the test was over.

Although this was my experience throughout elementary and high school, my experience with university education has been markedly different. The coursework I’ve completed at SJSU has largely involved very few tests. Instead I’ve completed assignments that required me to think and engage with material. Most of my courses at SJSU have involved active participation. Discussion forums enable students to share their own experiences, relate to each other and the material. This blog is another prime example; the questions provided each week for our reflection posts ask us to take our readings, think about them critically, and respond to them by relating them to our own lives. I feel that this is a much more effective approach. Encouraging students to actively engage with material allows them to connect with it on a deeper level than if they are performing rote memorization. Connecting with material on this level helps us retain information, rather than simply memorizing it for the day of a test.

This type of active learning also follows the ideas discussed in A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, which suggests that true learning is “not about being taught knowledge; it is about absorbing it” (p. 77). Reading the discussion and blog posts from other students is very intriguing because we seem to have such very different responses to the same material. “Different people, when presented with exactly the same information in exactly the same way, will learn different things” (p. 79). With the level of variation in learning styles and the content of what we individually absorb, standardized testing simply seems unfair.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: Createspace.

Tough, P. (2011, September). What if the secret to success is failure. The New York Times.

Week Four

Predominantly because of the advent of the internet, we currently produce more information daily than ever before in our history. Clive Thompson’s article “Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter”, he estimates that, on a daily basis, “we send 154.6 billion emails, more than 400 million tweets, and over 1 million blog posts and around 2 million blog comments on WordPress. On Facebook, we post about 16 billion words. Altogether, we compose some 3.6 trillion words every day on email and social media — the equivalent of 36 million books”. The internet provides an outlet for quick and efficient production, retrieval and distribution of all types of information. Individual opinions can now be shared easily and quickly, and reach a much broader audience than was ever possible before.

Thompson also indicates that not all of this information is good. A simple Google search can return millions of results in less than a second, and the vast majority of information users lack the specialized knowledge to sift through such a vast quantity of information in order to determine which items are relevant, credible and useful for their purposes. This is where bounded educational institutions like libraries are uniquely qualified to step in. Such institutions can serve as mediators between information and information users, assisting users in finding quality information from valid sources and in interpreting the information that has been retrieved. Libraries can work to facilitate learning by encouraging users to engage with information on an intellectual level, using critical thinking skills to examine the credibility and relevance of information and arrive at their own conclusions.

References

Thompson, C. (2013). How successful networks nurture good ideas. Smarter than you think: How technology is changing our minds for the better. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2013/09/how-successful-networks-nurture-good-ideas-2/all/.

Week Three

My parents were both Trekkies way before I was born. It was therefore a foregone conclusion that I would become a full-fledged fangirl. My father was also a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings as a teenager, and so took me to see the Fellowship of the Ring on opening night. That was the event that cemented my future as a fangirl.

Now my fandoms have broadened further. I devote unreasonable amounts of time to several book series, television shows – Game of Thrones, Orphan Black and Hannibal being my top three – and movies. I’ve become particularly involved in Marvel films, and I’ve collected piles of comics and graphic novels to feed this passion.

I think fandoms really exploded into pop culture significance once the internet became popularized. For many people, this offered them the first opportunity to share their love for a particular movie, TV show, book series, etc., with like-minded and equally enthusiastic people. What was a niche, geeky obsession for my parents was, for me, commonplace. The vast majority of my friends shared at least one fandom with me, and if there was one fandom in which I was alone, there were always online communities to engage with.

The article defines the real difference between liking something and being a fan of it – the average consumer of media is passive; they read a book, watch a film, and then they move on. Fans participate on a much more active level. Fandom stimulates a deeper connection and understanding to a work. Fans may write fanfiction, create fan art, discuss and debate their fandom at length online or in person. They can be seen as passionate or even obsessive about their fandoms. As Katie Behrens states, “fandoms are creative, supportive, inspiring, instructive”. I feel that fandom represents a huge benefit to teens in particular, encouraging them to explore their own passions, develop their creativity, and interact with other people who share their interests. It may even help keep them out of trouble; There is less pressure to fit in, to conform to one’s peers, when one has an established group of supportive, enthusiastic and like-minded individuals with which to socialize.

Behrens, K. (2012). Essay: Why you should pay attention to fandoms. The Library as Incubator Project. Retrieved from http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?p=7618.

Week Two

While I see the value in libraries embracing the widest range of interests as is possible (including both mainstream and niche interests), I do feel that a more valuable contribution to library services is the opportunity for users to “geek out”. In part this reaction is entirely selfish; I live in a fairly isolated, rural area, and I have few opportunities to engage in geek behavior with like-minded individuals. This frustration is probably shared by many geeks.

While mainstream interests are fairly accessible and easy to pursue, exploring geek interests can be trickier. There may be the occasional film festival or comic convention, but these events occur sporadically and infrequently. Oftentimes they also take place in major cities, and those of us who are geographically or financially challenged simply can’t make the trip.

In catering to users who are interested in “geeking out”, libraries can attract a segment of the population that has frequently been marginalized by the larger culture, and provide them with the opportunity to explore and develop their shared interests in a social environment that is safe, inclusive, and knowledgeable; thereby the focus on opportunities for users to “geek out” can be highly beneficial to both libraries and the patrons they serve.

Week One

For the first week’s reflection post, I wanted to talk a bit about the influence of social media and internet culture on the formative years of the average person’s life. As discussed in Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out, I do feel that social media offers many opportunities for young people to perform social exploration, share interests, and forge friendships. Growing up as a shy and socially awkward child, it was my experience that online interaction came much easier than conversing face-to-face. An online conversation excludes the need for one to worry about how they present themselves in terms of personal appearance or affect. For people who struggle with insecurity or self-criticism, this can have a tremendous positive impact on social interaction; it can be immensely freeing to know that you will be judged only on the content of your words, rather than any number of other qualities.

Unfortunately, the freedom from judgment offered by online social interactions is a double-edged sword. While it may offer many individuals the opportunity to express themselves more freely, it has also led to a great deal of abusive social interaction. Many people post things online that they would never say to a person’s face, and cyberbullying has become a huge issue in modern western society, most frequently among youth populations. Bullying is not a new phenomenon; however, online culture and social media has essentially enabled a child’s bully to follow them home. The potential for both positive and negative social experiences has extended beyond traditional boundaries through the advent of online culture.

References

Ito, et al. (2010). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.