Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Hot off the Press!
Article Type: Column From: Library Hi Tech News, Volume 28, Issue 9
Hot off the Press! Is a column dedicated to new trends and tendencies in information technologies and social networking with ideas related the value of these technologies in libraries. This column will also focus on new books on topics such as mobile computing, social networking, and even novels with a focus on technology. I will also be highlighting some technology blogs, web sites, and archived webinars, and movies with a technology theme. So, stay tuned with Hot off the Press!
This column is one reflection of what is happening in the technology world with a view to the library world at the same time: digital stores offering all kind of virtual services, voice recognition which will extend the possibility to gain access to information for many people, social medias and the development of democracy around the world, a cooking web site that provides a map of experts and schools around the world to learn new ways of making food. All of these examples have been chosen because librarians, as we all know, are innovative people, that can adapt them!
Digital Stores: new concepts for the future?
The Apple Stores are examples of the store of tomorrow: the Digital Store that is a concept imagined by the Intuilab.com company and l'Echangeur. fr. What is it? It offers a broad range of interactive systems for helping people with product sales and services in shops, stores or agencies. The software applications are deployed for the majority of telecommunications, banking, insurance companies or large distribution products and services. A variety of interactive multi-touch screens (vertical screens, tablets like Android and iPad) support users as self-service store customers, as a collaboration customer/salesman, or salesman. As the creators of the concept report that the idea of this new place illustrates the practices and concepts innovating in the field of digital interaction in a store. It is an experiment in phase with the new digital culture and in complete synergy with e-commerce (on smart phones or tablets).
Is it a dream to think of the future library as being such a place, offering all kind of virtual services just by touching screens? In a way it is already the case with for example the libraries of the City of London in Great Britain with their new App for iPhone giving the possibility to look at their union catalogue or the opening hours of the nearest library or the latest exhibits.
Another example is SKY Digital Stores Corporation, a mobile internet products and application services provider that announced the opening of a new concept store in Shenzhen, the most populated city in China's Guangdong Province. Steven Lin, Xiangfeng, SKY Digital's Chief Executive Officer, comments this opening:
The store's unique and consumer friendly environment allows customers to explore and gain a better appreciation of our products and their functions. This enables us to provide products and services that will enhance our customers' lives.
Technologies for voice recognition
Voice recognition is an important development for the future of internet, and can have many obvious opportunities for libraries. For example, French television public channels (following the British and Swiss channels) are going to translate instantaneously the news given by journalists with texts on the screen. Until now 10 per cent of the French population, because of language barriers, had no possibilities to follow what is happening in the world on television. With voice recognition technology, French speakers could read on the screen what is happening. This technology is a mix between automatic translation and instant human correction, in the case of mistakes. One of the leading voice experts with 25 years of experience is the Acapela Group, that has invented text-to-speech solutions to give content a voice in up to 30 languages. The speech solutions allow one person to turn any written text into natural speech files, using any of the 60 high quality standard voices (www.acapela-group.com).
Voice recognition and automatic voices are more and more used in our daily life. To be more precise, automatic voices are built on the basis of hours of recording natural human voices constituting a database of speeches and then, when needed, the machine rebuilds a sentence with using this voice database for applications such as traffic and public announcements in stations or subways, phone contacts with banks, insurance or airline companies, and other organisations in the public and private sectors. Another implementation is “Dragon” that is used by physicians and lawyers. The Dragon speech recognition software makes it easier for anyone to use a computer. You talk, and it types. It uses your voice to create and edit documents or e-mails, launch applications, open files, or control your mouse (http://nuance.com/dragon/index.htm). The movie industry has employed this technology for the re-invention of the famous eighteenth century castrato singer Farinelli by mixing the voices of a tenor (Derek Lee Ragin) and of a soprano (Ewa Maas-Godlewska) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farinelli_(film)).
Google is working on a broad project of voice recognition for YouTube. As one example, a speech of Barack Obama filmed on YouTube could be analysed with voice recognition of the President, the location, and the words themselves, that will all be indexed. Archives and libraries have much to offer because of their experience and knowledge in creating metadata and indexing information.
Other options for voice recognition: when you are driving, texts and e-mails can be read by an automatic voice, providing greater security and safety than taking the cell phone in hand when it rings; when you phone to your bank for some financial operations, your voice is recognized, etc. Similar opportunities exist for libraries in terms of book availability, overdue notices, and even general reference questions.
How the internet gets inside of us
In an article in The New Yorker (February 14, 2011), Adam Gopnick delivers his reflexions – about information in general and the internet in particular. He notes that Google was born in 1997 at the same time as the publication of the first book of the Harry Potter series. An exponential literature – discuss why books as we know them will disappear in the next several years. Gopnick reviews how each new technological revolution brings about more democracy and how the evolution of the internet constitutes inter-connected human communities, facilitating the circulation of information. Each one of us belongs to one or several of these communities, developing a worldwide “human brain”. Gopnick reconsiders the majority of the authors having written on these technological phenomena and in particular on the writings of Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows. Carr insists on the fact that if reading of a book isolates the individual from the world, a computer has exactly the opposite effect, with possibilities of infinite connections. The result is that humanity seems to have elected residence in an immense library.
Democracy and social networking
The internet and democracy is an important topic studied by Manuell Castells, the famous sociologist in his last book published in Europe, Communication Power, first published in 2009 in the USA. According to Castells, the rise of integrative information, communication and community-building as well as internet platforms such as blogs, wikis, or social networking sites has not only prompted the development of new concepts – web 2.0, social software, and social media, but also a new economic democracy in which we all have a leading role. Manuel Castells' Communication Power is a powerful narrative about the connection of communication and power in contemporary society. It presents rich empirical details, illuminating case studies, and represents an original and insightful approach. The central new category that the book introduces is the one of “mass self-communication.” It is also a book about the feasibility of web 2.0, the notion of social movements, the role of the movement for democratic globalization in contemporary society, and the centrality of information and communications power.
Last June, Castells was presenting his book in Paris at the Fondation de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (FMSH) (recorded in French www.msh-paris.fr/actualites/actualite/article/ni-dieu ni-maitre-les-reseaux/). Man of universal knowledge, reading and speaking several languages, synthesizing and analysing the phenomena of current communication, in particular the social networks, he establishes a clear link between the revolutions in several Arab countries and social medias, and shows that an authoritative political regime has little chance to survive at the time of internet. He also provides examples of the Egyptian revolution and the Spanish movement of Indignados.
What is cooking?
I would like to end this column with an original approach, the Cookoo web site, that was launched very recently. Three passionate friends of travels and gastronomy have just launched Cook-o (www.cook-o.com). The concept is new (to my knowledge) because it makes it possible to follow cooking courses everywhere in the world in a simple, clear and easy to understand way.
Until now this service did not exist and one needed to Google for a long time on the net to find a cooking school in certain destinations. Since the launching of Cook-o one month ago, courses are available in 34 destinations! For the moment the site is available in English but should quickly be in French, Spanish and Italian to start. The schools for cooking can be registered to give courses, but Cook-o also makes it possible amateurs chefs to create their page as chief and to propose courses. The instruction is completely free. Possibly libraries working collaboratively can offer courses using this approach as a model.
Cook-o also has a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Cooko/222827614410766
Jean-Philippe Accart(firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Director of Studies, Master of Advanced Studies in Archives, Librarianship and Information Sciences, Universities of Berne and Lausanne – Switzerland.