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Discovery & User Experience

Back to the Future

Those of us working in DUX make it our concern to understand the ever-expanding and changing technical needs of library users.  As we work through projects like a catalog update and website redesign, always in our minds are the questions:  Who are our patrons?  What are they already using technology for?  What do they need to be able to do?  And, how can we help them do these things?  There is so much those of us raised in the Internet age expect to be able to do—and to be able to do quickly.  It’s difficult to remember a time when technology didn’t inform every part of our lives, and harder still to imagine what it might still have to offer us.

One of my pet procrastinations is exploring the seemingly ceaseless number of cat videos populating the Web.  When I find a particularly delightful bit of kitteh kitsch, I gleefully pass it on via Facebook or email, doing my part to ensure the communicable status of those videos we call viral.  As a SLIS student, I really should be using the Internet for better purposes—and sometimes I do.  Obviously, as a future librarian, I understand, acutely, the necessity of the Internet in our daily lives.  The majority of our waking hours find us Internet connected in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons: searching and researching; educating and enlightening and entertaining ourselves; communicating with friends and family and colleagues—both near and far; and, yes, watching and sending videos.  For me, all of these things came together in a delightful way when I first saw, a couple weeks ago, this—now-viral—video:

The video gets at the heart of digital user experience.  Produced in the mid-1990s, the uses of the Internet espoused by the young cast reads like a prescient laundry list of all we now, some 15 years later, take for granted: shopping, watching TV, making phone calls, and doing our jobs via the Internet.  The video’s kids looked forward to this future, and it came right on schedule.  That I’m from Helena, Montana, the small town where this video was produced, and am roughly the same age as these kids, makes me even more mindful that technological progress is not some abstraction, is not relegated to some elite community of users, and isn’t years ahead of us in some nebulous haze.  It’s now and it’s everywhere, and we’re always going to have to learn how to make best use of it in our lives.  The uses we dream about today might seem farfetched, or even silly (“catfood cupcakes,” anyone?), but in 15 years, they’ll seem quaint.

The Atlantic Monthly featured a “Where Are They Now” article on the kids from the video.  Read it here:


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