20 October 2013

Assignment: Context Book

Pesce, Mark (2000) The Playful World: how technology is transforming our imagination.

Ballantine Books

  • ISBN-10: 0345439430

  • ISBN-13: 978-0345439437

Though written over 10 years ago, I found this work by Mark Pesce full of snippets to highlight. Pesce also known as the father of virtual reality is a futurist and inventor, and in this work he explores the intersection of high technology with popular culture, art and play.

It echoes several themes we have visited in the MOOC. The nature of networks, hyperconnectivity, communities, learning, and user experience are illustrated as Pesce traces the development of toys and the world-wide web from learning Furbies  to remote community gardens tended by dispersed networks of ‘gardeners’ operating their equipment and determining when to water the garden from the comfort of their homes via the Internet.

Of particular interest to librarians are the views expressed about the nature of information.
“Our relationship to the world of information is changing, because the hard-and-fast definitions of “world” and “information” have begun to collide, and the boundaries between them – which separate reality from imagination and idea from realization – have become ever more tenuous. In the age our children will inherit, the world is information, and like information it can be stored, retrieved, processed and portrayed in an endless abundance.” Location 110 of 3543

Wow, that lays down the gauntlet – Libraries will be storing, retrieving, processing and portraying the world. While that sounds quite challenging we are seeing this manifested, and by many more entities than libraries. Michael’s story about the bartender with the world of information in his hand (Module 7 lecture), the mash up of historical information and old photographs with geo-location tagging to augment reality and the vast outpouring of creativity only possible from the millions of people on the Internet participating in a collective imagination (location 2342) are all examples.

One of my favourite parts of the book is near the end where philosopher Terence McKenna’s description of the dilemma facing human-kind is posed.
“We can build a civilization like nothing the world has ever seen. But can it be a human civilization?….. the real dilemma… is how to build a compassionate human civilization. The means to do it come into our ken at the same rate as all these tools which betray it.”  Location 3520.

If we fail to demand a human civilization then we are at the mercy of the negative potentials of widespread nanotechnology, pervasive reactive intelligence and ubiquitous presence. So there is a challenge that libraries can throw their energies at – putting humanity front and centre in harnessing new technologies in building our future civilization.

Pesce, Mark (2000) The Playful World: how technology is transforming our imagination – available from Amazon. 99c for Kindle edition.

Stephens, Michael (2013) HyperlibMOOC module 7 lecture

And in case you wanted to reminisce about Furbies…