Rory Litwin wrote a thought-provoking post on Library Juice this morning that I’ve been mulling over most of the day. I’m not well-versed in economics, but the post provides a nice introduction to the concept of commodity trading and gives salient definitions. The crux of the metaphor is this:
What I’m getting at is that there is a kind of library talk that you can read on blogs and hear at conference presentations that seems to have the quality of a commodity. Library 2.0 talk has a commodity-like quality to it, as does a lot of other talk about technological change in libraries. You see the title of the presentation and you pretty much know what to expect, and people attend the presentation with a desire for some of that refreshing, predictable stuff (predictable and refreshing are not mutually exclusive qualities – think of orange juice). Occasionally you will hear or read something that stands on its own and has to be considered separately from other stuff – the boutique speaker or writer. But most of what you get is commodity-grade talk – ideas that you’re familiar with and have heard a dozen times.
That resonated very strongly with me. It seems like every blog, web or IRL seminar, conference, etc., includes at least a handful of these library 2.0 talks. It’s almost as if they were being sold off by the pound, just like oil, as Litwin says. On the one hand, I’m sick to death of hearing about Twitter and social networking. The average caliber of library 2.0 information being disseminated has dropped off significantly as we’ve saturated the “market”, so to speak. Ideas are being recycled, reprocessed and reposted without credit where it’s due.
On the other hand, a lot of librarians aren’t necessarily early adopters. Maybe all of this saturation is necessary to bring some latecomers into the fold, ensuring them that this 2.0 revolution isn’t just another passing trend. Considering I’ve only overcome my reluctance to blog oh, say, this week and I’ve been pretty internet-y my entire life, I think that theory is a strong possibility. Is it worth trying to filter out all the “commodity-grade tech talk” and spreading old ideas further, if it’s helping to reach more people?
Library Juice has moderated commenting and none have been posted yet, but I don’t, and I’m very interested in what other people think about this. It’s a very provocative idea, and a good read. Should we be trying to cut down on these low-grade 2.0 talks and holding out for original thinking, or is that too much to ask, and might it limit the spread of old ideas?