Peppy le Pew and Snidely Whiplash

By Tom Peters |

For the past few days I've been an early morning denizen of the Denny's restaurant at the corner of Munras and Fremont in Monterey, California.  It's close to my hotel and always open.  If you're an early morning person in the Midwest, you're a REALLY early morning person on the West Coast.


Lee Rainie from the Pew Internet and American Life Project was the opening keynote speaker on Monday, the first day of the Internet Librarian Conference being held here.  I fondly refer to Lee as Peppy le Pew because he's very animated and energetic (in a NY/NJ kinda way) and he works for Pew, not because either his message or his

person stinks.

home detention ankletLee spoke about 2.0 and the Internet World.  This new digital ecosystem has several key characteristics.  Home and mobile media gadgets and omni-functional cell phones are major components of this emerging information landscape.  I reckon home detention anklets are the seamy underbelly of that tech trend.  They serve only one purpose (as far as I know) and they keep you homebound, not mobile.   

Rainie reported that nearly all teens now regularly use the Internet, and three out of every four American adults regularly do.  Online social networks have become the dashboards for the social lives of teens.  Approximately one out of every five young adults has created an avatar in virtual worlds.  In the minds of many, rating content and online experiences has been perceived as an obligation to the online community. 

To understand the meaning of all these developments, Rainie encouraged conference attendees to examine the Three A's:   Assets (gadgets), Actions, and Attitudes of these networked individuals.

Based on data collected and compiled within the Pew Internet and America Life Project, Rainie divided technology users into nine groups, with non-users being the tenth group:

  1. Omnivores (8 percent of the U.S. population):  They enthusiastically use everything related to mobile communications technology.
  2. Connectors (7 percent):  This group, trending toward older females, really uses the communication aspects of these technologies.
  3. Lackluster Veterans (8 percent):  They use the Internet frequently, but are less avid about cell phones.  (If self-placement is permitted, I think I would classify myself as a lackluster veteran.) 
  4. Productivity Enhancers (8 percent of population):  They have strongly positive views about how technology helps them increase their productivity at work and at home. 
  5. Mobile Centrics (10 percent of the population):   They fully embrace the functionality of their cell phones, but don't use the Internet much. 
  6. Connected But Hassled (10 percent):  They find all this connectivity intrusive and information something of a burden.  They often experience information overload. 
  7. Inexperienced Experimenters (8 percent):  These casual users occasionally take advantage of interactivity.
  8. Light But Satisfied (15 percent):  They have some technology, but it does not play a major role in their lives.  They love TV and radio. 
  9. Indifferents (11 percent):  They proudly proclaim that they don't like this technology, but they begrudgingly use it a little. 
  10. Off the Network (15 percent):  They have neither a cell phone nor an Internet connection.  Older females dominate this group.  

The most schizophrenic session of the day (actually, of all the conferences I've attended in many moons) was one about strategic approaches to the new academic library.  Tomalee Doan, Head of MEL, the Management and Electronics Library, at Purdue University, gave an interesting but predictable “how-we-done-it-reel-gud-in-our-lieberry” presentation about effecting change in an academic library.

Then Bruce Krajewski from Texas Woman's University, like a fox in a chicken coop, spoke about how surprised he is that librarians do not consider and discuss more the broader social, political, and economic implications of the Library 2.0 movement.  He's an English professor, not a librarian.  He's concerned that libraries are becoming too chummy with economic interests, captains of industry, and that portion of the population that has perhaps nefarious reasons for encouraging the entire population to use the Web more. His final slide contained a doctored image of the Starbucks logo with the phrase "consumer whore" added. 

Nelson shuttlecockHis message was as refreshing as an onshore breeze off Monterey Bay, but the studied snideness--albeit mild-mannered--of his delivery was troubling.  The studied snideness of much academic discourse is offputting to me.  Where and why do they all learn to do that?  I guess we can refer to Bruce as Snidely Whiplash.  He read his paper, which is common at many academic conferences, but not at librarian conferences.  The medium, the message, and the delivery were unsettling in a provocative way. 

Erica Reynolds from the Johnson County Library in Kansas gave a great presentation about how library website redesign teams can gain inspiration from a visit to their local museum of art.  Her main point:  Library websites should be redesigned to incorporate and convey the splendor, whimsy, and visceral engagement of works of art, such as the gigantic shuttlecocks on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

I'll be in Monterey--breakfasting unfashionably early at Denny's--only through Tuesday, so hopefully my weight and cholesterol levels will not balloon like they did for that guy who ate exclusively at McDonald's for an entire month.