24 Aug 1979So I bought a terminal and modem in the winter of 1981 and did a lot of work with SYMAP (Synagraphic Mapping Program) to produce line-printer maps of various demographic phenomena, by connecting up to Acadia's mainframe and using its powers to edit datasets and submit batch runs. In June of 1983 my friend Ron Brunton bought a TIPro, and it took me about 6 months to realize that I needed one too, in order to do the exploratory work in geography and music that I was beginning to imagine. The first days were ecstatic:
I envision the computer as a map tool, with a bunch of map transformations that it knows how to do. MAPGRAPHICS. Digitizer to enter data, plotter to output maps. Easy.
2 April 1980
Went to see Steve Butterfield at Xerox PARC and he showed me what his computer can do --in short, it does what I've dreamed of by way of being a LANDSAT atlas. The potential is really there for such a thing, complete with the ability to zoom in on selected map windows...
29 November 1980
I visualize having a terminal on my desk which gives me access through a modem to 'the' network, essentially to any computer anyplace, but especially to reference systems that index things like the NY Times, but also library card files... I accumulate my own library of material (storing it on disk or something like that), generate my own files on particular subjects (not quite sure for what, though... that's hard to imagine right now). I imagine the basic equipment to be only a couple of years away... LANDSAT and libraries at my fingertips... I could pull together syntheses of material on various subjects for use by others on the network. A computer encyclopedia that grows <==Britannica Augmented and continually updated, with new entries. The source to which people look when they want/need to know particular things.
23 February 1984
Every step has been more productive and remarkable as we find our way around in the vast potentials of the package. I've learned more more rapidly today than in any other I can recall.
Some years later, after some experience with HyperCard in the Macintosh environment I had a dream:
14 May 1990
I had a dream-vision of a multimedia teaching/presentation station, in which I saw a demo of a ?program? in terrestrial history. The fundamental medium was a visual dissolve of scenes into one another, with voiceover, so that a succession of stills (which could have been motion) merged into one another on a sort of opalescent screen, much less intrusive than Mac or TI screen. There was a voiceover of explanation, and I imagined controls that let me speed up or slow down the dissolves and also somehow seek greater information detail. The seamlessness of the presentation was impressive --no card-flipping or flicker, but rather a smooth visual segue... I imagined maps and visuals of, say, the development of a riverside mill site.
The important thing is the multimedia form of the visual metaphor, and the realization that that's what I should be working on --the future of teaching methods and presentation, the techniques that vastly increased computer power is going to make practical. I've never enjoyed such a clear dream-vision connection to what I'm thinking about, almost a sort of guidance of nascent vision. The dynamic of the presentation, along with the hypertextual possibility to alter the scene, to request greater detail, to then return to the scene as presented, to seek links by means of some sort of controls (not seen, but imagined as some joystick or sliding knob) to speed up or slow down... the slow fade/dissolve is just the way to convey change/development/evolution. How to prepare the requisite scads of images is something else too, but after all that's what Libraries are for. And how to relate to written text?
Some months later I was experimenting with HyperCard:
9 November 1990
...a nascent idea of what to do with Hypertext, in which the presentation of uniform cards with printed information isn't much of a realization of the power of the medium. Some of what one might imagine isn't all that realizable, but if it can be visualized it may eventually become feasible.
So I imagine an image of Paracelsus drifting across the screen from L to R and down, becoming hazy as it goes and maybe zooming from small to large, just to ger the image established in the viewer's mind (and there's a way to recall the image itself, for still-study, but its first appearance on card-open is dynamic).
And this is just a momentary flash in what I imagine as a History stack/set of stacks/encyclopedia that has a time-scanner at the bottom (a sliding icon that puts up a decade and leads to screens that index events, people, locales --so that one can scan through, looking/browsing in an area or a topic, which can then take one farther with hidden text, with links. An interface for an encyclopedic database.
One uses Hypertext to do things that can't be done with conventional media --the kind of associative exploration that one might do in a reference collection.
Soon thereafter I found myself in library school, an intense 19 months of study and discovery in print and electronic media. Here's what I wrote on the eve of that:
30 December 1990
Insofar as I can specify, what I want is a niche in the Knowledge Industry, to combine working on my own ideas of what's significant with solving people's information access problems as they come to me because of who and where I am. The traditional form of that niche is perhaps Reference Librarian, but I foresee that computer-based knowledge systems imply different forms of that niche, different skills required of occupants...
1 Jan 1991
I figured out a pretty coherent line of thought about libraries of the future and a place I'd like to find (or maybe it's create) within that landscape, based fundamentally in facilitating people's efforts to find what they need in the wealth of electronic information that is inevitable. Lots of ideas of things to inquire into --image archives, what's happening with Human Relations Area Files [a text-based database for anthropology, not in electronic form], how scholars and teachers of the future will be able to make use of such vast resources in teaching... surely somewhere in that is a productive, challenging, exciting new career, the dimensions of which are only dimly imagined.
In those days I was shlepping a Mac SE/30 in a ballistic nylon carrying bag, using Word for text and FoxPro as a spreadsheet, connecting to The WELL for content and using Compuserve for e-mail. I did a lot of work on PCs as well (they being the available machines at Simmons --DOS, not Windows in 1991). And in May 1991 I took a job running the Simmons Library School computer lab and resigned from Acadia.
I arrived at W&L in August 1992, and by the spring of 1993 I was actively engaged in augmenting the W&L gopher. In the spring of 1994 I wrote the following:
29 March 1994
Can I write this down fast enough? A middle of the night vision of future librarian's role and tools, in fragments:
R.E. Lee on Traveler as the W&L WWW Home Page image.
The gopher I conceived as a means to deliver text relevant to library instruction --pathfinders and bibliographies. But really that's the first step to a resource that includes text AND graphics AND sound AND realtime demonstrations of things like... mathematical software... the construction of data representations using lab tools...
But the VISION of Library as center of visual support is what I'm barely hanging on to... teaching platforms that really make use of the visual dimension are mistily before us. How do we get there?
The vision of the Library as a center of support for and access to visual information (and other digitized media, including sound and eventually motion) is just beginning. The use of integral visual information in computer-based teaching is a hot prospect in a few minds, but not widely considered. And the vastly enhanced ACCESS to such resource as image archives is only beginning to occur.